LEE -- The Lee community is mourning the death of Timothy "Shep" Shepardson Sr., a custodian in the middle and high school. He was 58.
The lifelong town resident worked as chief of maintenance for the Stockbridge Housing Authority as well as on the custodial staff at Lee Middle and High School, where a fellow custodian found Shepardson unresponsive early Friday morning. Classes in Lee Public Schools were canceled on Friday as a result.
"He was a lifelong resident of the town, admired and a good guy," said Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis.
He said the police department received a 911 call from the staff member around 5:45 a.m. Emergency responders who arrived at the scene reported that it seemed Shepardson had been deceased for some time.
As an unattended death, the police department reported the incident to the state medical examiner's office. Both Chief Buffis and the Berkshire District Attorney's Office stated that nothing appears to be suspicious about Shepardson's death. Several other sources said though he had no known health issues, it appeared the custodian had a heart attack. The state medical examiner's office in Holyoke is currently working to determine the exact cause of death.
"We're all just stunned right now," Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless told The Eagle on Friday.
McCandless said he heard the news around 6:15 a.m. Unlike other schools which observe Good Friday as a holiday, Lee Public Schools were scheduled to be in session.
In wake of the staff member's death, the district decided to cancel classes and after-school activities; it notified parents and staff via an automated phone message and an email Friday morning. McCandless said an automated message went out at 6:26 a.m., notifying families that classes were canceled at both Lee Middle and High School and Lee Elementary School, which share a campus on Greylock Street.
At 7:48 a.m., a second message explained classes were canceled because a custodial staff member had died.
Classes will resume on Monday, and grief counselors will be available at both Lee public school buildings to support students and staff members.
Shepardson joined the school staff as a substitute custodian in February 2012, and was hired as a full-time staff member in April 2012.
"Mr. Shepardson immediately became a valued and respected part of our school community," McCandless said. "His hard work and work ethic were well-matched by his kindness and his affability. Our entire staff and student body thought a great deal of him and will miss him."
Shepardson typically worked late evenings, cleaning up after sporting and other school events. He was a lifelong fan of sporting events and a former football player in his younger days.
"Shep made it comfortable for the groups and clubs hosting after school events," said Lee Middle and High School Principal Joseph Turmel. "He was a friendly face to the kids and adults and loved the activities and games at night."
For about 30 years, he co-owned the former Bull's Eye Pub, which was located on Railroad Street in Lee, with Diane "Dee" Shepardson. They sold the property in 2010 to the town.
More recently, Shepardson spent his days working for the Stockbridge Housing Authority, which offers affordable independent living facilities to people age 60 and older, as well as the disabled.
Executive Director JoAnne Redding told The Eagle she's worked with Shepardson, a father and a grandfather, for the past 141 2 years. She said he was known to get up early to plow the properties on Pine Street and Heaton Court for residents. Each day, he would also pick up residents' mail from the Stockbridge Post Office and deliver it to residents even on Saturdays, when he wasn't getting paid.
Redding said a paper clipping from a local publication hangs in her office heralding Shepardson as an "unsung hero," as nominated by the residents he worked for.
"He was a tremendously valued employee and a trusted friend," she said.