Trecia Peterson, a fighter to the very end
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Less than a week after the South Charleston Black Eagles, donned in pink gear, beat rival Nitro in its Pink-Out event to support National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, longtime Assistant Principal Trecia Peterson lost her battle with the disease
South Charleston students and staff memorialized Peterson, 52, Thursday evening at a candlelight vigil on the school's football field. She died Wednesday at her home in Malden after a five-year fight against breast cancer.
Peterson served as head of curriculum at the school for more than 10 years, and the community supported her along the way, said South Charleston Principal Mike Arbogast. Students established a Pink Ribbon Club at the school when she was diagnosed.
"She was a true testament of determination. She worked all the way up to the end," Arbogast said. "She was tough and hardnosed. You couldn't run one past her. She was just too sharp. At the same time, she had a heart of gold."
Arbogast, who worked alongside Peterson for about six years, said, "She loved her profession and her kids. South Charleston High School was her passion. She bled orange and black."
Chelsea Starcher, a South Charleston senior and president of the Pink Ribbon Club, which hosts events and fundraisers to raise breast cancer awareness in the community, said students won't forget Peterson's presence.
"Every time I saw her, she had a smile on her face," Starcher said. "I knew what she was going through, but she acted like it didn't faze her. She didn't want us students to know that she was fighting a tough battle."
Jamie Oberst, South Charleston High's financial secretary, said she and Peterson had formed a special bond over the years.
"She was very dedicated to this school. She worked here just last week," Oberst said. "She didn't give up. She fought her disease really hard. She was the strongest person I ever met in my whole life.
"I would think about her and send her a text to let her know I was praying for her and she'd call and tell me that's just what she needed," Oberst said. "We had a very special connection."
Oberst's daughter, Zoey, a junior at the high school, said Peterson was special to her, too, and she won't forget how she helped her when she was feeling down.
"She was just a loving and caring woman. She helped me with my problems, and she'd help me with homework, too, sometimes. She was there like that for all of her students," Zoey Oberst said. "I hope the school continues to focus on her and breast cancer awareness. I think she really deserves that. She put a lot of work and effort into our school."
In 2006, Peterson walked in the annual Race for the Cure event sponsored by the Komen Foundation. Kim McClung, an assistant at South Charleston, had organized a team of students and school staff to participate in the race.
In the months after that race, Peterson was diagnosed with breast cancer. In a 2009 interview with the Gazette, Peterson remembers telling McClung, "'Last year, we walked in the race. This year, I am the race.'
"The sense of support here from the parents and students has been wonderful," Peterson said at the time.
Stevens & Grass Funeral Home in Malden is in charge of arrangements.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4814.