The Savannah-Chatham school district is mourning the loss of one of its own tonight. We first reported his passing yesterday. Maj. Ulysee Benjamin, principal at Hubert Middle School, died Tuesday morning from cancer.
It still hasn't sunk in for Betty Morgan. "He is the best," she told us. "He was outstanding."
For all of his three years at Hubert Middle School, Morgan was Maj. Benjamin's right-hand lady. A husband, father of two, a grandfather and an educator, Morgan says Maj. Benjamin never let the kids see him down.
"He called everybody little darling," she said.
Morgan says Benjamin didn't know he was sick with leukemia until earlier this year. Through the pain, the way he handled students never changed. "He'd say, 'Little Darling, you got to get back to class. Don't be upsetting my teachers, because you need them.'"
Only a few people knew Maj. Benjamin was supposed to be back to school Monday. It was a surprise for faculty and students. But the week before, he was supposed to get clearance from his doctor to go back to school and found out the cancer had returned.
"When I didn't see him in the building, I wanted to know why he wasn't here," Morgan said.
The next morning, she skipped an ominously sudden faculty meeting. "I didn't want to hear. I was expecting him to be a part of us one more time."
"With the suddenness of what happened, I was totally taken aback," said Ola Lewis, who hired Benjamin as her assistant principal at Beach High School five years ago.
Ten years earlier, he was her senior Army instructor. She knew he'd be the perfect principal one day. "He had dynamic rapport with the students. That's what I am looking for, someone who could make things happen."
"He just wanted us to do the right thing, strap on our shoes, do our work, and respect our teachers," said eighth Qu' Shon Nelson. "A great man."
Qu' Shon calls Maj. Benjamin his role model. "He graduated from high school, did what he was supposed to do and achieved great things."
"He demonstrated what could be done and will be missed," said Lewis.
"Talk about being missed forever and ever," said Morgan. "Maj. Ulysee A. Benjamin will be a missed man."
Hubert Middle School is planning a candlelight vigil for tomorrow night at 7pm. The funeral will be Saturday morning at 10am at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, with visitation Friday night from 6pm to 7pm at Hubert Baker Funeral Home.
Maj. Benjamin was 60 years old.