Dozens of community members with candles in hand prayed Tuesday night for the recovery of a beloved Lakewood Elementary School teacher.

As of Wednesday, Billy Staples was in critical care after contracting COVID-19. According to Principal Shelee Clark, he was put on a ventilator on Monday.

Organized by the Hardin County Education Association, colleagues and community members gathered outside of the Lakewood building for the prayer vigil on Tuesday, small candles in hand. The vigil was created since flowers and other gifts can’t be sent to the hospital.

He is a patient at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital.

Terry Masterson, an associate with the Kentucky Education Association, said she knew Staples when he was a building representative at Lakewood.

She said Staples is well-mannered and a gentleman, and acted like his students were his own kids.

Bill Wooldridge, former president of HCEA, said he was active in the association when he was president, and that he was invested in state and federal issues on education and served on many committees for the district.

Kelly Taylor, a physical education teacher, said she has worked for several years with Staples. She said he’s special to her, and is praying that he recovers.

Taylor said Staples genuinely cares about his students, and is dedicated to all of them.

“Billy cared more about his students than anybody that I know,” Taylor said.

She said Staples is a hard worker, not only in the school, but also operating the farm he has in Big Clifty where he lives. She also said he’s someone who is fun to talk with.

Shannon Edlin, a reading interventionist at Lakewood, said Staples is loyal and “would do anything in the world for anyone.”

She also said his students have been missing him, and have asked repeatedly how he is.

“He’s very invested in what’s going on in their lives and gets to know them on a personal level,” she said.

Staples said while he is private, he is a “big talker,” and would always find something to talk about. She said his absence has been hard on the school.

Andrew Harp can be reached at 270-505-1414 or

Andrew Harp can be reached at 270-505-1414 or

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