By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Lisa (Gentilotti) Kaplan, a 12-year veteran Spanish teacher at Robert E. Melican Middle School and lifelong resident of the area, passed away Nov. 23, after a six-week battle with a rare and aggressive type of mesothelioma. She was a graduate of Westborough High School and Assumption College, and had lived in Grafton. A 5K race is being planned for Saturday, May 14, to celebrate her memory.
Laura Frem and Danielle Leboeuf taught with Kaplan and became close friends. The news of Kaplan’s passing not only affected them, but everyone who knew her.
“Lisa just had a glow about her,” said Frem. “A day hasn’t gone by since she passed that I haven’t thought of her. There’s a hole here without her.”
Leboeuf remembers her friend as someone who had a zest for life; someone who carried a lot of excitement with her and always made time to really engage in conversations.
Kaplan had many interests and didn’t shy from finding new ones and sharing her talents. Frem and Leboeuf recall her taking a cake decorating class and how there would always be cake in the teacher’s lounge. Kaplan even shared her love of playing the guitar with students by creating a guitar club.
“She sang all the time,” said Leboeuf. “She had a gorgeous voice. At Christmastime she would lead her Spanish classes down the halls of the third floor singing Feliz Navidad while wearing a sombrero. I will always think of Lisa when I hear that song.”
Former student Morgan Lindsey, now a college sophomore, thinks of Kaplan as her mentor.
“She was such a wonderful Spanish teacher,” Lindsey said. “She was so caring and always had a big smile on her face. I loved going to her class; it put me in such a great mood every day. I studied Spanish through high school and I’m still studying it.”
Lindsey had the opportunity to observe Kaplan’s class last March and she was able to tell her how much of an impact she had made on her life.
“It brings me comfort knowing that I was able to tell her that and see her smile one last time before I walked out of that classroom, not knowing that it would be the last time I would see her,” she said.
Kaplan and her husband Todd had their first son Kris in April 2015. She took a leave of absence from this school year and moved to the west coast. She was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October and passed away six weeks later.
The Melican community held a service among themselves and they were able to remember Kaplan with speeches and music and through laughter and tears. Students have worked on a mural in the school’s lobby which acknowledges her happy, go lucky spirit and love of cats and music.
Frem, Leboeuf and a former Melican teacher Beth Elam decided to organize a 5K run/walk and kids’ run to honor Kaplan’s memory.
“It’s a way to channel her love of music and running and to embody her spirit,” said Frem. “The date is as close as we could make it to Cinco de Mayo.”
The event will be held Saturday, May 14, and will start and finish at Melican Middle School. It will be USATF certified and chip timed by RaceWire. Online registration is available through May 7, at www.LK5K.racewire.com. All pre-registrants will receive a long-sleeve tech shirt. The cost is $25/adults and $15/children 14 and under. The race begins at 10 a.m. The fun run for ages 10 and under will start at 9:30 a.m. and has a $5 registration fee, which includes a participation medal. Packet pickup and race day registration is from 7:30 – 9 a.m.
Participants will enjoy music, water and fun signs along the route, and there will be post-race food and music.
Proceeds from the race and any incoming donations will benefit the Lisa Kaplan Memorial Fund. Donations can be made on line or be sent to 145 Lincoln St., Northborough, MA 01532, Attn: Becky Jones, Race Liaison.
“It is good to do something for her husband and son,” said Leboeuf. “Organizing the race has me thinking of Lisa every day; she’s never far from our thoughts as we celebrate her.”
If you have questions about the race or how you can help as a sponsor or volunteer, email [email protected].