She Will Continue to Teach Us

She Will Continue to Teach Us
Posted on 10/25/2020

She Will Continue to Teach Us

By the Maroon and White Staff

What was once a place where Gabby Kennedy would park her small, silver, two-door car with copious amounts of stickers covering the back windshield, has since become a dedicated memorial to the girl who made an everlasting impact on us all. Gabby’s parking spot, which she personally painted to show some of her favorite albums, has since been covered in flowers, cards, candles, balloons, and softballs, to name a few. The night following the tragic news, students at Tennessee High, accompanied by her boyfriend and family, congregated to sit around Gabby’s parking spot. For hours they sat in silence, prayed, and reminisced about the amazing young lady. As students and staff mourned, candles were lit in her remembrance, cards were signed to let grieving friends say one final goodbye, and countless tears were shed. The warmth of her love radiates throughout the parking spot and is reflected by the items left. Her parking spot is a lasting impression of how she has impacted us as a community. Playlists of the music she loved, the art she created, the sport of softball she admired, her dream of becoming a teacher, her inspiring work ethic, and her faith in God are all things we will remember her sweet and giving soul by. Although Gabby’s parking spot and the items laid upon it are a temporary observation of grief, her spirit and the love she shared will be something we will carry with us always. 

Below are some reflections on her interests, hobbies, and roles she played in the lives of others, as shared by the people who knew firsthand the joy and light she brought to the world. As we consider her life and our loss, we must recognize that grief is a battle unique to each individual, but not one that must be gone through alone. Together, we remember the life of Gabby Kennedy. 


“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be,” sing the Beatles in the refrain to Gabby’s favorite song, “Let it Be.” Gabby was our Mother Mary, comforting those who were saddened or offering silly but solid advice. Gabby loved music. She loved the Beatles, Arctic Monkeys, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty,  Led Zeppelin, and even more. Senior Micah Jones, who wrote and recorded the tribute, “For Gabby,” reflects on Gabby’s love for those she met.  In the chorus, he sings, “If me and you could go back in time I wouldn't change a thing.” Jones expresses admiration for Gabby, commenting, “ [Gabby] didn't care who you are, where you came from, or what you've done in your past... she loved everyone the same.”  

Gabby's parking spot she painted with many of her favorite album covers

Gabby's parking spot she painted with
many of her favorite album covers


Vibrancy, joy, and luminance. These words describe more than Gabby’s personality; her expression of positivity radiated through her artistic skills as well as her character. Gabby was involved in the THS Art Department for four years, creating beautiful pieces--some of which are exhibited outside the art hallway--and building positive connections with peers and teachers. Gabby proved that the idea of art extends far beyond pictures and paintings. As art teacher Mr. Quales puts it, “She was a true artist in the sense (that)… most people see the world through stereotypes and groups... but an artist sees people as individuals.” Gabby herself once wrote, “If life is art, the people that come along with it are art as well.” Her engagement with art didn’t just impact her class schedule but rather her view of the world: seeing the true beauty that lies within everything. Her artistic style was often marked by bright colors, comical subject matter, and themes of kindness. 

Gabby's peers wanted to continue her legacy through art.

Gabby's peers wanted to continue her legacy through art.


     Gabby’s positivity and character made it easy for her to make many friends throughout her life. One of her friends, Caden Myers expressed, “There aren’t enough words to explain how good Gabby was. Her joy came from Jesus and it illuminated the world around her. To know Gabby was to know the purest friendship, heart, and soul.” He went on, “I’m going to miss her so much, but I believe in hope and better days because that’s what Gabby would do.” Another friend, Grayson Phipps, described her as, “The strongest, most uplifting girl I know. She ALWAYS thought about others and put them before herself even on her bad days.” Even though Gabby has passed, her light and optimism will live on through family and friends.


Gabby loved softball, and deeply missed the chance to play when Spring sports were paused due to Covid-19. Several of her teammates remember her love for the game, and the joy she shared on the diamond. Kaci Honaker said, “Gabby was the light of the team...She brought so much positivity that you could almost mistake it for sarcasm.” One of her closest friends and teammates, senior Aby Saddler, confirms Gabby’s positivity: “Gabby and I played the same outfield position in 8th grade and even though we would compete for that spot she would still be cheering me on.” Senior Annie Hayes said, “Gabby was always someone I could joke around with and get the same energy back...she wanted to grow in any aspect possible.” 

