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UPDATED: Mt. Sentinel grieves passing of vice principal

Blair D
Blair D'Andrea coached the LV Rogers secondary school boys basketball team for the 2010/11 season.
— image credit: Bob Hall photo

Mount Sentinel secondary school is grieving the loss of their vice principal who died suddenly at his home last Wednesday evening.

According to the school's website, Blair D’Andrea had been feeling ill for several days and went to the hospital Wednesday for tests, but nothing was evident. That evening he passed away suddenly at home.

Teachers at Mount Sentinel shared the sad news in first period classes Thursday morning and a notice was posted on the school website. The school brought in an external support team and provided space for students and staff to talk about their grief.

D’Andrea had been vice principal at Mount Sentinel for three and a half years. He also taught phys-ed and coached junior girls volleyball and junior boys basketball.

Principal Glen Campbell told the Star that students spent much of their class time on Thursday paying tribute to D’Andrea, who they called “Mr. D.” They made posters and cards for his family, and created written and digital dedications to him, many of which were posted on a memorial Facebook group called “RIP Blaire D’Andrea.” Students wore a big letter “D” on their shirts on Thursday and Friday.

Over the weekend, Mount Sentinel’s senior boys basket ball team played in the Kootenay Championships. They drew a letter “D” on their jerseys and dedicated their game to the memory of D’Andrea. They ended up winning the championships. The junior boys that D’Andrea coached play this weekend.

D’Andrea was incredibly well liked by students. Principal Campbell said D’Andrea made a lasting difference at Mount Sentinel in the short time he worked there.

“The man is gone, but his contributions and the things he’s instilled in this school community — and me — will never be forgotten,” Campbell said.

“He was always positive, look on the bright side of life kind of guy. He had a heart of gold,” Campbell continued. “He was a cheerleader for everyone. He had a particular affinity for students who seem to get lost in the system — he would find them and pick them up.”

On the memorial Facebook group the dedications to D’Andrea continue to flood in. With more than 380 people following the group, members post photos of D’Andrea, songs that remind them of him and their personal memories of him.

“He was an incredible mentor, motivator, friend and much more!” wrote Josh Roberts. “Where ever you are now, I know you’ll continue making people as happy as you made our community at Mount Sentinel.”

Lexi Tarasoff posted, “He was one of us, just a big ole’ kid at heart.”

Many students reminisced about D’Andrea’s habit of calling them by their last names or other nicknames.

“You were a funny man and always picked on me and called me a ‘try-hard’ in PE and in basketball,” remembered Victoria Peebles.

Annette Lisk wrote, “You have been there like a father to some, a coach to many and a friend to all. We will all miss the way you would walk through the hallways with a loud and joyful presence.”

D’Andrea worked in Kootenay Lake School District since 1989. Before Mount Sentinel, he worked at LV Rogers secondary school, the Central Education Centre and Salmo Secondary School.

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