Michelle Suire, a 53-year-old special education teacher at a Lafayette elementary, has died from complications of COVID-19.
“She had a kind, loving soul,” her younger brother George Murphy said in a phone interview Wednesday.
She worked with students in grades 1-3 at S.J. Montgomery Elementary School, according to the school’s website. As an inclusion special education teacher, she helped students who were in mainstream classes rather than her own separate classroom.
“I’m very proud of her for what she did,” Murphy said. “She found a calling. It was something she was good at. And to hear from so many who were touched by her does provide some comfort.”
Murphy and his two sisters were born and raised in Lafayette, and Suire spent time in the U.S. Navy before doing administrative work until she earned her teaching degree. He said she taught about 10 years.
“She found her calling a little later,” Murphy said. “I have so much for respect for her.”
Suire died Tuesday at Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center from complications of the coronavirus.
Murphy, who now lives in Houston, said he spoke with Suire by phone mid-week and she did not feel well. She was hospitalized Saturday.
“It happened real fast,” he said. “I don’t think any of us were expecting this.”
Suire was married to Trent Suire from 1999-2013 and had two children, Olivia and Landon, now 19 and 17, her ex-husband said.
“I couldn’t ask for a better mother for my kids,” he said Wednesday in a message to The Advertiser. “She was the best.”
Murphy said everything his sister did was for her kids.
“Her life were her two kids,” Murphy said.
Suire’s ex-husband said the two had remained close.
“We were good friends,” he said. “If she needed something done at her house and she needed help, I’d go help her. And she’d do the same if I needed help.”
Now he feels like he’s in a bad dream, he said.
Suire’s fellow educators are having similar reactions. Julia Reed, president of the Lafayette Parish Association of Educators said it was hard to believe the news once she learned of Suire’s passing Tuesday. She had worked with Suire the last two years at S.J. Montgomery.
“You never feel like it’s going to touch your life until it does,” Reed said.
Reed described Suire as “a very positive, happy person.”
That sentiment was echoed among others who knew her.
“She was an amazing teacher, an incredible teacher,” said Jema Cedillo, LPAE vice president and a pre-K teacher at S.J. Montgomery.
“She was an amazing mother, teacher, and friend to many,” the local union group posted on its Facebook page Wednesday. “Her light will shine on in the positive influence she has had on her students and loved ones. Ms. Suire will be greatly missed by all.”
The number of positive cases in Acadiana have surged. Last week the region reported 1,632 new cases, marking its fastest rate of new COVID-19 cases since the peak of the summer surge, when Acadiana averaged 455 new cases a day from July 20-26.
“We’re not the only family dealing with this,” Murphy said.