|Last month was one of the longest I can remember. We tragically lost one of our parents, Stacee Etcheber in a tragic shooting in early October, a beloved teacher, Craig Pitti, passed away barely two weeks later, and we endured watching our North Bay neighbors lose their homes to a tragic fire that took days and days to put out. October was a difficult and emotional month.
I attended both the funeral for Stacee at the Cathedral of St. Mary Assumption in San Francisco and Craig’s Celebration of Life at San Marin High School. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who came to pay their respects and to celebrate their lives. Both were young, vibrant community members who were a vital part of not only our school community but our Novato community. They are what make Novato such a great place to live and go to school.
I first met Craig in the gym during one of his basketball practices. He was just about to start practice but took the time to come over and chat with me. I noticed the easy rapport he had with his players on the team; while he could joke around with them he was also serious and his players never took advantage of his friendship. Last year we spoke often during the season, and we kidded each other about winning the MCAL Championship game, which he almost pulled off. I loved seeing Craig’s smile and enthusiasm—it was so infectious!
A few weeks ago I had the chance to substitute for him briefly during his first period government class, and all of his seniors were asking about him. They told me what they liked about him—his easygoing disposition, sense of humor, love of his subjects, and that he always could relate to them and made time for them. He was always there when they needed him.
I didn’t know Stacee but have learned what an extraordinary, special woman she was to her family, her neighbors and her community; she was “one of a kind.” I went to San Ramon Elementary School and then to Sinaloa Middle School the morning the news of her passing became known. I knew it was going to be the beginning of some tough days ahead. That night the community came together to grieve, to support one another, and to express how Stacee touched their lives.
In the middle of these two tragic losses, we watched as our neighbors to the North lost their homes to fires that devastated their community. We had employees who were evacuated and were deeply worried they too would lose everything. At the same time, we strived to keep school as ‘normal’ as possible as the air outside clearly indicated we were not experiencing ‘normal’ times.
As we pick up the pieces that were scattered in October and move forward putting them back together, I feel inspired by the stories of heroic acts during the fire and of the two lives recently lost. If I could touch half as many lives as Craig and Stacee did, if I could be there for others the way they were for their children, students, family and friends, and if I could openly love others the way they did then I think I will have lived a successful life. They did for me perhaps the most amazing thing of all: inspired me to be a better husband, father, friend, family member, superintendent and person. What an incredible gift to leave behind!
As we approach the holiday season, I encourage everyone to be inspired and take a moment to show your love and appreciation to those around you.
Thank you Stacee and Craig; you have touched many of us and will always remain in our hearts.