Not enough nice things can be said about Philando Castile.
Details continue to emerge about the life of the 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor shot and killed by police during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, on July 6.
Castile graduated from Central High School in 2001 and spent 12 years working for the Saint Paul Public Schools nutrition services department before being promoted to a supervisory position at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School two years ago.
Staff, parents and students have come forward to praise Castile’s steadfast commitment to his work and to the children he served every day.
“Kids loved him. He was smart, over-qualified. He was quiet, respectful, and kind,” one co-worker recalled in a statement released by the school district Thursday. “He wore a shirt and tie to his supervisor interview and said his goal was to one day ‘sit on the other side of this table.’ ”
The district said Castile was highly regarded by all who worked with him daily. They described him as a team player with a cheerful disposition.
“He was quick to greet former coworkers with a smile and hug,” the statement read.
Former J.J. Hill principal Katherine Holmquist-Burks, who hired Castile in August 2014, said he was a generous man who never let students go hungry.
“Some supervisors, they will just say they (the kids) have to have a peanut butter sandwich. He would let them have the lunch and worry about the money later,” she told the New York Daily News.
“He had a sweet, gentle spirit and he loved kids and he was a great employee,” Holmquist-Burks added. “He was one of the nicest people I’ve hired probably.”
Retired paraprofessional Joan Edman recounted the manager’s dedication to the elementary school’s more than 500 students.
“He remembered their names. He remembered who couldn’t have milk. He knew what they could have to eat and what they couldn’t,” Edman told TIME. “This was a real guy. He made a real contribution.”
“I remember him saying, ‘I just want everybody here to be happy.’ He wanted the cafeteria to be a happy place,” Edman said, according to the Star Tribune. “It was a huge goal, and not an easy one, and he did it.”
The sentiment was shared by many parents, including Andrew Karre, 37, whose 8-year-old son attends the primary school.
“He was a fixture. I was always happy to see him around school. The cafeteria was a pretty happy place. He was part of the community and an important one,” he told TIME.
“He was just a nice, caring person who worked at the school, who should not be dead,” he added.
Sally Rafowicz, the parent of a 9-year-old student, called Castile a “kind, gentle soul,” telling the Star Tribune he was, “kind of like Mr. Rogers with dreadlocks.”
The endless accounts of Castile’s calm, respectful demeanor have caused loved ones to question the actions of police, who reportedly opened fire on the man as he reached for his wallet to present an officer with identification.
“Everybody that knows my son knows he is a laid-back, quiet individual that works hard every day, pays taxes and comes home and plays video games,” Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, said during an interview with CNN Thursday.
“He’s not a gang banger. He’s not a thug. He’s very respectable. And I know he didn’t antagonize that officer in any way to make him feel like his life was threatened,” she said.