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A mosaic memorial

Remembering Brooklyn para lost to COVID
New York Teacher
Dagus was “everybody’s friend,” his chapter leader said.

Dagus was “everybody’s friend,” his chapter leader said.

When Rulx Dagus, a paraprofessional for 15 years at P369K in Park Slope, Brooklyn, became an early casualty of the coronavirus on April 3, 2020, his colleagues at the District 75 school heard about it during a Zoom meeting.

“We were all just left with a silence, and there was no way for everyone to grieve together,” said Erin McCarthy, a longtime teacher at the school, explaining that the pandemic meant there was neither a funeral nor a memorial service for the 65-year-old known as Eric or Mr. R.

The Haitian immigrant, who worked as a cab driver before coming to the school, was as beloved by students as he was by his union colleagues, according to Keri Goldman, a first-year chapter leader who started at the school a year before Dagus.

“He was just everybody’s friend, which is a difficult thing to do at District 75 because it’s a high-stress gig,” she said. “He always remembered to bring levity to a situation, and he knew when to bring his own personal life to a situation and say, ‘I’ve been through this before and you have to keep it in perspective.’ ”

So when McCarthy, an art teacher, decided to create a mosaic mural in Dagus’ memory, school employees weren’t the only ones coming to her classroom to “put a few tiles down.” Students who had worked with her on other murals also assisted.

Art teacher Erin McCarthy stands next to the mosaic she created with the help of P369K staff and students in memory of paraprofessional Rulx Dagus.

Art teacher Erin McCarthy stands next to the mosaic she created with the help of P369K staff and students in memory of paraprofessional Rulx Dagus.

“There was never a student he was not ready to work with,” McCarthy said. “I had a lot of them separating the tiles and grouping them; I had others cutting them in a safe manner. They liked the responsibility of it.”

The Brooklyn Bridge, which McCarthy had walked over with Dagus on a field trip years earlier, is the subject of the mural, which is roughly 6 feet by 4 feet. A bronze plaque bearing a photo of Dagus accompanies the mosaic in the hallway outside McCarthy’s fourth-floor art classroom.

As much as students’ work on it got their creative juices flowing, she said, it gave them a chance “to cry and feel sadness” while putting it together, as it did with her co-workers.

“He had a wonderful way with children,” McCarthy said. “His wife said he used to tutor kids in his neighborhood.”

Maryse Cevieux, who was married to Dagus for 38 years, was among those attending a June 7 dedication of the mural.

McCarthy said having so many people involved with the mural was “a very beautiful experience” because of their feelings about Dagus.

“He mattered,” she said.