He was a husband, pious, kind-hearted, generous, a colleague and a friend. Dr. Noel Lawson, teacher of Bronx Academy of Health Careers, died May 4 from COVID-19 at the age of 67.
Lawson of Co-op City and a native of Jamaica, left a lasting impact on his school and community. He leaves behind his widow, the Reverend Karen Davis-Lawson, rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Astoria.
“He wanted to help people achieve as much as they could be,” Davis-Lawson said.
Davis-Lawson told the Bronx Times she had COVID-19 and the day she left the hospital, Lawson was admitted. He had diabetes, which made it worse and he spent three weeks there before succumbing to the illness.
She recalled that even while sick he was grading papers.
“He knew they were due and he did it,” Davis-Lawson said.
Lawson, who taught in Jamaica for eight years before immigrating to the United States in 1993, had taught at BAHC since 2005. He was proud that during his tenure, all but two of his students graduated with either a Regents or high school diploma. He regularly mentored new teachers and gave workshops on classroom management, student engagement and strategies for working with students with disabilities.
At the time of his death, he taught computer research and coordinated programs to assist students with transitions to careers and occupational studies. He also chaired the school’s leadership team and led a travel club for students, teachers and parents.
In 2016, Lawson was awarded the Fulbright Award in teaching and spent five months in Singapore investigating the transition of students with disabilities to post-school activities. He returned to Singapore in 2017 as a guest speaker at the Special Educational Needs Education Forum, where he made a presentation on preparing students with disabilities for college.
Lawson held a B.A. and M.A. in education from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and an M.S. in management information systems and an Ed. D. in instructional technology and distance education, both from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Flordia.
A gifted musician, he played the piano, organ, guitar, keyboard and tuba, among other instruments and was a member of the choir at Grace Baptist Chapel. At the church, he was also youth fellowship co-director and a Sunday school teacher for teens.
Davis-Lawson, 59, is sad she met her late husband so late in life. The couple first spoke on the online dating site eHarmony in 2005.
“We hit it off from the first phone call,” she said emotionally. “It was really easy to get to know him. He was very welcoming and warm. We talked on the phone for a while before we met.”
The couple was married 12 years, eight months and 22 days. She cherished every moment of it and shared that they complemented each other well.
While they never had children, his students were his “kids,” she said. He always made sure they were prepared for college. When they found out he died, some of them posted things and one shared a quote that Lawson always said, “time is money, don’t waste it.”
Another noted that if it wasn’t for his encouragement, she never would have become a doctor.
Davis-Lawson said her late husband had a good sense of humor, cared about people, loved to travel and was devoted to his family and church. Every Sunday, both sides of the family got together in person or virtually.
Over the years they went all over, including the Caribbean, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Greece and Italy.
Julianne Bridge, a math teacher at Bronx Academy of Health Careers, only knew him for four years, but considered him a mentor. While he was about twice her age, the two shared a connection as they were both from Jamaica.
“One of the things that brought us closer is we both shared the same background,” she said. “Personally, he taught me the importance of being a great role model for the students.”
When the news broke of his death, she shared that not only did it shake her, but the students as well. They were in a Google classroom when someone posted a crying emoji about Lawson.
“One of the students said ‘what do you mean Mr. Lawson is dead,’” she recalled. “It was like time stopped at that moment. I just became a person. I cried in front of my class. I did not know how to tell my students.”