Co-workers and others are grieving the death of a longtime head custodian at Donaldson Way Elementary School in American Canyon, a woman remembered for her positive attitude in life, work ethic and faith in God.
Police on March 3 discovered Jeanette Ross dead from gunshot wounds inside the Vallejo apartment she shared with her live-in boyfriend, Marvin Taylor, 52. Taylor is suspected of shooting Ross before committing suicide with the same firearm, according to the Vallejo Police Department.
The bodies of Ross and Taylor were discovered at the residence in the 400 block of Ebbets Pass Road after witnesses called to report a gunshot from the apartment, police Lt. Jim O’Connell said in a written statement.
Ross’ daughter, Gloria Aguiar, and Gloria’s husband, Jeff, are custodians at the Napa Valley Unified School District. Gloria Aguiar volunteers as a coach for the Napa Saints’ Midget Cheer Team. The Napa Saints, which offers football and cheer programs, is a youth group. Occasionally, Ross would come and watch the girls cheer.
Last weekend, the Midget Cheer Team was competing at the Junior Nationals at Disneyland when Aguiar, described as an “amazing” coach and mentor to the girls on the team, received the news from Vallejo and flew home.
Since then, the Napa Saints families and Donaldson Way Elementary School have tried to help the family with funeral expenses and other costs. An account has been opened at Umpqua Bank on Soscol Avenue to raise money for the family.
“This family has touched so many lives,” said Carol Guthrie, mother of a Napa Saints member.
Donaldson Way Elementary School will receive messages, poems, and photos by email to compile a “memory book” for Ross’ family.
Ross, who was known as “Miss Jeanette” at the school, started working with the Napa Valley Unified School District in November 1994. She was promoted to head custodian at Donaldson Way in August 1999, said Ashley Halliday, assistant superintendent for the Napa Valley Unified School District.
“She was a down-to-earth, sweet person,” said Debbie Maffei, a longtime American Canyon resident and friend of Ross.
Ross loved and was proud of her children and grandchildren, and took on second jobs to support herself and her family, said Maffei, who described her friend as a hard worker who was proud of her work. Ross loved God and read her Bible during her breaks, Maffei said.
“We have all lost a beautiful angel from this earth,” Maffei said.
Donaldson Way Principal Marilyn Abelon rushed home from Indiana, where she had gone to a conference for educators, as soon as she heard the news that Ross had been killed.
Ross was a very happy, energetic, positive woman, full of life and passion, and always with a smile on her face, Abelon said Friday.
“She was a wonderful, wonderful woman,” Abelon said. “She really was a beloved team member to us. The school feels a tremendous loss; we have deep sadness in our hearts.”