Lee Wasden was the security guard — usually on cafeteria duty and keeping watch on students within the school’s gates — who was often referred to as “Bill Cosby” by students.
Dr. Anna Battle, principal at Desert Vista High School, said Wasden radiated a presence of kind-hearted respect that was loved by students and staff.
“That’s the perception (students) had of him, he just always had a smile on his face,” Battle said.
Wasden, 78, had been a security guard at Desert Vista for about two years before he died on Monday after a recurring struggle with cancer.
According to Battle, Wasden had previous experience with cancer in his stomach that may have spread to his chest, ultimately leading to his death. Battle said Wasden had recently put in a Family and Medical Leave request.
“Things just really just started to spiral down in the past few days,” she said.
In addition, the timing of it all was heavy on staff and administration. Wasden’s death was just shy of six months after Desert Vista lost another beloved security guard, Pat Quinn, as well as five others related to the Desert Vista community.
“With the emotion of everything going on, the kids may be drained,” said Battle, as she prepared to notify parents and students on Wednesday.
Despite the recent tragedies, she plans on honoring Wasden in some way, though services will likely be in Winslow, Ariz.
Wasden was a retired lieutenant for the California Department of Corrections, according to Desert Vista’s athletic director T.J. Snyder, as well as an avid hunter and fisherman.
Angie Kaufman, one of Wasden’s colleagues, said Wasden was an avid hunter and fisherman, and always wanted to do a good job with his work.
“I had visited him once in the hospital, when his health began to decline, and even then he was upbeat,” Kaufman said.
As an almost “grandfatherly” figure, often seen with a toothpick in his mouth, Wasden was known to have a good sense of humor with both staff and students, likely playing into the nickname of Cosby.
Battle mentioned that he exuded a confidence in his ability to work with kids, and enjoyed it.
“His presence was a wonderful addition to Desert Vista,” Battle said. “He will be missed here.”
Ahwatukee services for Wasden will be on Monday, Nov. 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Casa Grande Room at the Grace Inn, 10831 S. 51st St.
Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @_dianamartinez.