‘Heart of a servant’: Loved ones remember teacher who died after rescuing children from rip current

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Loved ones are remembering Jessica Embry, the teacher who died after rescuing two children from a rip current in Kure Beach on Sunday.

Embry had been employed with New Hanover County Schools since 2010. Before coming to Ashley High School as its Orchestra Director, she worked at Myrtle Grove Middle School.

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The principal of Ashley High School described Embry’s death as a profound loss.

“There are no words I can offer to express how profound this loss is for our school and community. I struggle to speak about this incident to others because of the type of person Jessica Embry was personally and professionally,” McCarty said. “Ms. Embry was also a deeply committed advocate for Ashley High School. In addition to her passion in the classroom, she loved the arts and played a significant part in our community.”

With a clear passion to teach, Lifepoint Church Pastor George Kapusta says Embry lived her life helping others in many ways, including serving at their church.

“When you called on Jessica Embry to do anything, you could 100% guarantee that she was going to be there,” Kapusta said. “There’s nothing that this woman wouldn’t have done for anybody. I don’t think she ever said no to anybody. That’s just who she was. That was the heart that she had for people.”

Kapusta says Embry has been a member of the church for several years. She became a part of their family, he says he and his wife, Karen, loved her like their own.

He says she dedicated much of her life to others. She learned to play a new instrument to fill a need in the Worship Band, she lead women’s small groups, served on the prayer and care team, and went on several mission trips to Uganda, eager to serve women and children there.

“That’s what I’ll remember about Jessica,” Kapusta said. “Not just what she did for us here in Lifepoint, but how she helped change a culture of people in Uganda. Just her presence, just her presence there.”

With a deep love for people, Kapusta said Embry died the way that she lived.

“She died doing what she’s done for a long time and that was she was serving others, helping others in distress,” he said.

Though the pastor doesn’t have an answer to why she is gone, he finds comfort in one thing.

“What I do know, and I say this with all confidence, that Jessica is in Heaven with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know she’s looking down on me,” Kapusta said. “That’s my confidence. That’s what gets me through my day knowing that Jessica Embry won’t be a part of my life anymore, but she’ll always be there in my heart.”

Pastor Kapusta says they are planning a memorial for Embry this weekend, likely a paddle out in Carolina Beach, but no details have been finalized.