The March 13 death of Dena Emiko Endo, a 32-year-old teacher at Bird Rock Elementary School, has devastated the community and left teachers, pupils and parents remembering her with fondness and as “a true friend.”
Endo had taught kindergarten and first grade at the school for the last seven years.
School principal Beverly Candage noted the entire Bird Rock community deeply mourns the death of its beloved teacher and friend whom she said brought her love for teaching to cultivating the young minds of students.
“She taught with vitality that was uniquely her; she challenged her students and lovingly tugged and pushed them to the next plateau,” Candage said. “She encouraged them and, above all, she loved them.”
Noting Endo was a role model and a young woman of strong character, the Bird Rock principal added, “In ways big and small, she changed our world and left it a better place. She will live on in the hearts of all of us.”
One of Endo’s colleagues echoed their principal’s sentiments about Endo.
“She was an outstanding teacher who excelled in language arts and was loved by the entire staff and her students,” said fellow first-grade instructor Peggy Ray. “She was a friend as well as a mentor to her colleagues.”
“She had a fabulous rapport with all of her students,” said Michelle Fulks, whose 7-year-old son Jake was in Endo’s class. “She was very academic. She was able to push each of her students to their own potential. My son would tell you she was his favorite teacher.”
Jake called her “a nice and kind person” and said “she was full of laughter and she also was very helpful and loving.”
Michelle Fulks, who attended Endo’s March 19 memorial service, said, “It was completely overflowing. People were standing and sitting in the aisles.”
Gaiety was a common theme expressed about Endo by those who knew her.
“She was just very sparkly and giggly,” said Bridget Musante, whose fourth-grade daughter Hannah was among of group of girls who continued to lunch monthly with Endo long after they’d left her class. “She was just a very special person to a lot of people.”
Hannah agreed with her mother’s impression of Endo.
“She made me laugh and she was different than everyone else in her own special way,” she said. “She was like a friend to me.”
Hannah remembers Endo as an artist.
“She loved to draw and she could look at something, like a character from a book, and she could draw it exactly,” she said.
Bird Rock Elementary School turned out en masse to celebrate Endo’s life, not only during her memorial service, but the day afterward, too.
“Courtesy of the parents committee,” said Fulks, “we all got in groups by grade and blew bubbles to Miss Endo on the Upper Field. Then, courtesy of the Boland family, we released butterflies for Miss Endo.”
Dena Endo is survived by her parents, Frank and Janet Endo; her brother, Marcus Endo; her grandparents, Kira and Helen Takeshita and Keiko and John Balough; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to