CALDWELL — An Essex County school district is mourning the death of a middle school principal who'd been infected with the novel coronavirus.

Caldwell-West Caldwell school district superintendent James Heinegg announced the death of Jim Brown, principal of the Grover Cleveland Middle School, in a letter to the community on Thursday. Heinegg did not reveal a cause of death in his letter but Brown's wife Sherry Brown told the Bridgewater Courier News that he had COVID-19.

“The family wants to share this because it’s so important. This man had no underlying conditions. He was the picture of health and this illustrates just how devastating this virus really can be. He was the love of my life. He will be missed dearly," Brown told the Courier News.

The Courier News reported he was 48 years old and lived in the Colonia section of Woodbridge.

Students will not be able to come together and mourn the loss of their principal because school is not in session during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Gov. Phil Murphy's emergency order prohibits gatherings of any size, including funerals.

Heinegg said the district's crisis management team will be available but was still determining the best way to see students under social distancing protocols. Several resources were listed by the Heinegg including the Children's Mobile Response & Stabilization Services at Rutgers, which can be reached at 877-652-7624 or at

A tweet by student @maddi encouraged students to leave flowers or a sign for Jim Brown.

"We will never forget what an amazing person he was. And if I could, I would say thank you for making middle school enjoyable," she wrote.

His son, Jimmy Brown, on his Twitter account posted a picture with his father at a Giants game.

"The best father in the world. Dad, you taught me what it means to be a man. I am going to honor you for the rest of my life. I know your up there right now looking over me. I love you," Jimmy Brown wrote.

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West Caldwell police in a post on their Facebook page wrote that Jim Brown began his career in the district as vice principal at James Caldwell High School.

"We could instantly tell that there was something special about you. You were a natural leader of people. When you would speak on a subject matter there was something about the manner that you spoke where the room sat up and listened," the department wrote.

"Mr. Brown, you were not only a colleague, but also a great friend to the members of the West Caldwell Police Department. You will surely be missed. May you rest in eternal peace," the department wrote.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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