She touched so many

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 13, 2003

As a newspaper editor I am bombarded with hundreds of e-mails everyday.

On Monday, I received one that made me stop and think a while. It was from "Great Hero" and the subject line read "A Tribute to Bob Hope."

Bob Hope lived a long and prosperous life, providing so many with laughter in times of uncertainty and war, as well as times of happiness. He is gone now, but will always remain a legend in many people’s eyes for his unsurpassed ability to bring a smile to someone’s face &045; especially the lonely soldier.

However, I am not writing this column today to talk about Bob Hope, but about another who lived her life bringing smiles to those she encountered.

She was not an internationally known comedian like Bob, but she was a local inspiration to many.

Kathy Barnhill was my sixth grade teacher at Elsanor Elementary School.

She quietly passed away Friday night after beginning a short battle with cancer earlier this year.

Hundreds of friends, family and former students gathered Sunday at Loxley United Methodist Church to celebrate the life of a woman who touched so many. I’ve always believed people never understand the impact or depth of their words and actions on another’s life, and I don’t think Mrs. Barnhill would have believed she touched so many.

In elementary school, she was the teacher everyone couldn’t wait to have. I remember being so excited the summer before I began the sixth grade, because Mrs. Barnhill would be my teacher.

In fact, I was so excited, I spent part of the summer at the school helping her prepare her classroom for the upcoming school year with her daughter, Julie. This would be something I would continue to do for several years after leaving the protection of Mrs. Barnhill’s wings.

While I remember being so excited about being in the sixth grade, I also remember being scared and somewhat disappointed when May came and it was time to move on the Robertsdale Middle School. It would be a different and unfamiliar world, but Mrs. Barnhill comforted me and told me something I have carried with me to this day &045; something that has helped me many times.

While helping pack away all the school supplies and wiping down the desks at the close of the year, she told me "Change is scary, but it’s something we all have to do. You’ll be fine."

Those words came to have profound meaning in my life, especially now. Numerous times I have encountered situations of uncertainty, and for some reason, those words always come back to me to offer me comfort. Somehow, she always knew the right things to say.

I know I’m not the only person Kathy Barnhill touched. That was evident Sunday as hundreds crowded into the small Loxley church for a nearly standing-room only memorial. Those who couldn’t fit inside the church gathered at the door to pay their respects to a great and beautiful person and to her family &045;

Tim, Julie and Kevin &045;

who loved her so much.

At the closing of the service, the pianist played a song I haven’t heard in years. As family and friends left the church "He Touched Me" softly echoed through the building. No words were sung, but I remember them from when I was a child in my parent’s church. "Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole." That’s what happened Friday night at 10:20. Kathy Barnhill was made whole again.

Change is scary, but it’s something we all have to do, and we will be fine.

Mrs. Barnhill will be greatly missed, but her memories will forever live in every person She touched.

Eva Faircloth is the editor of The Independent in Robertsdale, Ala. She can be reached at independent@gulfcoastnewspapers.com.