Button Gwinnett Elementary School Principal Mary M. Guiendon (Source: Coastal Courier)
The rain falling on Button Gwinnett Elementary School in Hinesville Wednesday just added to the sorrow felt by many in the community over the death of Principal Mary Guiendon.
"My daughter came home crying," said LaToya Knox. "It made me want to cry because she was a nice lady."
"I was really sad," said Keishawn Nephew, student, after he learned of Guiendon's death.
Early Wednesday morning, Guiendon was killed in an accident on US Hwy 17, just south of I-95 near Richmond Hill. According to troopers with the Georgia State Patrol, Guiendon's car crashed into the back of a semi that slowed down for a school bus picking up children.
Richmond Hill police officers and Georgia State Patrol Troopers shut down the highway for close to two hours to investigate the wreck. Troopers told WTOC the road was dry, so they don't believe weather played a factor in the crash. Troopers said Guiendon was not wearing her seat belt.
As you can imagine, the principal's death came as a total shock to family, friends and educators who knew her best.
"She was just one of those warm, outgoing people," explained Dr. Judy Scherer, Liberty County Superintendent. "She was always at the front door and greeted her students. She was very involved in their lives and what was going on in the classroom."
Keishawn's mother, LaTonya Nephew, said Guiendon always took time to talk to her students, both in and out of school.
"There was an incident that happened with Keishawn and principal Guiendon was trying to get in contact with me. She came personally and knocked on my door,"LaTonya Nephew said.
This was Guiendon's second year as principal at Button Gwinnett Elementary School. Both parents and children said she had already made an impact in the community.
"She would tell us to keep studying, to do your best," explained Dae'Jane Knox, 11.
"She took out time for the children," said LaTonya Nephew. "She made sure they behaved and did their best in school."
"She was very giving of herself to that school and the community," Dr. Scherer explained. "She will be greatly missed."
Before becoming the principal at Button Gwinnett, Guiendon was assistant principal at Joseph Martin Elementary School in Hinesville.
Guiendon leaves behind a husband, two children, and three grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.