Aberdeen High School mourns teacher's death

Gaffney, 41, was killed in Pa. traffic accident

December 16, 2003|By Amanda Angel | Amanda Angel,SUN STAFF

GAFFNEY — Students at Aberdeen High School were in mourning yesterday for Louis Gaffney, a beloved coach and dedicated educator who died during the weekend in a traffic accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Gaffney -- a longtime coach, but first-year social studies teacher -- was killed about 1:45 p.m. Sunday when a tractor-trailer rear-ended his car near New Sewickley, Pa.

The 41-year-old coach, who lived in the 700 block of Rainbow Court in Edgewood, was driving east on the turnpike in snow flurries when the truck hit his 1989 Buick sedan, said Pennsylvania State Trooper Jonathan Helsley.

Gaffney's son, Louis "Tre" Gaffney III, whose age was unavailable yesterday, was seriously injured and taken to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where he remained last night, Helsley said.

The truck driver, Barclay Henderson Jr., 53, of Michigan, was not injured.

At the high school yesterday, track team members vowed to dedicate their season to their coach, and students recalled a teacher who was always eager to help -- and known for his signature wool hat.

"This is a tremendous loss," said Assistant Principal Melvin Johnson, who broke the news to first-year students at the Harford County school. Gaffney worked in the school's freshman academy.

"He was very instrumental with working with the students," Johnson said.

Gaffney had been a fixture for years at the school as a team member with Maryland's Tomorrow, a program designed to help teen-agers stay in school, and as a volunteer coach, Johnson said.

John Mobley, a fellow track coach and friend, said school athletes gathered in the morning to remember Gaffney, as well as his wool cap, which was knitted by his grandmother. Gaffney wore the brightly colored hat every day during the winter.

"It was multicolored, to put it lightly," Mobley said.

Harford County Council member Richard C. Slutzky, who spent 31 years as a teacher and coach at Aberdeen, recalled Gaffney as a "very laid-back" and "mild-mannered guy."

"He was usually fairly soft-spoken and pretty good at motivating certain kinds of kids to get the job done," said the councilman, who characterized the atmosphere at the school campus yesterday as "pretty sad and grim."

Students took time to write their favorite memories of Gaffney, said Johnson, who consoled students throughout the day.

Grief counselors were also available.

The personal reflections will be collected and given to Gaffney's wife and children, "so they can see the kind of man he was," Johnson said

Sun staff writer Lane Harvey Brown contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.