BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - A veteran teacher from Hamilton has died from COVID-19, her husband says.
Lori Rich had been a Pre-K teacher at Colonial School for 23 years.
Her husband, Bruce, says she was taking care of her mother who had COVID-19 which is where she likely contracted the virus.
Her mother passed away at the end of August.
Rich’s co-workers remember her as kind-hearted and fun-loving.
“It’s just a terrible terrible loss, and generations of children — hundreds of children — have been very fortunate to have been taught by her,” Colonial School Preschool Administrator Karen Makela said.
Rich was not just a teacher, but also a mother and a friend. Her passing is sending ripples through the Hamilton community.
“I think I was shocked. I was hoping so much she was going to pull through, and I think it was just the reality that I knew was always there but just was always in the back... I never wanted it in the foreground... I was just shocked and obviously very sad,” Colonial School teacher Patti North said.
Rich’s friends say she was the type of person who could brighten anyone’s day.
“Lots of fun,” Colonial School teacher Ginger Powers said when asked to describe Rich. “We had a good time together. We laughed a lot together."
“Well she was a character," North added. “She was very fun-loving. She was a prankster. If you ever did something to Lori in fun, you could always figure it was coming back in spades.”
Teachers who worked by Rich’s side for decades gathered Friday to reminisce on the good times they shared with their beloved friend.
“She was like a sister to me," Colonial School teacher Marianne Honchell said. “We were together a lot, burning up the phone lines, texting, talking, especially during the pandemic. We just did a lot of things together, and she was just very important to me.”
“Just being able to peek around the door when I was still with my class and commiserate, even with just a look, to be able to do that with her... It made the day," North said. “If you had a bad day with the kids, the kids were driving you crazy, I could just get a look from her, like, ‘I get it,’ and then we could just go back and do our thing.”
Rich’s friends say she was a gift inside and outside the classroom. She spent time taking in children through student exchange programs and was a part of Louie’s Legacy, fostering a handful of dogs and cats.
“I always thought it was pretty cool what she did, getting those dogs, she would keep them for months and months [until] she found a home for them and give them away," Powers said. “It was just as hard as it was for her to give them away as it was to let kids go at the end of the year.”
Rich’s family is working on holding a memorial for both her and her mother sometime in the near future.