by Tashun Chism The East Texas community was stunned this week when 49-year-old Christopher Lavelle, the principal of Saint Patrick Catholic School in Lufkin, died suddenly from cancer. The school's faculty and students didn't even know Lavelle was terminally ill until recently. "I believe that in waiting so long to tell us that he was protecting us so that we could still do the very best job that we could and help our students and teach our students the best way we could. He was very unselfish and he did not want us to just be consumed with his illness," said Interim Principal Sheryl Thompson. Friends and faculty described Lavelle as a positive person who made an immediate impact on everyone around him. "The school really needed him. He was a shot in the arm for the school and he was inspirational to all of us and the moment that you met him, you fell in love with him. He was everything that we needed at this time. He shared a vision of a school and he knew that this little Catholic school in East Texas could really, really be of a service to the children." Lavelle was so dedicated to serving Saint Patrick that he even turned down a job offer from the prestigious university of Notre Dame to teach there. Now Saint Patrick's students and faculty are returning the favor. They've converted Lavelle's old garden - a place where he loved to relax and spend time between work - into a memorial. They're also honoring his memory by carrying on his work. "I would hope that his legacy would be for us all to continue providing the absolute best Christian and Catholic education that we can for the students of our area." Lavelle was only there for seven months, but his memory will be a part of Saint Patrick for many years to come. A memorial mass will be held for Lavelle Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. at St. Patrick Catholic Church.