‘A Bright Light': Swampscott Teacher Dies Due to Complications From Influenza

A Massachusetts teacher has passed away due to complications from influezna.

According to her obituary, 68-year-old Phyllis Gotlib passed away suddenly on Jan. 17 surrounded by her loved ones after falling ill over the past weekend.

"I am shocked," said Gotlib's friend, Rosalyn Epstein. "I am just totally shocked."

Since 1999, Gotlib was a music teacher at Clarke Elementary School and Hadley Elementary School, both in Swampscott, according to school officials.

Influenza Surveillance Report (Week Ending Jan. 27, 2018)
Click on each state for more information.

Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Nina Lin/NBC

"She was lovely. She was actually one of the most caring, generous, selfless teachers that we have in the district," said parent Isabel Park.

A letter and robocall were sent to students and their parents at Clarke, Hadley, as well as Stanley elementary schools on Wednesday by Superintendent of Schools Pamela R. H. Angelakis following Gotlib's passing informing them the schools would be closed Friday to make it possible for staff to attend her funeral services.

"She was a bright light, with a great sense of humor, a passion for music and her students," Angelakis said. "She will be sorely missed."

In a statement, Gotlib's family said they were "shocked and saddened" by her sudden passing.

"Phyllis was a wonderful person loved by everyone," they said. "She brought music into the lives of so many children in Swampscott and Marblehead."

Cleaning crews were sent to the Clarke and Hadley elementary schools early Thursday morning to thoroughly clean her classrooms and common areas, including teacher prep spaces and hallways.

School psychologists and grief counselors will be assigned to the elementary schools to help students and staff with the news, and school counselors will also be available for middle and high school students in the district, Angelakis said.

Laurie Casale was not only Gotlib's neighbor and friend, but also a nurse who has been studying this year's deadly flu strain closely.

"If it happened to her, and she was as active as she was every single day of her life, then people need to realize that we're dealing with something that is morphing into something that I don't think even the CDC has projected," Casale said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said for the week ending Jan. 6, widespread influenza activity was reported by 49 states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Funeral services for Gotlib will be held on Friday, Jan. 19 at Temple Sinai in Marblehead, followed by interment at Sharon Memorial Park, according to her obituary.

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