A beloved science teacher killed in a fire at her Richfield Springs home Saturday was remembered as an inspiring educator with an infectious laugh.
Mary E. Weingates, 59, joined the Richfield Springs Central School District in 1998, officials said, and on Sunday the school was open to offer counseling, hugs and other support to students, staff and the community.
“She is so-well loved — she will be deeply missed,” Scot Mondore, school board president, said Sunday night. “This lady was an unbelievable supporter of our children and our district.”
Otsego County 911 received a call about the fire at about 7 a.m. Saturday, dispatchers said.
Mondore said students and staff gathered outside the Weingates’ home at 40 Walnut St. during the day Saturday with hopes that their teacher would come out alive.
State police, in conjunction with Otsego County and state Office of Fire Prevention and Control teams, are investigating the cause of the fire, a media release said, and the manner and cause of death are pending.
Richfield Springs Central School in northern Otsego County has about 520 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, Mondore said. The school district is committed to helping pupils, staff and the community through the days and months of the healing process with the loss of Weingates, he said.
“The school is the center of our community, and we support one another,” Mondore said. “We’re small enough to know each other and love each other.”
Weingates taught ninth-grade “Living Environment” and science to seventh- and eighth-graders, Mondore said. The district’s crisis team met Saturday afternoon and again Sunday, he said.
Thomas Hallock, chief of the Richfield Springs Volunteer Fire Department, said crews tried to save the teacher but the fire was so advanced and the the smoke so thick that attempts weren’t successful.