Community mourns the passing of trustee, advocate, friend

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Community mourns the passing of trustee, advocate, friendOn Monday morning, local social media pages were awash with expressions of grief from those mourning the sudden passing of Amy Castillo-Covert.

Hundreds of stories, memories, photos and tributes began cropping up when news of her death went public. These messages came from politicians, educators, people of faith, special-needs families, performers, former classmates, colleagues and friends from virtually every sphere of influence.

Amy’s role as a public servant began in 2000, when she was elected to the Sierra Sands Unified School District Board of Trustees. She served faithfully for more than a decade as the board delegate to National Alliance of Federally Impacted Schools, traveling frequently to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness for the financial needs of our remote, financially disadvantaged schools.

As a child of a military family, Amy knew first hand how critical NAFIS support was, and she fought hard for it in our valley. Just last year the organization honored her for her service to the organization as well as to her district.

She was also often a voice for those who could not speak for themselves, advocating on behalf of special needs students and families. In addition to drawing attention to these needs at the district, she was also an active volunteer and supporter of the Ridgecrest Autism Awareness organization.

Her desire to serve exhibited through the many other church, health and performance related causes she supported.

But by all accounts, Amy’s hallmark was her ability to reach out to anyone and build a relationship with them.

“I am shocked and heartbroken to learn of the sudden passing of my dear friend Amy Castillo-Covert,” said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.

“She is one of the kindest people I know. She always had a smile, hug and encouraging word. I am going to miss everything about her. My prayers go out to her family and many friends (who were like family.)”

“I am so sad to hear,” said McCarthy’s wife, Judy. “Amy was truly one of the best. I know where she is now, but I am going to miss her so much. Praying for her family.”

“Still heartbroken and in disbelief,” said Assemblyman Vince Fong. “She was always checking to see how I was doing, sending me a needed Bible verse or letting me know she was praying for me. I will miss you. Please keep her family in your prayers.”

SSUSD Superintendent Dr. David Ostash shared the news on Monday with the thousands of staff, students and families connected with the school. He praised her for her dedication to our schools, and the students who attend them.

“We will greatly miss her devoted governance and total commitment to our district. Please keep her children and her family in your thoughts during this very painful time.”

“Sierra Sands lost one of its most prized assets this past week,” said Tim Johnson, who served with Amy on the board. “Amy’s passion to ensure every child had an opportunity to have their needs met was exemplified in every board decision she made. Her personal understanding of the special education programs made her a continuous advocate for those children.

“Her willingness to listen to the concerns of parents, students and staff was integral to the success of our school district. Amy will be deeply missed by all the board members and the community.”

“Hearing of her death was a devastating shock,” said Trustee Bill Farris, who has served alongside Amy since she was elected 20 years ago. “We know that the perspective she brought to the board will be significantly missed.”

In addition to the representatives on our local district, Amy also had extensive relationships with other like-minded public servants.

“I am extremely shaken and shocked to hear about the sudden passing of my dear friend,” said Bakersfield-based attorney, instructor and school board member Keith Wolaridge. “At every California School Board Association conference we would make a point to sit in a workshop or have coffee together to discuss where we can get better as trustees to better serve the children of Kern County. My heart is broken.”

“This is not how I wanted to wake up,” wrote Christina MacGregor, who participated with Amy in multiple productions for the Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society. She noted that Amy will be missed by those she greeted at the hospital, supported in musical theater productions or mentored through an autism diagnosis. “And it is not just me who loves her — she was such a pillar in the Ridgecrest community … many others feel the same way that I do right now.”

“It is so painful to accept this abrupt reality,” agreed Christina Scrivner. “Amy was a gift. She had a servant heart and was quick to love and support those around her. She touched so many lives by rolling up her sleeves to make things happen. I was blessed to witness her cheerful spirit as a volunteer for Houchin Community Blood Bank and RMES for nearly a decade. I pray that her family will feel God’s powerful love and comfort through the support of a grateful community.”

Amy was “always a person who exemplified the idea that being unique was not in any way a sin, but rather a thing to be embraced,” wrote Douglas Young, one of her classmates. “I have very, very, very fond memories from her back in the day … and from recent years … Huge hole. God be with you, Amy.”

“Ridgecrest has experienced a great loss,” said Tim Smith, who served as her pastor for a short time. “I once commented how I wished I had more people like Amy in my congregation. Her confidence, joy and willingness to live out who she was served as an inspiration to me. I loved her faithfulness to life-long learning and her willingness to engage in things she may have thought she’d never do.

“Her big heart, her expressive body art and her giant smile will have a lasting impact not only on me, but I believe on every single person she came into contact with. I am grateful to have known her, and to have been forever shaped by Amy.”

“Our family has been overwhelmed by the prayers, the offers of love and support, the stories and the photos and the memories people are sharing,” said her father, Floyd Castillo. “We are so happy to see people acknowledging Amy. That is important to us.”

Her family is still working on an obituary, which will be published in a future edition.

Pictured: The late Amy Castillo-Covert with Assemblyman Vince Fong.

Story First Published: 2020-05-12