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  • 21 Oct 2014

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Teacher gives solace amid local student's family tragedy

When the sudden deaths of both parents in less than a month orphaned a 14-year-old student at Alder Creek Middle School this month, the Milwaukie-area family of a local teacher temporarily adopted her.

Fiona Girotti lost her 54-year-old father, Aldo, Nov. 13 to his three-month battle with lung cancer. Then her mother, Arleen, died Dec. 1, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, from an unexpected cardiac arrest.

by: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Second-grade teacher Amy Mathews joins her family, who adopted Fiona Girotti for about 10 days before she joined relatives in Chicago last week.Paramedics from American Medical Response and Clackamas Fire District No. 1 found Fiona at home crying over the body of her 49-year-old mother. The only local emergency contact she had was Amy Mathews, a second-grade teacher at Scouter’s Mountain Elementary. The Mathewses held an emergency family meeting and immediately decided to welcome Fiona into their house.

Deborah Barnes, president of the North Clackamas Education Association, told school board members Dec. 12 that Mathews was especially deserving of a “Certificate of Excellence” because she stepped in for her daughter’s best friend during an already busy conference time. Mathews only took three personal days so that Fiona always had a friend by her side.

“I only did what I hope would be done for my own kids if that happened,” Mathews said while accepting the award and choking through sobs.

Services for Arleen were held Dec. 6 at Milwaukie’s Crown Memorial Center, and Fiona left Dec. 11 to live with her aunt and uncle in Chicago. Mathews believes that Fiona will have a great future in Chicago and could come back one day to run for public office with her intelligence and resilience.

Arleen was survived by: her stepson, William; mother, Catherine Herman (Reiss); sisters, Cathy Herman and Janet Barton; brother, John Herman; and many friends and extended family.

Donations to the Fiona C.

Girotti fund can be made at any branch of First Republic Bank (account No. 1258434).