Although she’s now retired from teaching, Tammy Cloninger has fond memories of an assistant who worked with her for many years at Love Memorial Elementary School, Kathy Parker. When Parker passed away after a brief illness, Cloninger wanted to pay tribute to her.
“It broke the hearts of many of her friends,” Cloninger said. “Kathy worked with me for 16 years. She had retired in 2006, but she came back as a substitute. She just loved this school. She lived across the road and her children and grandchildren went here. She’d walked over every day, sometimes with her grandchildren and her dog would come and lay out here in front of the school. They said that Kathy didn’t always make it into the classroom on time because she was so popular – she’d be in the driveway with all the parents and kids talking to her.”
Cloninger shared that she often runs into former Love Memorial students who say that they were in her room with Miss Parker, but they weren’t.
“They think they were in our room because she talked to everybody,” she said. “Her circle of friends wanted to do something to remember her. We thought about different things, like a bench or a tree.”
Then former Love Principal Diand Canipe suggested that they raise money to buy books for the library. Kathy loved to read to the kids, Cloninger recalled. She always knew just what questions to ask.
“I put out to Facebook a tribute to her and what we were doing, and it blew up,” she said. “We started to get donations from former students, co-workers, parents of students, kids that we didn’t have in our room and their parents, her friends and her children’s friends.”
At this point, more than $3,500 has been raised. So far, approximately 40 books have been purchased and there’s enough money left to buy many more, according to Love Memorial Principal Christopher Kolasinski. A sticker with Parker’s picture and a dedication to her is being put in each book.
“Kathy loved family and friends and that’s what we tried to find books about and with this world being the way it is today and diversity being so important, we also looked for books about that,” she said. “I looked up some books and the librarian is finding more.”
Cloninger said that she could just hear what Parker would say about raising the money to buy the books in her honor, “I don’t know why y’all did this for me. I didn’t know that many people liked me.”