JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As news began to spread Saturday of the unexpected death of UF Health Jacksonville CEO Dr. Leon Haley Jr., messages poured in on social media from those who knew Haley and were shocked by the sudden loss.
According to an internal UF Health email obtained by News4Jax, Haley died after an accident Saturday in South Florida.
After learning the news, president and CEO of Edward Waters University A. Zachary Faison Jr. wrote:
Life is not promised. Lord, have mercy at the news I just received. 😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢
— A. Zachary Faison, Jr. (@MillennialPrez1) July 24, 2021
He told News4Jax when he heard the news, he was shocked.
“Back in 2018, Dr. Haley was one of the first persons that reached out to me and welcomed me to the city. As matter of fact, he made an appointment and came over to introduce himself and really was just a great friend and resource for me,” Faison said. “Just devastated to hear this most recent news.”
Faison said he and Haley both served on the JEA board together as well as the Civic Council. He received an uplifting email from Haley just last week.
“It said exactly, ‘I know the last few days have been a whirlwind for you. But I wanted to send you my congratulations on becoming a university and leading Edward Waters to even greater heights. Take a deep breath and enjoy the moment, Leon,’” Faison said.
He said Haley was an uplifting, caring person who will be missed by many.
“He had a very calming spirit. I know over the last, of course, about 18 months, as we’ve all been grappling through the throes of the pandemic, to hear his updates and his insights on how we’re navigating this space was always, I know, a calming voice for me,” Haley said. “To know that we had someone of his caliber at our city, at the forefront helping us to fight this pandemic.”
Haley was the first in Jacksonville to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and got his first dose live on television to make sure to spread the word about the safety of the vaccine and its necessity in fighting the virus.
From the mayor to his colleagues at UF Health to fellow community leaders who worked with Haley to spread important information about the fight against COVID-19, all expressed sorrow Saturday and said Haley will be deeply missed.
Dr Haley meant so much to so many people and to Jacksonville. Losing him is tragic and painful. I’m praying for his family. I always enjoyed our professional interactions but really enjoyed him as a person. We often talked about our families. Below is from a few years ago. https://t.co/gXpQCPNApj
— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) July 24, 2021
Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation, shared his shock and disbelief, calling Haley as a “wonderful, wonderful human being.”
“I think the thing that made him different than the other deans and CEOs that we have had at UF here in Jacksonville is he became a part of our community. He wasn’t just fighting for what was important for UF Health Jacksonville. He was fighting for what was important for Jacksonville,” Joshi said. “He did more than just lead our teaching hospital, he made an impact in Jacksonville. That’s why so many people were shocked and devastated by this news. You know, that’s probably what hurts me more than the fact that I love him as a person. We had a guy here who people looked up to who was actually making an impact and, being born and raised in Jacksonville, I know that’s few and far between. And so it’s, it’s sad on so many levels.”
Dr. Haley was a wonderful leader, and a friend. His absence will be deeply felt, especially right now as our hospital is struggling through a Covid surge. https://t.co/PaUVuNIXzu
— Chad Neilsen (@MajEbola) July 24, 2021
I can’t imagine how devastating this loss is for Dr. Haley’s family. He was a proud, dedicated father, a respected physician and a selfless community leader. We send our condolences to Dr. Haley’s family at this incredibly difficult time.
JAX Chamber President /CEO Daniel Davis pic.twitter.com/yq2UFfFNI0
— JAX Chamber (@JAXChamber) July 24, 2021
I am shocked and heartbroken to learn of the death of JEA board member, Dr. Leon Haley, Jr. On behalf of JEA employees, my heartfelt condolences go to his family and friends. It was an honor to work with Dr. Haley-his care for JEA and all of NE Florida will be missed.
— Jay Stowe (@jstowe928) July 24, 2021
This is a shocking and terrible loss for our community. Dr. Haley was a servant leader, an advocate for our city, and a wonderful person who had a tremendous impact on those fortunate enough to know him. https://t.co/IOSiwKX6D3
— Melissa Nelson (@Nelson4SAO) July 25, 2021
It is deeply painful to pen this tweet after learning of Dr. Haley’s death earlier today. My deepest condolences to his family and gratitude for allowing him to share so much time keeping us totally & realistically informed. His passing is a devastating loss to our community.
— Audrey Gibson (@SenAudrey2eet) July 25, 2021