After Annie Mae Searles had eye surgery in 1995, she found it difficult to live independently, so she was cared for by Yvonne Lawson and her husband, Jimmy Lawson.
On Jan. 6, Ms. Searles died from Alzheimer's disease. She was 79.
For the Lawson family, Ms. Searles' legacy will forever be recalled for the knowledge and wisdom she shared throughout their Augusta household.
"She had so many stories to tell," said Mrs. Lawson, who said "Miss Annie Mae" came to live with them less than a month after her mother died.
"We kind of filled a void for each other. She didn't have children, so it was like we became the family she never had," Mrs. Lawson said.
Ms. Searles spent 38 years as a Richmond County elementary school teacher and was loaded with interesting stories, Mr. Lawson said.
"Sometimes, we'd turn off the TV and let her tell us about Augusta's history and her life," he said.
The Lawsons' daughter, Tiffany, also was affected by Ms. Searles and pitched in to support the family's role as care-givers.
"She had so much wisdom. She came to live with us when I was going through high school pressures. I could always go to Miss Annie Mae's room for her advice. She was like a grandmother," said Tiffany, an East Georgia College student.
Ms. Searles was a longtime member of Tabernacle Baptist Church and a former music minister there. She played the church's pipe organ.
She also belonged to Tau Gamma Delta educational sorority, Tabernacle's Red Rose Circle seniors group, the National Association of University Women and the National Board of College Women.
The Paine College graduate earned a master's degree from Clark University in Atlanta.
Asked about sacrifices his family made while supporting Ms. Searles, Mr. Lawson said, "Years ago, teachers never received all they deserved. They were like mothers to many of us. So, this was our way of giving back," he said.
Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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