By ARDEN BASTIA Faculty and students at Sherman Elementary School are planning a week of memorial events to honor Shaylyn Schoonmaker, a beloved school employee who was the victim of a house fire last Thursday. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of
Faculty and students at Sherman Elementary School are planning a week of memorial events to honor Shaylyn Schoonmaker, a beloved school employee who was the victim of a house fire last Thursday.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Shaylyn Schoonmaker. She was a dedicated and valued employee of the Warwick School Department,” according to statement released by Warwick Public Schools. “Over the years, Shaylyn worked as a bus monitor, as well as a server for the school breakfast and lunch programs. The students and staff members who she worked with cherished her kindness and positive attitude. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Shaylyn’s family and friends.”
Schoonmaker needed to escape from the fire burning on the first floor of her family’s Conimicut home, but instead, she chose a selfless path and re-entered the building to rescue the family’s chihuahua, Lily.
Warwick firefighters arrived around 8:45 a.m. and made quick work of the fire. Firefighters found Schoonmaker in a second floor room. She was transported to Kent Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.
Schoonmaker, 37, was a lunch lady and bus monitor at Sherman Elementary School for 15 years. She was “a valued member of our Sherman family for many years…it just seems like she has always been there,” said Principal Charlee McElroy.
“She was a kind person who cared about her family and loved animals,” McElroy wrote in an email. “She went above and beyond in everything she did. She adored her dog and I was not at all surprised to hear that she went back looking for her in the fire.”
Next week is Shay Week at Sherman, and McElroy said faculty came together to plan daily activities to commemorate Schoonmaker. “Students will be doing acts of kindness in her name and they will be writing down memories of how she touched them with her kindness.”
“Shay often spoke of her concern for the homeless and hungry and did whatever she could by making donations to those causes,” wrote McElroy. To honor Schoonmaker’s memory, a food drive and a food pantry at Sherman will be created in her name.
Additionally, McElroy has plans to purchase a bench for the foyer to memorialize where Schoonmaker sat each day, and a tree will be planted in the schoolyard in her memory. In the spring, McElroy says a dedication ceremony will be held to honor Schoonmaker.
According to McElroy, Schoonmaker was “attuned” to the needs of the students and knew them all by name. “She could sense when they needed a little TLC and would let me know. She came in early to be sure that their lunches where perfect and then sit at a table in the foyer waiting to greet people as they came in.”
Because of the pandemic, students eat their lunches in the classroom instead of the cafeteria. Schoonmaker personally packed the lunches herself, and then delivered them with a smile to each classroom. McElroy said Schoonmaker paid special attention to what the students liked, and ordered and packed lunches they would enjoy.
“She will forever be remembered at Sherman for her kindness, her friendship, and her love of people and animals. We are all still in shock reeling from our loss,” said McElroy. “Her death was a tragedy and a terrible loss to the world. She was a positive force who made a difference in people’s lives and she will be missed.”
Schoonmaker was born in Providence to Gordon and Laurie Schoonmaker. Besides parents, she is survived by her son Tyler and his girlfriend Sheridan Mattox of Warwick, as well as her brother Gordon, Jr. and his wife Gail of North Kingstown.
Visiting hours will be held on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Nardolillo Funeral Home in Cranston.