PEABODY — The late Superintendent Cara Murtagh, who has been described as having a can-do spirit who dedicated her life to Peabody schools, will lie in repose in the Frank L. Wiggin Auditorium on the second floor of City Hall for visiting hours on Thursday afternoon and evening.
Her funeral will follow in the Wiggin Auditorium on Friday morning. School has been canceled on Friday so that those who wish may attend her funeral.
And while city and school officials come to grips with Murtagh's death at 44 on Friday morning at Salem Hospital, the Peabody Veterans Memorial High community has been dealt another blow with word of the death of long-time Peabody educator and assistant principal Judith "Judie" Maniatis on Sunday morning.
Mayor Ted Bettencourt confirmed Maniatis' death in a text message late Sunday afternoon. Her biographical information was not readily available Sunday evening.
"She was a wonderful educator and school administrator," Bettencourt said. "It's been a painful time for our community."
"This is really very unexpected and very, very tragic because of everything that is happening," said School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne. "It's really going to affect the high school."
"We've had a rough run in Peabody, I don't know where to begin," said School Committee member Joseph Amico, mentioning what he said was a "horrible set of events" that started with the death of 13-year-old Higgins Middle School eighth-grader Jackson Frechette, who died Nov. 20 after being struck by a car while attempting to cross Route 114 on a bicycle the night before. Then there was the death of Murtagh on Friday, and now Maniatis on Sunday.
"I feel for the kids," Amico said. "It's a lot of loss for people to deal with at one time."
Amico said the School Committee met Saturday at City Hall and discussed the need for grief counselors to be available not only for students but for teachers and staff dealing with the death of their colleague.
Amico said Maniatis, with whom he served on the recent search committee for a new Peabody High principal, was "another person who was there for the kids,"
In light of Murtagh's death, if school is not canceled on Monday due to snow, there will be a two-hour delay for students as they come back from the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Buses will be delayed two hours, preschool programs will be canceled, and full-day and afternoon preschool will start at noon, according to a message from assistant superintendent/high school principal Chris Lord, which was posted on the Moving Peabody Forward Community Group Facebook page. Teachers and staff may arrive as best they can during the two-hour delay.
"Counselors will be available to meet initially with teachers and staff, and then the students as we continue to process the loss of Superintendent Cara Murtagh," Lord said.
A call will be made before 5:30 a.m. Monday if school will be canceled due to snow.
Murtagh was born in Salem and was a lifelong resident of Peabody, according to her obituary posted by Conway Cahill-Brodeur Funeral Home.
"Cara was a kind, generous and giving person who always put the students first," read her obituary.
She was the daughter of Carol (Santangelo) Murtagh of Peabody and the late John M. "Jack" Murtagh, who was a long-time principal of the Kiley Brothers Memorial School.
Murtagh graduated from Bishop Fenwick with the Class of 1993. She received her bachelor's degree from Emmanuel College in education studies with a concentration in history in 1997, and she later received her master's degree in teaching from Emmanuel as well.
She has been an educator in Peabody schools for the past 23 years, starting teaching first grade at St. John the Baptist School in Peabody. She later taught at the Carroll School, where she became assistant principal. She became principal at the Center School for a year, then returned to the Carroll as principal. Before becoming superintendent in 2018, she worked as the district's assistant superintendent.
Visiting hours for Murtagh are scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 5, in the Wiggin Auditorium at City Hall, from 3 to 8 p.m. School will be released early Thursday to prepare for this event, with Peabody High being dismissed at 11:30 a.m., the Higgins Middle School at noon, and all elementary schools at 12:30 p.m. Parent conferences at the middle school will be postponed to a later date.
The last person to lie in repose in the Wiggin Auditorium was the late Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry of Peabody, who died a little over a year ago.
Murtagh's funeral will be held on Friday, Dec. 6, at 10 a.m. in the Wiggin Auditorium. Peabody schools are canceled on Friday. Burial will follow in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Peabody.
In lieu of flowers, donations in her name can be made to the Peabody Education Foundation, www.peabodyedfoundation.org.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.