A Brooklyn community said its final goodbyes Saturday to a former principal credited with turning around a public school and hundreds of its students.
Former students, teachers, and neighbors gathered to pay their respects to Frank Mickens.
The former Boys and Girls High School principal passed away Thursday in his sleep at age 63.
"From the chancellor of Fulton Street, to the chancellor of education in heaven," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz in his eulogy. "All I can say about Frank, is what a piece of work. When they made that mold, after him, they absolutely threw it away."
"He inspired all of us to believe and understand that all of our children could do the best and perform to the highest and could achieve the greatest," said City Comptroller William Thompson.
For over three decades, Mickens was a teacher and basketball coach in the New York Public School system.
In 1984 he was given the role of principal at the Boys and Girls High School in Bed-Stuy, a school known for its chronic truancy and rampant violence. In short order, Mickens turned the school around, implementing strict dress codes, imposing long suspensions, and brandishing his own form of tough love.
"He taught me how to be a man. He taught me how to be a strong man," said a former student.
Reverend Al Sharpton said Micken' students meant everything to him.
"Frank Mickens was what he was and because he was, there are children that blossomed out of the Boys and Girls High School that would have never blossomed had this man not believed in them and what he was doing," said Sharpton.
Former student Janice Gaither remembered his impact on her life.
"What I like about my principal was no matter what, how many times I fell down- even when I didn't believe I could get up, my principal knew I could get up," she said.
Frank Mickens retired in 2004 but he remained active. Congressman Ed Townes called him a friend and assured the assembled Mickens was in a better place.
"I can fix my mind up that the angels in heaven are rejoicing saying 'Welcome Home, Frank. You fought a good fight, you kept the faith, you stayed the course. When you saw wrong you tried to make it right,'" Townes said.
There was a letter read during the funeral which seemed to sum up what Frank Mickens meant to so many people. The author said he was a fearless champion, a great motivator, and a man who had an unbreakable desire to see his students achieve.
His friends say his legacy can be found in the success of the thousands of students he coached, taught and mentored for over three decades.