William “Bill” Myers, a Hernando attorney, speaks fondly of his late wife Wendy and in terms of the memories she made for the students she was around during her time as an educator.
“She made a lot of memories for a lot of people,” Myers said this week as balloons in Wendy’s honor were lifted outside Hernando Hills Elementary School, where she served as assistant principal until she passed away at age 45 from a rare form of small-cell carcinoma in early January.
The lifelong Hernando resident was first diagnosed with the cancer in October 2017 and continued at Hernando Hills through treatments, trying to fight the disease.
The Tuesday afternoon balloon launch was done not only to celebrate what Myers meant to the school and what she did for the school. It was also done to announce the progress that had been made to make a vision of hers a reality. That vision was for a special type of playground, said principal Stephanie Gilder.
“She really had a vision for a different type of playground and an expansion to provide children with musical opportunities and more inspiration out there,” Gilder said. “She had started work on that, so we’ve been fundraising to continue to put that fundraising into place and we’ve continued with our plans.”
What will be called the Memory Maker playground on the school grounds is not your typical swings and slides area, however, Gilder said.
“It’s going to have a music area as well as poured concrete with games etched into the concrete,” Gilder explained. “Some are your traditional games for children as well as a music garden and another nature area. It’s going to have an artsy feel to it, all about what she loves. She knew wholeheartedly that children learned in different ways, so we want their playtime and their free time to experience the same type of things and learn in different ways.”
Fundraising for the playground had reached the total of $31,285 as of Tuesday, Gilder said, adding that was a little more than half of the money needed for the project.
To celebrate Wendy and project’s progress, the student body of the school Tuesday afternoon gathered around the flagpole and with the song “Thank you for being a friend,” balloons of a specific color were lifted into the air.
“Today we wanted to remember her with balloons,” Gilder said. “Red was her favorite color, so that’s why the balloons are red, and then acknowledge how much money we have raised. We also wanted her family to come and acknowledge them, as well.”
“I think it’s a great way to remember her,” added Myers. “The playground was one of her projects and she wanted to be remembered for what she could do for the kids that will use this playground, particularly those with difficulty, those with autism or other things. The playground is going to be designed specifically for them.”
Gilder said she was not able to work with Myers for a long time, but said Myers was an exceptional administrator.
“I had Wendy here for a year-and-a-half as my assistant principal but she taught me so much in that year-and-a-half,” Gilder said. “Her heart was totally about children. Every decision she made was about what’s best for children. She treasured how unique each individual child was and how their qualities could just mold their future.”
DeSoto County Schools Supt. Cory Uselton was also on hand for the balloon launch and said memories of Myers will be cherished.
“Miss Myers definitely left a lasting impression on the students and employees throughout our school district and we will always remember the legacy she leaves behind,” Uselton said.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.