Willis Road unveils McTier memorial

by Celia Shortt


Willis Road Elementary School Principal Dr. Charles Smith comments on the life of former student Madeline McTier during the dedication ceremony for the school’s memorial to her. 

Willis Road Elementary School dedicated a memorial to former student Madeline McTier earlier this month.

McTier was a student at East Coweta High School who lost her battle with cancer in September. The void left by her passing has stretched throughout the community and Coweta County.

“It’s been rough lately,” said Madeline’s father, Michael McTier, at the ceremony. “I believe things happen for a reason.”

McTier recalled the story of how he needed to relocate to McDonough for work and told his wife, Jennifer, they needed to find a place to live within an hour away. In her search, Jennifer found Newnan, and the family moved here.

“I didn’t know it (moving to Newnan) would be because of the community we’d need with her death,” he said. “You have to choose to be in this type of community. We’re honored you would choose to recognize her.”

Willis Road teacher Noel Smith came up with the idea for the memorial, and he worked with his principal, Dr. Charles Smith, to make it happen. He also worked with members of the community and area businesses.

Smith had McTier as a student when she was nine years old, and he wanted to do something to honor her memory.

“I had her in class years ago and knew that she was ill,” he said. “When I heard she passed away, and it struck me what she had gone through, I had to do something.”

Dr. Smith agreed and suggested they put the memorial at the front of the school.

“As a principal you see kids come and go,” he said at the dedication service. “You think you’re going to remember them all.”

Smith said he remembered McTier even though it is amazing how quickly you can start forgetting students.

“I remember Madeline McTier. She thought she owned the place and would talk to anybody,” he said with a smile. “She meant a lot to our school. She was only here two years, but we felt compelled to do this.”

Crossroads Church Pastor Ken Adams was also at the dedication ceremony. He is the McTiers’ pastor and has been with them throughout Madeline’s death.

“You only live once, but if you live it right, once is enough,” he said. “With all the things we know and don’t know about, what happened is that God will get the glory. God will receive glory when people see her name on this memorial because of the life Madeline lived.”

“I don’t want people think our prayers weren’t answered,” said Dr. Smith. “Our prayers were definitely answered. Madeline is changing lives.”

The memorial includes an arbor and marble bench, engraved with her name and birthdate on one side. The other side features the saying “Make the days count. Don’t count the days.”

Both the arbor and bench are surrounded by small gravel paths and azaleas.

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