Community mourns death of principal
Communities across Haywood County are reeling from the loss of a beloved educational leader early this week.
Anna Williams, principal of Meadowbrook Elementary School, passed away Wednesday afternoon, only four days after giving birth to her second child, Emily Claire.
During her short time in the educational community in Haywood County, Williams touched many lives. Her sudden death sent shockwaves through the county — from teachers who considered her a role model and friend, to the students and parents that learned so much from her compassion and patience as an educator.
Those who knew her best say she was a fighter full of persistence. She overcame Hodgkin’s lymphoma in her early 20s and went on to gain her master's degree in school administration from NC State University in 2008. She served as assistant principal at Clyde Elementary and Waynesville Middle schools and was appointed principal at Meadowbrook in 2011.
Anne Garrett, superintendent of Haywood County Schools, remembers Williams describing herself as a lifelong learner during her job interviews.
“And she really was. She was an avid reader — she was always trying to learn and find out what was best for our students and more than anything she was just a good person and a great role model for everyone,” Garrett said.
Like so many others, Chuck Francis, chairman of the Haywood County Board of Education, was shocked and saddened by the news.
“I still can't believe what has happened. She was loved and admired by everyone. Haywood County has truly lost a great administrator who truly loved children,” he said in a Facebook post.
Susanna Barbee remembers Williams as a friend to everyone.
“She had an unparalleled wit and sense of humor. Everyone loved being around her. My heart is heavy, and my prayers seek comfort and healing during this terribly sad time,” she said on The Mountaineer’s Facebook page.
Danny Miller, who was already serving as interim principal at the school while Williams was away on maternity leave, sent out a phone alert to parents Wednesday evening. Misty Young, a Canton mother whose three daughters attended Meadowbrook, said the news left her and her children heartbroken.
“We are at a loss for words and just sick that this has happened to such a caring and loving person. She will be remembered for her kindness towards our children, and for the amazing ways she led them at Meadowbrook. We are grieving for her husband, her newborn baby, her little boy, and her family,” she said in a Facebook post.
During a tear filled day at the school, kindergarten teacher Kari Setser captured everyone’s feelings when she took a moment to remember her boss, colleague and friend.
“If there ever was a person who used every ounce of their God given talent, love, intelligence, humility and compassion every single day, it was Anna," Setser said. "She was so strong in her faith and in her love for her family and children at home and also at Meadowbrook.
She was a great leader, but more importantly, a dear friend, and one who knew how to make everyone young and old feel important and special. She has forever impacted many lives. She will be missed greatly, but treasured and loved always. Simply put, the world would be blessed to have more Annas.”