FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina (WTVD) --Many gathered inside the gymnasium at Max Abbott Middle School in Fayetteville Thursday evening to remember James "Jim" Pietrowski. The 6th grade math and science teacher and coach collapsed unexpectedly Tuesday while at the school and later passed away at the hospital. His death unexplained.
During Thursday's memorial, memories of Coach Pie, as he was affectionately called, filled the room in the form of smiles, tears, and laughter.
"Finally, we're sitting in my office and I said enough! I said 'Jim, I don't speak NASCAR. I don't have jean shorts, I don't have a sleeveless shirt. Enough!'" said physical education teacher Matthew Holstein. "OK, so what does he come back in the next day for practice? Jean shorts and a sleeveless shirt!"
Pietrowski replied, "Is this NASCAR enough for you?
"Well played sir, well played," replied Holstein.
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"To me, he was my friend," cried 8th grade teacher William Crockett. Crockett, along with other staff and faculty, took to the podium recalling the moments Pietrowski shared with them.
When news of Pietrowski's collapse was announced, Abbott Middle School canceled activities for the remainder of the day. Soon after it was known Pietrowski passed away, the school announced via Facebook that all activities for the rest of the week were canceled.
Abbott Middle School principal, Carla Crenshaw, presented James' wife Holly Pietrowski with a gift containing letters written by students and a collection of photos of her husband during his career at the school. Crenshaw says holding a memorial for James was "the right thing to do."
James' parents and a few of Holly's relatives were also in attendance for the ceremony.
"He always, always talked about his students," said James Pietrowski Sr.
In a post on the school's Facebook page, James' mother, Ellen Pietrowski wrote, "My son text me everyday (sic) about his students and how much they meant to him. He was not only a wonderful teacher but a fantastic husband son and brother. My heart is aching. Please pray for him."
James Pietrowski was 27 years old.
Friends and coworkers have set up a GoFundMe page for Pietrowski's family: https://www.gofundme.com/panthers-for-coach-pie
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