Mother earns college degree in honor of slain 14-year-old son

by: Diana Davis Updated:

A Coweta County woman is honoring the memory of her 14-year-old son this weekend.

NEWNAN, Ga. - A Coweta County woman is honoring the memory of her 14-year-old son this weekend.

Anthony Olbert would have started college this fall. He was killed by his mother's husband five years ago.

Instead of giving in to grief, the boy's mother, Michela Duplechain, decided to earn her college degree.

She graduates Saturday from Clayton State College.

Channel 2's Diana Davis has followed the woman's story from the start.

Davis first met Duplechain five years ago, just a few days after Duplechain son Anthony was shot to death in the driveway by her husband of just two months, Reggie Hines.

Hines thought his wife was about to leave him. He'd beaten Michela since they met. After he killed Anthony, Hines committed suicide.

"I couldn't understand how I was going to survive. I just felt like life was over – no purpose, nothing," remembers Duplechain.

Anthony would be 19 now, just out of high school, starting college.

Michela owned a barbershop, but never went past high school.

"I never even wanted to go to school. I didn't think I was smart enough to go to college," Duplechain said.

Duplechain told Davis that Anthony's spirit spoke to her telling her to finish her education. She started college, earning an associate's degree and now her bachelor's in psychology and counseling. It was tough, but she said Anthony's spirit kept her going.

"He helps me when I kind of feel like I can't get this assignment done, and I'm just going to give up. I can hear him saying, 'Mommy,'" Duplechain said.

Her memories of Anthony, along with her deep religious faith, got her through the dark days.

"You can grieve yourself to death or you can make up your mind and say, 'You know, I want to do something,'" said Duplechain.

Duplechain proudly showed Davis the graduation cap she'll wear this weekend in ceremonies at Clayton State.

She also plans to earn a master's in school counseling.

She works now as a paraprofessional in a Newnan elementary school.

"These kids have no idea the pain and what I've gone through these five years. They have no clue," she said.

Her lesson to those kids, herself and all of us: Don't give in to anger and bitterness, no matter how cruel the blow.

"Everybody experiences loss, but after the death of a child or any loved one, it's what you do after that death that matters. It just strengthens me from within to know that I have an eternal purpose and that my son had an eternal purpose," said Duplechain.



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