WILLIAMSVILLE, NY (WKBW) — The COVID death of a physical education teacher and coach in North Carolina has a far reaching impact back in Western New York.
Jamie Seitz was a star athlete at Williamsville North and now his legacy is being remembered in two separate communities.
“He was loved every where — there isn't anybody that didn't love Jaime,” reflected John Pennella, long-time friend.
Words of praise for Seitz, a Western New York native originally from Newfane, who touched hearts at every turn.
Pennella became best friends with Seitz when they met as juniors at Williamsville North, where Seizt's father Dennis was a coach.
His journey eventually took him south. For more than a decade, he taught physical education, and coached, at the Lincoln Charter School outside of Charlotte, North Carolina.
But everything changed shortly after Thanksgiving. Pennella says Seitz texted him that he was in the hospital with COVID-19.
“And he was scared — that was really the thing to me that was the most jarring,” Pennella remarked.
Seitz’s school rallied around him creating a video filled with ‘get well wishes’ from students for their favorite teacher.
But on Monday, just three days after Christmas, Seitz died. He was just 51 years old.
Pennella pulled out yearbooks and photos at his kitchen table displaying a long-time friendship ended by COVID.
“I just really no words to describe where I’m at right now — I’m numb,” Pennella said. “Really just kind of woke my eyes up to how horrible COVID can be.”
Numb is also how our own 7 Eyewitness News chief meteorologist Aaron Mentkowski is feeling. Seitz was his first cousin.
“Just heartbreaking what he must of gone through there at the end,” Mentkowski declared.
Struggling with COVID, doctors placed Seitz on a ventilator. In his final days, this once vibrant husband and father was isolated from visitors.
“And as family — you're just helpless — you can't do anything,” Mentkowski replied.
Aaron wore his Buffalo shirt to honor his cousin.
Seitz was a huge Bills fan. In fact play-by-play announcer John Murphy honored Seitz during Monday night's game.
“Got word today the bills nation lost a special fan down in Denver, North Carolina. Jamie Seitz, a native of Newfane. His father Denny was a longtime coach in Newfane. Jamie passed away last night due to complications from covid. our best wishes to his family, his wife, Liz and children Carter and Peyton,” Murphy broadcast.
“Watching the Bills game was therapy — it was really kind of — a spiritual experience almost enjoying that — I know he would have loved that moment,” Pennella said.
“Always smiling — so nice — genuine, gym teacher and coach and really left a mark on all his students,” Mentkowski explained.
Seitz’s school family will hold a “Shine the Light” candlelight memorial Wednesday evening in North Carolina.