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05/06/03 - Winona

Teacher, Hero Remembered

She personified service to the community. Tuesday, her community turned out to say thanks, and to remember.

52 year old Karen Hale died over the weekend while on a trip with her husband. Through their 33 years of marriage, Karen became a powerful influence in the lives of her town's children, and a welcome site to those in danger.

Kay Curry sits in her friend's classroom at winona elementary.  "she has story time every day after lunch and she has a rocking chair that she sits in a reads to the children," says Curry.  Karen Hale taught first grade in this room for the last twelve years. "After they left her class in first grade, she still followed them through first grade all the way up to graduation. And her first class was to graduate this year. And she planned to be a part of that ceremony."

Karen not only taught her "babies" how to read, she showed them how to be a force for good in the world. Channel Seven reported on her good deeds at Winona back in 1998 at a tree planting ceremony in honor of former Superintendent Darrell Nickerson. Tuesday, Curry recalled her friend's dedication and leadership. "If you look at the front of the school, there are three small trees growing there. Each one was her project. Or, at least the project that she started."

Afterschool, Karen often went to the Winona Volunteer Fire Department. She fought fires and served her nieghbors for fifteen years. "We're not just a department, we're a family. At this time, I've lost a family member," says Chief Tommy Brock. "She was always there for you. She was always cheerful and jolly. Our community has lost a big part of it right now."

Chief Brock knows both sides of Karen Hale. His stepson was one of Karen's students. Last month she was encouraging her class to write letters to soldiers in the gulf. The message still remains hanging in the room, now as a goodbye to children and community. "I hope you stay safe. Your Friend, Mrs. Hale"

Karen's husband, Oren is the Assistant Fire Marshal for Smith County. They have two children, and three grandchildren.

A scholarship has been set up in Karen Hale's memory. If you would like to contribute, you can contact Linda Wilkerson. Write care of Winona I.S.D. at P.O. Box 218 Winona, TX 75792.

Stephen Parr, reporting.

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