GILMER COUNTY, Ga. - Gilmer Middle School students and teachers returned to class Monday, a day after learning their principal died in a tragic accident.
When Channel 2’s Sophia Choi arrived at the district office Monday, she found flags flying at half-staff to honor principal Larry Walker.
She also found purple balloons from the street corner to the main entrance of Gilmer Middle, a tribute spearheaded by students to remember their beloved principal.
“He wasn’t just our principal, he was our helper. He was a friend to many and now that he’s been gone, it’s been very sad,” sixth-grader Deacon Shull said.
Walker’s family found him in a pond behind his home late Saturday, still strapped in to his overturned tractor.
“The unique individual that he was, you would never think that person would not be with us anymore,” family friend James Jones said about Walker.
Friends told Choi that Walker was a dedicated leader in school and in the community.
They will never forget him, or his one liners.
“We called them Larry-isms. And one of them was 'finish the drill.' And I really believe that would be his message to us,” teacher Marcia Hayden said.
That message to never give up is front and center for those who knew and loved Walker as a giving father of two.
“It didn’t matter if it was close to payday or far from payday, if he had to provide something, he did it,” said April Smith, Mountainview Elementary School assistant principal.
“It’s a huge void for the community. Everyone knew Larry and he touched lives not only of the students, but all of the teachers and anyone who had anything to do with him,” teacher Devin Adams said.
“You know, everybody has a gift and his gift was kind of gluing things together. He really glued the community together,” family friend John Call said.
Students met with counselors at the school over the weekend and Monday. Choi spoke to several of them who said they will truly miss their mentor.
Gilmer County Schools released this full statement Sunday morning:
"It is with the heaviest of hearts and many prayers that we make our community aware of the passing of beloved Gilmer Middle School Principal, Larry Walker, following a tragic accident late yesterday. We wake this morning deeply saddened and shocked. Our district is in the process of making arrangements for counselors and our local ministry to help our staff and students in this time of great sadness. The Gilmer Middle School Gym will be open today at 2:00 with counselors and members of our local ministry available."
Walker was a native of Gilmer County, according to his biography on the school's website. His bio also said that his two daughters are enrolled in the district.
A memorial fund has been established for Walker's family. Donations may be made at any United Community Bank to the Larry Walker Foundation.
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