Originally created 09/17/02

Elementary school mourns 8-year-old



It was supposed to be a weekend of celebrations: Raymond and Kelly Hawkinberry marked 20 years of marriage, and son Michael turned 18 and was set to lead the Harlem High Bulldogs on the football field against Greene County.

But on the way to the Friday game along a rain-soaked stretch of Interstate 20 in Warren County, the Hawkinberrys' car slid out of control and struck two oncoming trucks. Celebration plans turned into funeral arrangements for the youngest Hawkinberry child - 8-year-old Andrew.

"He was so full of energy, so full of life. He was one big smile all the time," said Roxanne Whitaker, a Columbia County school board member.

On Monday, North Harlem Elementary School had the somber task of beginning a new school day without the third-grader.

"His teacher, Cora Neal, was struggling, but she had composure enough to tell the class he had passed away, though most already knew it," Mrs. Whitaker said. "One little boy said, 'I just saw Andrew Friday, and he didn't look sick to me."'

Four school system psychologists were dispatched to the school to help staff and pupils through the grieving process. Principal Lisa Soloff said Andrew's 13 classmates created tangible reminders of their friend Monday.

"They wrote cards to him to say goodbye and made friendship pins with his name and a heart, and they are wearing those in memory of him," Ms. Soloff said.

She described Andrew as "all boy."

"He was just as cute as he could be, always smiling, laughing - a friend to everyone," she said.

On Sunday night, a memorial service was held at Harlem Baptist Church to help friends and relatives deal with their grief.

"We needed that service," Mrs. Whitaker said. "A lot of people had things to say about Andrew. I think it helped start the healing process."

Word of the accident reached the stadium in Greene County just before kickoff Friday. Michael Hawkinberry - the Bulldogs' starting quarterback - was pulled out of warmups and taken to the hospital to be with his parents, Mrs. Whitaker said. Many of the team's players joined him at the hospital after the game, which Harlem won 20-12.

"Our team, our hundred or so fans that were at the game were devastated. Our community is grief-stricken," Mrs. Whitaker said.

After the accident, Mr. and Mrs. Hawkinberry and their 10-year-old son Nicholas were taken to Medical College of Georgia Hospital. The family was released Sunday, MCG hospital spokeswoman Deborah Humphrey said.

The funeral for Andrew will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Harlem Baptist Church with the Rev. Philip Vestal officiating. Burial will be in Harlem Memorial Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to Harlem Baptist Church Youth Ministry, P.O. Box 790, Harlem, GA 30814. Visitation will be 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at Starling Funeral Home in Harlem.

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113, or melhall@augustachronicle.com.