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'She was the shirt-off-your-back kind of woman': Coronavirus claims the life of Northside ISD cafeteria manager

Michelle Villarreal worked at Leon Valley Elementary for a decade.

Among the lives in our community that have been recently cut short by the coronavirus is someone who was a loving wife, mother and grandmother.

Michelle Villarreal, 49, spent several days in the hospital fighting for her life on a ventilator. Her son, Vincent, said she passed away on July 24.

"She had gotten pretty sick pretty quick," Villareal said. "We're not sure how it got to her, we've been following the guidelines as best as possible."

He said his mom was a helper who knew her way around the kitchen. She went to culinary school and spent her free time baking cakes and teaching others how to cook.

"She definitely taught me the ropes," he said.

But during the workweek, the students at Leon Valley Elementary School got her full attention. For 10 years, Michelle served as the school's cafeteria manager. Vincent said she treated the kids like they were her own.

"She loved what she did, absolutely loved it," he said. "Some of the children might not have had money or something, but she would make sure that they get taken care of and not left behind."

He said Michelle was also a boss who led by example.

"She wasn't the type to sit back her office, she was always out there helping her crew," Vincent said. "She was the shirt-off-your-back kind of woman."

In March, Michelle was featured in a video for Northside ISD. She talked about what they were doing to feed students after school shuts down.

"It's important just to give back to our community because we have family and grandchildren and children ourselves and we want to make sure we get fed," Michelle said in the video.

An official with NISD sent KENS 5 the following statement from the Leon Valley campus:

"We are truly saddened by the loss of our co-worker and friend, Michelle Villarreal. She always had a smile on her face and never hesitated to help out a student, teacher, cafeteria member, or the community. She was kind-hearted and compassionate. Her passion for children, helping others, and baking was inspiring. Michelle touched many hearts while at Leon Valley Elementary and will be deeply missed. Her love and legacy will remain in many hearts forever."

Michelle cared deeply for the people around her. Now, they're returning the favor by supporting her family in this difficult time.

Vincent set up a GoFundMe to help pay for his mother's funeral. In two days, people have donated more than $11,000.

"Every dollar that I see come in, I look at it and I start crying because of the love and support of people," Vincent said. "People she went to high school with have even reached out."

Vincent knew his mom was a good woman. What brings him comfort in this moment is knowing others felt the same way. 

If you'd like to make a donation to help cover Michelle's funeral, click here.

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