‘She made you want to be a better person’: Pennsauken High mourns teacher assistant killed in traffic accident
Students and staff at Pennsauken High are mourning the loss of a beloved teaching assistant, Josephine Mozee, who died from injuries sustained when she was struck by a car in Camden over the weekend. Mozee, 69, never missed day of work in two years.
In just two years, Josephine Mozee made an impact at Pennsauken High School as a teacher’s assistant.
Every day, she arrived an hour before school began to greet students and staff with a cheery welcome outside the auditorium. She often stayed late, too, working with troubled students in an after-school alternative program.
In her short stint at the Camden County school, Mrs. Mozee never missed a day. Now, the school is mourning her loss and remembering her as a role model in the school and her community who always had a smile, hug or prayer for anyone she met.
“She didn’t need a high position. She was just happy being someone who helped the kids," Superintendent Ronnie Tarchichi said Tuesday. “She had a kind heart, a great disposition, and was truly a lovely woman.”
Mrs. Mozee, 69, of Camden, died Saturday, Dec. 15, at Cooper University Hospital from injuries sustained when she was struck by a car the day before, only blocks from her home, authorities said. Details about the incident, which is under investigation, are few. Authorities said the driver remained at the scene at 11th and Newton Streets and no charges have been filed. Mrs. Mozee was walking home after picking up fruit and vegetables at a produce market, her family said.
More than two dozen people, family and friends, rushed to the hospital waiting room to keep vigil Saturday as news spread, said Claudia Wehnau-Guida of Moorestown, a retired nurse at the high school. The two became friends when Mrs. Mozee was hired by the district in 2016.
“She would have been so thrilled to know how many people loved her,” Wehnau-Guida said. “She touched everybody. She was the kind of person you want to be your friend. She made you want to be a better person."
The school remembered Mrs. Mozee with a moment of silence Monday, the superintendent said. School officials are collecting donations to assist her family with funeral expenses, he said.
After a career spanning more than 40 years as a certified nursing assistant, Mrs. Mozee worked for Camden County in a health center at the Lakeland Complex. She later was employed at a day-care center in Camden.
She loved the teaching assistant job and especially enjoyed working with teenagers, said former school principal Greg Munford, who now runs the alternative program and hired her for that, too. As an education assistant, she floated in the building, assisting teachers in the classroom with students who needed extra help with lessons. She bought school supplies and treats for staff — candy and cupcakes.
In order to get to school by 6 a.m., Mrs. Mozee would wake up around 4, walking several blocks to catch the bus to Pennsauken, said English teacher Adrienne Conyer. Mrs. Mozee had never learned to drive and after her husband, Roy, died in 1997, she became an avid walker.
For about an hour, Mrs. Mozee stood in the hallway, greeting every student and staff member, Conyer said. Later, she would visit the nurses' office, where she hugged each nurse. Conyer said Mrs. Mozee was her “lunch buddy” and never failed to offer her an encouraging word or a quote from Scripture.
“It seems that her personal goal was to leave a friend or even a stranger better than how she met them,” Conyer said.
From a recent chance encounter with Mrs. Mozee on a bus on her way home from work, Stephon Johnson of Willingboro said, he knew that she was special. After another passenger gave his seat to Mrs. Mozee, she replied, “You’re going to be doubly blessed.”
“She got ‘amens’ all around,” recalled Johnson, who shared the exchange on social media. “It was an amazing feeling.”
Born in South Carolina, Mrs. Mozee moved to Camden when she was 16, said her daughter, Tomicaela Butler. She married in 1980 and raised three children. Like her husband, she worked two jobs to send the children to Catholic school, Butler said.
Butler said her mother enjoyed walking around Camden because it gave her a chance to minister to people, passing out religious pamphlets. She often walked more than a mile to her church. She also volunteered once a month at the Cathedral Kitchen, which provides meals and services to the needy in Camden.
“She was an awesome mother,” said Butler. “She just wanted to help people.”
Mrs. Mozee was a member of the Higher Ground Temple Church of God in Christ in North Camden, where she was active in several ministries, including the usher board, women’s department, street ministry and pastor’s aide. Her favorite expression was “nobody but God,” her daughter said.
“The woman was a true disciple,” said Bishop E.M. Barron, the church’s senior pastor. "Once you met her, you never forget her. She was just a blessing.”
In addition to her daughter, she is survived by son Abdullah Beyson; another daughter, Patricia Brockington; six grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; two sisters; and two brothers.
A viewing will be held on Friday, Dec. 28, from 5 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 29, from 8 to 10 a.m. , followed by services at 10, at Higher Ground Temple Church of God in Christ, 203 Vine St., Camden. Interment will be at Lakeview Memorial Park, Cinnaminson.