WESTFIELD — A school district is in mourning for the sudden death of a high school principal.

Dr. Derrick Nelson, 44, the principal of Westfield High School, died on Sunday evening, according to a statement by Westfield Superintendent Margaret Dolan obtained by TAP into Westfield.

"Dr. Nelson touched us all with his kindness, compassion, integrity and endlessly positive attitude," Dolan wrote in her statement. "We hold him and his family in our hearts as we grieve this loss together."

Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle wrote on her Facebook page her family was "devastated" by the news of Nelson's death and called his death a "tremendous loss."

The news site reported that Nelson, the principal since 2016, had been out of school since Feb. 22 due to a medical issue. He was also a 20-year veteran officer in the Army Reserve.

Nelson had donated bone marrow in January after it was discovered via blood he donated in 1996 he was a perfect match for a 14-year-old boy in France, according to a story in the Westfield High School student newspaper Hi's Eye.

Nelson's father 81-year-old father Willie Nelson told NJ.com that after the procedure his son couldn't speak. Willie Nelson said his son recognized family members who kept a vigil at his bedside at a Bergen County hospital but he could not move

ABC 7 Eyewitness News reported that counselors would be at the school on Tuesday. The flag in front of the school flew at half-staff, according to Fios1 New Jersey.

"I know that our children, and we as parents, will struggle with coming to terms with this over the coming days and weeks. He was a man of immense character and kindness, and his legacy will live on in the generations of students whose lives he touched," Brindle wrote.

State Senator Tom Kean in a message on his Twitter account called Derrick Nelson a "truly selfless leader."

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ.

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