Jason Picetti, who taught math at La Entrada School in Menlo Park until illness forced him to retire, died peacefully early this morning (Oct. 13) at Kaiser hospital in Santa Clara, with his wife, father and brother-in-law by his side, according to a close friend. Mr. Picetti was 42.
A celebration of his life is set for Saturday, Oct. 22, in the La Entrada School gym, according to his friend Robin Tobias.
Mr. Picetti had declined intervention for pneumonia when he was admitted to the hospital earlier this week, Ms. Tobias said.
Mr. Picetti, whose story was told in an article in the March 31, 2009, edition of the Almanac, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in February 2008. ALS is a neurogenerative disease affecting the nerve cells that control muscle movement.
The diagnosis sent the La Entrada School community, as well as his circle of family and friends, into a tumult of disbelief and sorrow. Married less than two years to fellow La Entrada teacher Fehmeen Khan, the man who had never taken a sick day off from the classroom seemed the most unlikely candidate for a fatal illness.
The couple had a daughter, Emma, who shared a birthday with her father. Emma is now 3 years old.
Mr. Picetti's last year of teaching math was 2008. His students' learning experience went far beyond algebra. They were given a lesson in courage, which Mr. Picetti taught them by example.
In 2009 he accompanied his wife, a sixth-grade teacher, to school most days, spending much of his time in Room 25, where teachers come to visit and play cards on their breaks and former students drop by to talk.
He also started a blog "The Adventures of ALS Boy." He posted his last entry on Oct. 4.
On the blog, Mr. Picetti described himself in this way: "In his days prior to wearing the cape and cowl of the Amazing, Inspiring and Adventurous ALS Boy, Jason Picetti's not-so-secret identities included weekend warrior rock star, enthusiastic and motivating middle school math teacher, and all-around decent guy.
"While still a decent guy, he has been battling the evil forces of ALS since being diagnosed in February of 2008. Never one to shy away from a good fight, Jason has been combining the healing forces of western medicine, alternative medicine, a positive and never-give-up attitude and mindset, and the love and prayers and support of his incredible family and friends to win the toughest battle of his life."