Brent Bertrand, beloved WCS Technology teacher and coach, died Tuesday Jan. 10 at the age of 54 — apparently of natural causes. Photo by Thom Randall.
Brent Bertrand, a beloved coach and Technology teacher at Warrensburg High School, died early Tuesday morning, prompting grieving among students and faculty members of the school district.
Warrensburg Superintendent of Schools Tim Lawson said Tuesday afternoon that he got a call at about 5:10 a.m. from a local emergency medical responder who alerted him that EMTs were attending to Bertrand at his home, and he was being transported to the hospital.
About 40 minutes later, Lawson received a follow-up phone call that Bertrand had died. Students said late afternoon that they heard he had died of natural causes, perhaps a heart attack.
“It’s a sad sad loss for all of us,” Lawson said. “He was a remarkable teacher, coach, mentor and friend — and he had outstanding rapport with students.”
Lawson said that counselors, social workers and a school psychologist were busy consoling students, who had heard the announcement during their first-period class Tuesday.
“Our staff and faculty did a great job listening to and counseling students, which went on through the entire day.” Lawson said, noting that classes were held, but some after-school activities were cancelled.
Brent Bertrand, 54, was hired by Warrensburg Central School District in 1983, and spent 28 years with the school. From 1986 to 2003, he served as Junior Varsity Softball coach. He also served three years as Varsity Softball coach, most recently in 2011.
His coaching tenure included coaching squads in the 1990s that went on in subsequent years to the state championship finals three times in the 1990s.
Lawson said that in all those years of being on the job, Bertrand only took only three sick days off.
“Taking only a few days off in all those years is a true testament to his dedication and commitment to his community,” Lawson said. “He had a way of bonding with kids, he earned their trust and inspired them,” he added. “There wasn’t a person he couldn't get along with.
Lawson’s administrative assistant Jackie Hazlett, also praised Bertrand’s character.
“He was just a super guy — outgoing and friendly — and he had great rapport with all the kids,” she said. “Brent was always enthusiastic, encouraging everyone he ran into.”
Hazlett said a swath of paper was pinned onto a wall in the school cafeteria, and students were encouraged to write their thoughts about Bertrand on the mural — titled “Messages to Mister B” throughout the day. Students wrote not only messages but treasured memories, poems, musings, and heartfelt tributes, she said.
She noted that Bertrand often showed up at school before 6 a.m. to begin the day, and was often the last to leave the building —demonstrating remarkable dedication to students.
“He was always willing to go the extra distance for any kid,” she said. “Brent was not only inspiring, but always pleasant and fun.”