By Tony Aiello

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A veteran New Rochelle teacher will be laid to rest Friday after losing her battle with COVID-19 last week.

Even as her family grieves her loss, they are proud of the life she lived and the difference she made.

READ MORE: NYC Parks Department Asks New Yorkers To Suggest Black Leaders For Park Renaming Project

As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, the Johnson home in New Rochelle is filled with the joy of new life.

“Every single day, she wanted to see my son,” Robert Johnson Jr. told Aiello.

And the sorrow of terrible loss.

“She said to me, ‘I love you Robert Johnson.’ And that’s the last words she ever said to me,” he said.

The deep loss felt by the family of Karen Johnson is shared by many in New Rochelle. She was a beloved special education teacher at Albert Leonard Middle School.

“She was there for her kids. She wasn’t going to let them down,” said Johnson Jr.

She also coached the district’s acclaimed Prestige Step Team.

“We traveled everywhere with a lot of kids that would never have the opportunity to travel,” Robert Johnson Sr. said.

READ MORE: Wife Of Top Cuomo Aide Shows Support On Social Media For Governor's Latest Sexual Harassment Accuser

Johnson died Feb. 11 from COVID-19. She was 57 years old.

Last August, Johnson gave the district a doctor’s note citing obesity as a risk factor. It asked that she be allowed to work from home or given protection to minimize exposure at work.

The district denied her work-from-home request, but agreed to provide PPE and other measures. Johnson chose not to appeal the decision.

“It was denied. She marched back into the school and she did her job,” said Johnson Sr.

The family described Johnson as a “good soldier,” and indeed she served the country for four years in the Army.

Albert Leonard had reopened for just one day after a 10-day break when Johnson took ill. There’s no knowing how or where she contracted coronavirus.

“She knew COVID could be a death sentence, so that made her extremely cautious with everything that we did,” Johnson Jr. said.

It’s another shattering loss for the Johnson family. Their oldest child, Shaderi, died in 2017. Now Karen, just two months after welcoming Jace, her second grandchild.

“It breaks you and it breaks your family into pieces. We’ve had to accept that we’re not going to be the same people that we were when she was here. That piece is missing,” said Johnson Jr.

MORE NEWS: Connecticut Nurse Faces Up To 5 Years In Jail After Admitting To Removing Opioid Painkiller From Vials Of Infertility Treatment Patients

They’ll take comfort in the love she left behind.

Tony Aiello