His students may call him “Mr. De,” but Frank DeAngelis is known by many others as family, friend, mentor, and colleague.
When I first met Frank in the summer of 2013, he brought me immediate comfort. I never could have predicted how steady a force he would become for Safe and Sound Schools and for me personally.
The summer after my daughter was killed in the tragedy at Sandy Hook, I attended The Briefings, an annual conference presented by the“I Love You Guys” Foundationin Colorado. Friends had encouraged me to come to listen, learn and speak in public – for the first time – about losing Josephine and starting Safe and Sound Schools. Though it was to be a short speech, I was beyond nervous. Up to this point in my life, the only audience I was eager to speak in front of was a classroom full of energetic elementary students.
Sitting in the front row of the auditorium at Columbine High School, my stomach flip-flopping and heart racing, I looked to my right and two seats over, where I caught the eye of Frank DeAngelis. We’d never met before, but he just knew by looking at me, that I was not at all sure of what I was about to do. He reached across the presenter between us, patted my hand, and gave me a look that conveyed, “You got this.” It’s a look he’s given away thousands of times to thousands of others, but that one was for me—and at just the right moment.
Frank’s gesture of support and solidarity gave me the strength to get on that stage and launch Safe and Sound Schools publicly. The feedback from attendees at The Briefings and the I Love U Guys community was incredible and thoughtful. They validated our mission and our approach. I knew we were on the right track and with the right people.
After that day, Frank and I exchanged emails and continued to run into each other in our travels and at conferences. Each time I saw Frank, I felt like I was reuniting with an old friend. The work of building a foundation and launching a mission was hard and surprisingly lonely at times. Whenever I would run into Frank, I’d leave with my cup filled and a reminder that I was not in this alone.
Years of speaking and working together have passed and the friendship has continued. Frank is now an integral part of the work we do at Safe and Sound Schools and has joined us as an advisor and speaker. And, we are lucky to have him.
Frank officially retired a few years ago, but has not stopped since. He works with us, sits on the board of the I Love U Guys Foundation, and supports the work of the Koshka Foundation and Safe2Tell Colorado. We joke that his retirement has him busier than ever.
When he asked me to read and review the manuscript for his new book, I was honored, but also grateful that others would have the opportunity to get to know Frank. Frank is such a special person, and everyone who has met him feels connected to him. But, of course, there’s only so much of Frank to go around.
Frank’s book, “They Call Me Mr. De,” is a perfect opportunity to get to know Frank, and be inspired by a great man and a truly humble servant.
Forever changed by the Columbine tragedy, Frank carries a heavy burden. He does it with heart and dedication, and always in honor of his “Beloved 13,” the survivors, the entire Columbine community, and all those he has come to know and love since the tragedy. His book–his story– is a gift to all of us.
To understand what I mean, take a read or a free preview. And know that a portion of proceeds from this book will come back to support the mission of Safe and Sound Schools and all the non-profit organizations that Frank DeAngelis, a.k.a. Mr. De, generously supports with his time and in his travels.
Author: Michele Gay, Co-founder and Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools