CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — The Rockwood School District community is once again mourning the loss of one of their own.
Carl Hudson, a longtime educator and mentor, died Wednesday.
This comes on the heels of a deadly car crash in West St. Louis County last month.
Two teens who lost their lives and two others who suffered severe injures were Marquette High School students.
The community is already hurting and the loss of Hudson adds to the heaviness.
On Thursday morning, Marquette graduate Reece Merrifield went through the keepsakes left behind by Hudson.
He wrote several cards to her, including a graduation celebration note.
On Wednesday, she got the call about his passing.
Hudson, an assistant principal at Marquette High School, died after an extended illness, a letter to students said.
He joined Rockwood in 2010 after serving as a teacher, coach and administrator in the Parkway and Kirkwood School Districts.
"I did have a lot of dark days in high school and looking towards him and he was a lot of light in those days and for multiple students and administrators too," she said.
Merrifield said Hudson touched the lives of many, including hers.
"I was one of the students who didn’t like high school. It was hard for me socially and he was the reason why I loved Marquette. He made it a place that I can call home and be proud of graduating from there," she shares.
Hudson constantly carried a smile along with words of encouragement and made students a priority.
His assistant of four years, Rhonda Costa, saw it first hand.
"He’s caring, he’s generous. He just has a big heart. When it comes to the kids, that was everything for him," she said.
Even on a hard day for her, Costa is still following his lead.
Choking up, she said, "I wanted to be here just in case the kids needed me. Whenever Mr. Hudson was not here, the only thing he would ask me was to take care of the kids."
Beyond being a school administrator, Hudson was also a champion for his community and became an alderman for the city of Manchester in April 2021.
"He knew this community frontwards and backwards," Manchester Mayor Mike Clement said.
In this position, it became a full-circle moment for Hudson when he became a leader in the city he grew up in.
"We as a city will miss Carl a lot, I wish we had him many more years on the board of aldermen," he said.
However, his best role? Being a friend to all.
"We've lost someone that had an influence on young people who need that leadership and connection," Clements said.
While students like Merrifield mourn the loss, they also realize, just by knowing Hudson, so much has been gained.
"He's someone very influential in my life, I was heartbroken. At the same time, I'm grateful because even though I didn't have as much time with him, I was able to know him," Merrifield notes.
With the recent tragedies in the district, additional counselors will be brought in for staff and students at Marquette High School.
Rockwood School District shared a statement to 5 On Your Side:
"We are heartbroken over the loss of our assistant principal, colleague and friend, Carl Hudson. This is going to be a difficult time of grief, particularly on the heels of all that our Rockwood community has experienced over the past month. We have extra counselors, social workers and administrators on hand at Marquette today, and they will continue to be available in the days and weeks to come. Carl was an outstanding mentor and friend to staff and students. He touched countless lives over the years, and he was oftentimes the one who would be found comforting others. His coworkers at Marquette share that Carl would want us to take care of the kids and to take care of each other, which is what we will do as we mourn and remember our wonderful and kind friend and leader."