Cornell Charles, a beloved sports coach in New Orleans for Lusher Charter School affectionately known as “Coach Dickey,” died after going to the hospital for underlying health reasons and being tested for a possible coronavirus infection, NOLA.com reports.
Charles was the head baseball coach for 7th and 8th grade students at the Lusher Middle and High School campus, according to Kathy Riedlinger, Lusher’s CEO. He also coached football and varsity girls basketball.
According to reports, he went to the hospital for other health-related reasons and had been on a ventilator at Ochsner Medical Center. He had symptoms associated with COVID-19 and had gotten a test, but hadn’t received the results before he died, Riedlinger said in an email to parents.
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During an Orleans Parish School Board meeting Tuesday, Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. announced that a member of the city’s “school community” had died. It was the first public notice that a staff member at a New Orleans public school had died after exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
“The loss of one of our educators is felt deeply by NOLA Public Schools and our school community at large. Coach Dickey’s passing will be mourned by many as we honor his contributions to our students and families,” Lewis said later in a statement.
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Charles, who was in his 50s, was one of the original staff for the school’s football team, and was the longest-tenured coach on Lusher’s staff, according to Riedlinger and Louis Landrum Jr., the school’s athletic director.
Landrum recalled how Charles would use his own money to treat the players to pizza, and how he could always be counted on as a motivator when the team needed a boost.
“He was just a cornerstone for our sports program,” Landrum said. “He was always in good spirits. He always loved the kids, put the kids first.”
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