Tuesday night, a little more than a day before he slipped into a coma and two days before he died, Providence High School band director Paul Jackson sent text messages to assistant director Sarah Russell and band boosters president Debbie Thompson.
"He wanted to remind us about registration for Honors Band," Russell said Friday. "He wanted to make sure his students didn't miss the deadline."
Jackson, one of the Carolinas' most accomplished band directors, lost a six-year battle with cancer Thursday night. He was 40.
"He was exactly the kind of person you would want as a teacher for your child," said Providence High Principal Tracey Harrill. "He was a wonderful teacher and a wonderful person."
With extra counselors on hand Friday at Providence, students told dozens of stories about Jackson. They talked in amazement of how their ailing band director continued teaching until last Friday and planned to return.
"One kid recalled arriving here in ninth grade, not knowing anyone, and sitting in the corner," Thompson said. "He said Mr. Jackson went over to the corner and sat down next to him. 'You look like you need a friend.' Mr. Jackson told him, 'I'll be your friend.' "
Jackson's battle with cancer was well-publicized. He had to deal with numerous hospitalizations since being diagnosed with a rare form of the disease in 2005. He later developed an illness caused by the chemotherapy and then was diagnosed about a month ago with leukemia.
"I won the lottery on diseases," he told an Observer reporter in an interview last year. But he never let it get him down.
"We all knew he had cancer," said Jane Caldwell, president-elect of the Providence High band boosters. "But he always came back from the treatments and the setbacks. He always stayed cheerful."
Before Jackson slipped into a coma Thursday, band directors at the schools where he taught before coming to Providence - Scotland County High and Forest Hills High in Marshville - came to see him at the hospital. On Friday, a number of high school band directors visited Providence to talk with students.
"That's what people thought of him," Harrill said.
Mark Propst, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' performing arts specialist, said Jackson's final year at Providence was among his best. His band won a number of competitions last fall and was named Band of Honor at the Carrousel Parade on Thanksgiving Day in Charlotte.
Jackson also was selected to direct the All-District Band in a performance Jan. 29 at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory. Jerry Lowe, a noted school band director from Lincoln County, saw Jackson's performance and told Harrill, "His passion for teaching instrumental music was on a level I have only seen on a handful of occasions in my life."
Jackson, an accomplished pianist who was born in Gilbert, S.C., is survived by his partner of 22 years, Philip Ranier of Matthews.
Harrill said Jackson's students were his children.
"When he learned he had leukemia, he delayed a treatment until after the All-District Band. Who would postpone their own health care? Only someone who would put the kids first."