A few years ago, the children lost their mother to cancer, but together the boys and their father “worked through it,” DeFelice said, showing great resilience.
“Ira’s a strong man,” DeFelice said. “He doesn’t ask a lot of the community, but he provides a lot of himself.”
Audrey Colwell, a Slaughter Elementary librarian, created a GoFundMe to support the Hill family and specifically Ira Hill, a “beloved PE teacher” at the school.
“The Hill family has faced a lot of tragedies, loss, and heartache, especially over recent years,” the campaign says, going on to list the death of Ira’s wife and three brothers. “Now Ira is faced with the loss of his son. Even one of these events can be financially draining for a family, but the Hill family has endured a lot in recent years.”
The campaign had raised just over $7,000 of its $50,000 by early Wednesday afternoon, two hours after its creation. It described Ira as the person who greets every student “with a smile and a high five.”
“Coach Hill holds on to joy and shares it with everyone else despite all the heartbreak he’s endured,” the campaign said.
Colwell said in an email that Ira was the “happiest person in the hallways” at the school.
“Through each of the tragedies that he has faced, he has come back to work with an inspiring enthusiasm for life,” she said. “He is humble and selfless.”
Ossian said police are still investigating the death but do not suspect foul play.
Already this year, 45 children have drowned in Texas.
Of those, 25 were in a backyard or community pool, two were in a pond and most were younger than 5, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Tips to help prevent drowning
- Learn to swim and teach your children.
- Actively supervise children around water, even if there’s a lifeguard.
- Secure pools with appropriate barriers.
- Teach children to ask for permission to go near water.
- Remove floats and toys from the pool and surrounding area to avoid encouraging children to go near the water.
- Know how and when to call 911.
Responding to a water emergency
- Learn CPR.
- If a child is missing, check the water first.
- If someone is in the water and needs help, reach or throw something out to them. Don’t go in.
- If the drowning is in a lake, find a landmark where the victim went underwater that is not subject to wind or tides to speed the search process.
- Have rescue and first-aid equipment available, such as reaching or throwing tools, a cellphone and life jackets.