By Elly Cosgrove | April 19, 2021 at 11:22 PM EDT – Updated April 19 at 11:52 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Many in the community — and even around the world — are mourning the loss of a beloved teacher, missionary and friend.
Jessica Embry died Sunday afternoon while trying to save children caught in a rip current at Kure Beach. The town’s police department says Embry helped save the children, but ran into trouble in the water. People on the scene tried to give her CPR on the beach, but were unsuccessful.
Embry, an orchestra director at Ashley High School, dedicated her life to helping children, and died while trying to save two kids. Many say that’s just the person she was.
“Nobody is surprised by what she did,” Lifepoint pastor Daniel Walters said. “She jumped in the water to rescue somebody else. Everybody’s like, ‘yep, that sounds about right; that’s something she would do.’ So even though it was shocking, it wasn’t surprising.”
Pastor George Kapusta was also shocked when he received the call about Embry’s passing. However, Kapusta knew, like Walters, that jumping into the water to save others was exactly something Embry would do.
“I know Jessica died doing what she did best and that was to serve people,” Kapusta said. “She went into that water to save kids and lost her life. That’s who this young lady was.”
Embry was a devoted orchestra director at Ashley High School.
“I think she served her students at Ashley High School because again I know how much those students loved her,” Kapusta said. “I saw the pain in their faces today when I was down there to be told your teacher is no longer going to be here.”
One parent of a former student said his son was a quiet child who had a passion for playing the violin in the orchestra.
“He had a vision to create a ‘rock-estra’ and she gave him the reigns to make it happen,” Jeff Stoner said. “She was one of the few real connections he made at the school, and I’ll forever be grateful to her for the impact she had on his life.”
Embry had been with Ashley High School for nine years.
She was credited with starting a group called “United Sound,” which paired special needs students with those in her orchestra class. Through that partnership, the students were able to get hands-on experience with instruments and learn how to play music. She was also a part of Night to Shine, which is an event with the Tim Tebow foundation. It’s a program that organizes a special prom night for those with special needs.
“She was a friend to everybody that she met,” Walters said. “She was always willing to put herself out or make herself uncomfortable so someone else could feel comfortable. She was a giver. She put other people’s needs ahead of her own.”
Embry was also very involved with Lifepoint church. She volunteered and served on the worship team. She also poured her heart and soul into mission trips to Uganda. Walters said people are grieving around the globe.
“There’s families in Uganda that she just poured into,” he said. “There’s a single mother there that she supported financially even while she was here.”
Kapusta said there is a void in many people’s hearts now that Embry is gone and that it’s like losing a family member. There is no question about the legacy of love she leaves behind.
“When we all leave this earth, we’re all going to leave a legacy. I think Jessica’s legacy will be one of a young lady who gave everything to serve,” Kapusta said.
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