Corona, CA: Santiago High assistant principal dies after cancer fight

John Sawaya, a beloved assistant principal in charge of activities at Santiago High School in Corona, died Friday night of complications from surgery intended to relieve fluid from a cancer diagnosed three years ago.

He was 47.

"John was a fighter," Santiago Principal Reggie Thompkins said. "He left this (world) a better place than when he came."

Incoming Associated Student Body President Rachel Songer and ASB alumna Krista Boice were setting up a memorial to Mr. Sawaya at the school Saturday afternoon. A Facebook page titled RIP John Sawaya had several pages of tributes from students, former students, other teachers and community members.

Mr. Sawaya joined the Santiago faculty as a history teacher in 1996, said Corona-Norco Deputy Superintendent Michael Lin.

Mr. Sawaya was diagnosed in the summer of 2008 with a form of cancer and was not a candidate for the one type of surgery to treat it. He sought alternative therapy focusing on mind, body and spirit. In the fall of 2008, he said he felt better than ever.

Boice said she and other ASB members would sometimes leave flowers and letters on the porch of his home. Teachers arranged fundraisers to cover costs of his alternative treatments.

Services are being planned for Crossroads Christian Church in Corona.

Survivors include his wife, Carol, and two daughters, Leslie and Brooke, both students at Orange Elementary School in Corona, and both of his parents.

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