The Manchester High School community is mourning the loss of a beloved security guard who died of an apparent heart attack this morning and students have been dismissed early.
Barry "Mitch" Mitchell, a husband and the father of two, passed away suddenly after suffering a medical emergency at work on Wednesday.
Principal Jill Krieger said in a message to the school staff that the school community lost a special man.
"I recognize this is a huge loss to all of us," Krieger wrote. "Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers."
School officials said Mitchell was a longtime and beloved security guard who was also a steady presence at dances, sporting events and other school activities.
Mitchell's wife, who was too upset to be interviewed on camera, said he seemed fine and went to the gym just last night.
Students were shocked by the news.
"A lot of us were very surprised because we just saw him yesterday and he was fine," Lizzy Gammeter, a junior, said.
Eddie Agosto, a 2003 graduate of Manchester High School, said Mitchell was a father figure to many people.
"A lot of people were going down the wrong paths and he would give you life advice, try to get you on a better path for when you get out of high school so you can better your life," Agosto said.
Wednesday night a vigil was held at Manchester High School in Mitchell’s honor. Current and previous students attended and shared memories of a man many described as a father figure and role model.
“He used to call me Koby all the time,” said Willie Ferrell, Class of 2009. “When my sister came and she just graduated he called her young Koby.”
Joseph Pierro, class of 2008, said the community lost an idol, role model, and genuinely good person in Mitchell.
“Mitch taught me respect honestly he taught me always strive to do better never really close a door on anything,” he said.
Supt. Matt Geary said in a Facebook post that Mitchell was widely respected by everyone, especially the students and the school and community are stronger, better places because of him.
A Facebook account listed as being that of Olympian Michael Hartfield, of Manchester, says the athlete was shaken by the news.
The post says Hartfield met with Mitchell in November and shared his experiences of being in the Olympics in Rio and meeting President Barack Obama.
The Manchester Schools Twitter account says Mitchell, who served the school community for at least 15 years, died of an apparent heart attack and after-school activities have been canceled.