SHOREVIEW, Minn. -- On the coldest day of the year loved ones sent warm wishes to a Stillwater educator battling cancer.
Bill Howlett, 50, of Shoreview is an assistant principal at Stillwater Area High School. Howlett was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer in August 2014.
"I found myself a few weeks ago not knowing who or what the journey is going to bring," Howlett said.
Howlett has been on leave this school year. His health worsened about four weeks ago. Since then, he's been staying at the hospice home St. Therese at St. Odilia in Shoreview.
"A month ago they told us he had hours, and then he had days and now here we are," said Renee Howlett, Bill's older sister. "Eventually this will be his last Christmas."
For Christmas, Renee wanted to do something special for Bill and the family. She reached out to his secretary at SAHS, Shelly Enhelder, who grew up with Howlett in Lino Lakes.
"He's had a tough couple of years. It's hard to watch," Enhelder said.
Sunday afternoon about 75 people met outside Howlett's hospice home. They sung Christmas carols while holding signs that read, "We love you Bill" and "We miss you Mr. Howlett." The group started off by singing "Jingle Bells." During the carol, family members took Howlett to the window to watch.
"Oh my gosh. Right to my heart," Howlett said. "My family, friends were amazing. Yeah, yeah I was taken aback."
Enhelder added, "I think this made his whole day. We're going to miss him."
Howlett's family was celebrating Christmas when the carolers stopped by.
"This is so beautiful. As soon as I saw it I was in tears," said Ben Howlett, 14, Bill's youngest son. Bill has two sons and a wife.
"He's always pushed me to do the right thing," said Bill's oldest son, William Howlett IV.
Howlett joined Stillwater Area Public Schools in 2005. Prior to coming to SAHS, he was the Dean of Students at Spring Lake Park High School. Howlett said he was one of the first eight coaches of girls' hockey in Minnesota. He also coached several other sports.
When talking about his students and staff, Howlett said, "They give me as much life and as much love as I give them. It's pretty cool."