Maureen is the mom to Erin who is one of Michelle’s best friends since they were very young and both cheering for Ft. Thomas Jr. Cheer…..Thank you, Maureen, for your memories of your time spent with Michelle.
My daughter Erin decided in 1st grade that she would like to try cheerleading with Ft. Thomas Jr. Cheer. She had tried soccer and ballet and really didn’t care for those activities so I thought cheerleading might also be a short-lived interest. I had no idea how much her decision to give cheerleading a try would impact our entire family. It was through cheer that Erin met Michelle. They were on the same squad, but Michelle was already a veteran cheerleader having cheered since Kindergarten. She would always help the new girls with learning cheers and routines and making all girls feel welcome. Erin was hooked on cheer after that first season.
In 3rd grade, Erin’s coach Hope needed help with the team when her assistant coach quit. I didn’t know a thing about cheerleading, but she assured me that she just needed another adult to wrangle the 16 or so girls in and keep them focused. That is how I got to know Michelle and Patty. Michelle was always our go-to girl because she knew the cheers and we could count on her to show the rest of the team. She was also Erin’s side or backspot and Erin totally trusted her to not let her fall and hit the ground. As a mom and coach, I was never worried about Erin or any other flyer if Michelle was in the stunt group. We could also count on Michelle to be loud on the sidelines and give it 110%. At practices she made us laugh even if it was 95 degrees and we were all ready to fall over after 2 hours of practice.
A couple of my favorite memories of Michelle were at the end of the 6th grade football season. First, the girls had tried out for HMS cheer and the team selections were to be posted in the morning at 9 am. The girls had an early football game to cheer for FTJC, so they had to wait until the game was over to go find out if they made the team. They walked anxiously up to the front of school, with Patty and I trailing behind because we could not keep up with their pace. Erin still has a video of the two of them walking to the door and seeing their numbers posted. They were so excited they made the team! We had to take multiple photos of them next to the posting.
The second is the very last game of 6th grade FTJC. Michelle was always a base or backspot because she was so tall. Erin and Grace were flyers since they were so small. Michelle wanted to fly so Grace and Erin “based” her while my sister Vanessa, who was now coaching with me, was the back. I have so many cute pictures of that last sunny day on the football field with the three of them smiling and laughing and just having a good time.
I was lucky to get to go on the 8th grade DC trip and be on the same bus as Michelle. Erin and Michelle spent a lot of time together in DC and I have some great photos and memories of them and the rest of their group. One day, we had to make a choice of which museum to visit in the Smithsonian complex and we only had two hours. Michelle and Erin wanted to see the original Bert and Ernie puppets and the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. I think that was the fastest I have ever gone through a museum trying to keep up with them on their mission! My favorite memory of DC was when I was taking a group picture of Erin, Maggie, Grace, Michelle, Abby, and Sydney when Mr. Warford photobombed them. Michelle is laughing so hard and I love the expression on her face.
Summer is what reminds me of Michelle the most since it was summer when we met her. Erin’s and Michelle’s birthdays were a day apart, which they thought was so much fun. They also loved to swim at the swim club and could spend the whole day there swimming and eating snack bar food. Then they would try to finagle sleepovers every chance they got.
Both the Chalks and our family love Hilton Head Island. The timing never worked out that we were there at the same time. We would just miss each other by a week or two. Michelle and Erin forever dreamed of being able to go together one year. Last year, Michelle was there just a week ahead of us. I remember looking at the pictures she posted on Instagram and Erin and I getting excited for our own week ahead on the island.
We spent our vacation last week on HHI. Erin and I thought about Michelle often. We took a “Live Free Like Michelle” rock that Erin made with us to put in the yard at the house we stayed in. When we were in Sea Pines by the famous lighthouse, I saw the sprawling live oak trees on the playground where Michelle had taken a photo last year and choked up. On our last beach day, as we were sitting under our shade canopy, I noticed that a single feather had washed up in the tide in front of us on the beach. I immediately thought of Michelle and that she was saying “Hi” to us and showed it to Erin. It made both of us happy and feel at peace.
Michelle was an amazing girl that I was privileged to know. Thank you Michelle for being a bright and shining light to all who knew you and love you.