HUDSON - Students, teachers, family and friends filled the gym at Hudson's Alvirne High School Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life of teacher Barbara Boyd, who died of a heart attack on June 5.
"It hit us hard," said Gill Lachance, who teaches French at Alvirne. "She was one of the kindest, most gentle people I've ever met."
Boyd, a resident of Deerfield, taught family and consumer science at Alvirne for more than 20 years. According to Superintendent Bryan Lane, Boyd had taught more than 5,000 students in her classes during her career at Alvirne.
She and long-time companion Jim MacEachern, an English teacher at Alvirne, were set to retire together this year.
"Our goal today is to celebrate Barbara's life," Alvirne principal Steve Beals said.
Beals described Boyd as not only a great teacher but as someone who championed those who didn't have a lot.
"Her favorite activities were our big toy drive at Christmas time and the Cinderella Project," said Beals referring to the program that provides prom dresses for students in need.
"Her classroom lab was a kitchen and her teaching focused on kindness, empathy and manners," he said.
Students described Boyd as a great teacher and a friend they could turn to when they needed someone to listen.
Boyd was an outdoor enthusiast who loved hiking, camping and sports. Friends and students who planned a reception for after the service decorated the cafeteria with a tent, Christmas trees and a cardboard hiking trail lined with tissue paper flowers.
"She was really looking forward to a new life," said Lachance, who added that Alvirne students and staff had accepted Boyd's retirement but her sudden death had taken everyone aback.
"It was a difficult week," said Beals. "The staff was unbelievable. Everyone had to grieve and teachers and students rose to the occasion."
Beals added that the way the Alvirne community and Hudson had drawn together to cope with Boyd's death had been a huge help and comfort.
"In all of our life's challenges, the one constant we have is community, people coming together," he said.