  Gabby was an integral piece of the THS Softball Team.   
Gabby was an integral piece of the THS Softball Team.


Gabby was an exceptional student. She was involved not only in sports but also in school clubs such as Civinettes, BETA, Spanish Club, FCA, Outdoors Club, and National Honors Society. Mrs. Robinson, a Spanish club sponsor, recalls that Gabby joined her sophomore year. “She was the type to go out her way to help whenever she could to see if myself or Mr. Greer had any question or if any student needed help,” Robinson said. As a member of the Outdoors club, Gabby helped with the conservation project. Mr. Slone said that she would help clean the fish tank or change the water. According to him, she attended all club meetings and constantly tried to find a way to improve the new group. “Every day when she was in here, we would high five,” Slone said. “I’m really going to miss that.”


It goes without saying that Gabby Kennedy was a hard worker. She worked at the Virginia Avenue Food City as a cashier. Her manager, Eric Sandefur, described her as “such a go-lucky person.” “She was always here and knew how to make anyone’s day better,” Sandefur said. Whenever handling customers at work, Gabby was described as though she had never met a stranger. She could make anyone feel they had known her for years. She welcomed customers and always had a smile on her face no matter how her day was going. Her coworkers, Jaden Keller and Briley Price, both described her as “a sweet amazing girl who made people smile and came into work with a positive attitude, the person that never changed for anyone.” Gabby looked to help anyone in need. “Gabby was an angel in real life,” Price said.


Many of us know that Gabby wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. Brad Morelock, who taught her “Fundamentals of Education” class, described the kind of student Gabby was. “Everything she did, she did with excitement,” said Morelock, “there are very few students...that strive for perfection as much as she did.” Gabby spoke up in class and helped her classmates with trouble they were having with work. “The way she was able to develop relationships so quickly is a huge characteristic of a teacher, her friendliness and attitude was almost gravitating” Morelock said. “This Monday was the hardest class I have ever taught in my whole career.” Despite the heartbreaking fact that Gabby was not able to live out her dream as a teacher, she has taught every student in this school how important it is to love one another. “Even though Gabby will never have her own classroom, Gabby will be in all of our classrooms each day,” Morelock asserts, “and I hope everyone wanting to be a teacher one day can take a little part of Gabby and add it into their classrooms.” Gabby Kennedy was truly one of the greatest teachers of all. As our school comes together during these aching times of grief, we should all do what Gabby did her entire life: “walk the earth, and leave footprints of love.”


A large part of Gabby’s life was her love of God and her faith. She didn’t just call herself a Christian; everyday, she chose to live her life the way she believed God intended. Gabby put others before herself.  She knew the physical world could be a dark place, so she decided to be a joy in others’ lives. Her kindness stemmed from her love of God, and she wasn’t afraid to let that be known. Whether that be through sending her friends random positive texts to brighten their day or always being a happy, lively soul, Gabby was a true inspiration. She understood how one compliment could make a difference in somebody’s day. She knew simply letting someone know she was there for them was enough. Gabby was motivated by her understanding of love and grace to be that person for others; to be a light. 

It’s Okay to not be Okay: Coping with Grief

The process of grief is a very multifaceted one, one that many of us are now experiencing for the first time. It can feel confusing and isolating. However, every emotion we feel right now is valid. We are not alone.

One thing to keep in mind is that there is no standard time or way to experience grief. Tennessee High School counselor Mrs. Slagle said, “I think one of the most important things to remember about coping with grief and loss is to remember that grief doesn't have a stopwatch...There is no set timeline for experiencing grief...All of us are going to grieve in different ways and under different time circumstances. There is no wrong way to grieve.” Weeks, months, or years from now, we may feel like we shouldn’t still be experiencing these emotions. However, it is completely reasonable to be in pain. Everyone processes pain differently. Anger, disbelief, and sorrow, are among the many emotions we may be feeling.

It is important to think of oneself, while it may be difficult.  Local therapist Katie Blunt said, “Remembering your coping skills and support system right now is important… do the things that make you happy and reach out to your friends/family. Make sure you’re practicing self-care right now.” Hobbies and interests can be a comfort in hard times. New hobbies, like journaling, could also be helpful. Maintaining our health, mentally and physically, should be a goal and priority.

It is important right now to remember that we aren’t alone. Tennessee High School students, the counselors are here specifically to help us if we need any form of support, and so are our teachers and peers. So many people are here for us.

Coping with Grief: Online Resources

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