By Mark Carpenter –
I know when people pick up these sports pages, they expect to read my latest rantings on the Reds or the Bengals, but remember what I have written here numerous times. Sports is just an amusement, it’s really not that important in the grand scheme of our lives. But life and death are, and that is what is on my mind as I sit down at the keyboard.
The last time I was in the church was for a celebration, a blue and white celebration where a very happy bride and groom marched out to the tune of the University of Kentucky fight song. I was back in the church last Saturday for a celebration of a different kind. It was a blue and white celebration, but one of a life that was cut short far too soon, but touched so many other lives along the way.
I have no shame in admitting that Tony Williams is one of my best friends in this business, perhaps the best. With no offense to anyone, Tony has been my go-to guy for years, getting me any information I need as quickly as he possibly could, a sports writer’s dream. Many of you know that he made the decision earlier this year to leave North Adams, and selfish me has been grieving over that fact since I found out the news. But that selfishness quickly went away last week when a phone call from Tony informed me of the news that his sister tragically had passed away, and no longer was I grieving for my selfish loss, but grieving for a friend who was hurting.
I only met Melissa Williams a couple of times, but I knew all along how much she and his mother meant to Tony, how special the bond between them was, and how much it meant that they all got to teach in the same district, and were all extremely good at what they did. Through social media and the people I have talked to in the past week, Melissa Williams is one of those rare people on earth who you never heard anyone say a bad word about, but I think one particular story that I heard on Saturday summed her up better than any.
I was in the line at visitation next to a very personable young lady from West Union who I knew from her softball playing days and who had been in Melissa’s first kindergarten class, but that is just part of the story. I asked her how she knew the family and was then blown away by what she told me. When she was in kindergarten, she was being raised by a single father, who had a tough time getting her to school because of his early work schedule. Ms. Williams would arrive at school many days at 6 a.m. to meet this young lady when her Dad dropped her off, just to make sure she got to school. She remembered Ms. Williams bringing in Zebra Cakes for her birthday and them eating the whole box for breakfast. She also said that Ms. Williams kept in touch with her after that and was always there when she needed a pep talk or just a plain old hug. Ms. Williams wrote her a letter her senior year and told her how proud she was of her and sent her a picture of that kindergarten class. The young lady said that Ms. Williams never stopped caring or being thoughtful, saying she was like a mother, and maybe “the best person she had ever met.”
That my friends, is the definition of an elementary teacher. Look it up in the dictionary now and you’ll find the picture of Melissa Williams.
Most of you have already been made aware of Melissa’s Mission and the overwhelming support from all of Adams County in collecting over 600 backpacks of school supplies that will go to deserving children for the upcoming school year. I have been so impressed in my time in this county of how people come together for each other in times of tragedy, like nothing I have ever seen, especially in the education community. It takes a special person to be an elementary teacher and there is no doubt that Melissa Williams was one very special person.
I mentioned earlier that Saturday was a blue and white celebration of life with a church decorated in University of Kentucky colors and it’s no secret where the basketball loyalties of the Williams family lie. I can only imagine that Melissa has already had a chat with Coach Rupp and told him about how her mission on earth is being fulfilled even after she is gone. That makes it “mission complete”, in her golden classroom in heaven and her legacy left here on earth.