The novel coronavirus claimed the life of a third-grade teacher in New Mexico, according to her family and the school where she worked.
Philamena Belone, 44, died on Friday, her brother, Phillip Belone said. Previously healthy, Belone lost her battle against the virus just three weeks after she first fell ill. It was not immediately clear if she was ever hospitalized.
“Everyone I know will always say they are going to miss her smile,” Phillip Belone said to local news station KRQE. “They are going to miss her big hugs and her genuine love that she had for you.”
Belone was a third-grade teacher at Wingate Elementary School at Fort Wingate in New Mexico where she taught for eight years, according to the news station.
The school serves many children who call the nearby Navajo Nation home.
“Our kids on the reservation deserve the best, and my sister was the absolute best teacher they could ask for,” Phillip Belone said. “She could have taught at many schools, but her life’s legacy was serving those she felt a connection with.”
“She taught and tutored even though she was on oxygen wearing an oxygen mask,” he added. “She taught until she couldn’t physically teach anymore.”
Wingate Principal Eric North told KRQE that the teacher’s death was a “kick in the gut” for the school community.
“To lose a member of the Bear Cub family in our own house is really traumatic and emotional,” North said. “She taught a number of students over the years. It’s really impacted a lot of different age groups.”
On Facebook, Belone’s sister, Felicia Belone also reacted to her sibling’s passing, calling her an “extraordinary teacher.”
“From a family rich in educators, my sister Philamena was an extraordinary teacher. She wore her heart on her sleeve for her students and the families that she served,” she wrote.