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'Never met a stranger' | Longtime Union County Public Schools employee dies after months-long battle with COVID-19

A GoFundMe page has been posting updates on her condition since September when she was hospitalized due to COVID-19.

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — A longtime Union County Public Schools employee, Melissa Bowman, has passed away, the district confirms. Bowman worked with the district for 20 years, serving as a data manager at Poplin Elementary for 11. 

There's a growing memorial for Bowman outside Poplin Elementary as the school community mourns the loss. Bowman's friends confirmed she died from complications of COVID-19. 

In September, friends and family of Bowman said she had been in the hospital for weeks after contracting COVID-19. A GoFundMe fundraiser page has posted updates on her condition since September. 

RELATED: Union School employee on a ventilator battling COVID-19

A GoFundMe update Saturday from organizer Shelley Gordon says Bowman "passed away after a valiant fight." 

"Although we are broken-hearted and inconsolable, we know she is free of pain and is comfortable at last," the update from Gordon continues.

"I was just in disbelief," former Poplin Elementary Student Michael Wayne O'Neill said, later adding, "This death has completely changed our community."

UCPS said the district extends its sincerest condolences to her family, saying she "will truly be missed by her school family."

Counselors will be available for students and staff in need of support throughout the next week. 

The GoFundMe page for Bowman was initially set up to support her family. 

"She would want everyone to live life to the fullest just like she did," Gordon's GoFundMe update says. "She was an authentic, loving, energetic person who never met a stranger. To honor her memory, be kind and thoughtful. And remember, You never know when it may be your last day or the last day you spend with someone you love."

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