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Community says goodbye to beloved teacher, friend

Sandra Mercier, Water Authority Board member.

By Elaine Owen, Editor

Sandra Mercier, Water Authority Board member.
Sandra Mercier, Water Authority Board member.

It didn’t take long for the news to spread that rainy Saturday morning. Many had just arrived at Veterans Park and were waiting for the Veterans Day ceremonies to begin. For a moment, time stood still as they repeated, one after another, “Did you hear about Sandra Mercier? She passed this morning.”
And so it was. To the community, Sandra Mercier was a beloved teacher, Superintendent of schools, School Board member and dear friend. To her family, she was everything.
Saturday afternoon, Dr. Michael Gwatney wrote, “It is with a heavy heart that I share with you that Mrs. Sandra Mercier passed away earlier today.
Mrs. Mercier dedicated her life to our community through the field of education. She began her teaching career with the FCSS in 1972, and her service spanned five decades. She completed 26 years as a classroom teacher and served longest as “the” senior English teacher of FCHS. Mrs. Mercier was chosen as the STAR Teacher five times, was FCHS’s Teacher of the Year, and was selected as the 1999 FCSS Teacher of the Year.
In addition to her outstanding career as a teacher, Mrs. Mercier entered leadership in 1999 as an assistant principal at FCHS. In 2000, she was promoted to the central office to serve as a director, and from 2002 to 2007, Mrs. Mercier served as Superintendent. After retirement, she returned to serve as a member of our Board of Education.
Through her impeccable methodology, Mrs. Mercier taught countless students how to write and to think in a variety of ways; she did the same for many of our district’s current teachers and leaders. Generations looked up to her, and her legacy will impact many more to come. Please join me in keeping the family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Mark Henson, former Fannin County Superintendent of Schools, said, “It’s painful to know that she’s gone. She was a friend to everyone… and really cared about them…she saw the best in everyone she met and only wanted what was best for them. She went out of her way to help students realize their dreams…”
School Board member Bobby Bearden remembers Ms. Mercier as “a most delightful lady.”
“When I heard of her passing, a great sorrow filled my heart. Some of her characteristics were: great mother, great wife, great teacher, lady of integrity, friend, grandmother, worker, commonsense person with a heart of gold.
“Mrs. Mercier certainly deserved all the credit she has earned. I was board chair when she was elected to the board; then she became board chair. We continued working together for the benefit of the students.
“As a teacher, she wanted every student to learn to their potential. She often said how her former students would thank her for the quality of teaching they received while in her class.
“Ms. Mercier was a pillar in our community her worth far above rubies and gold. I will miss her.”
Rev. Michael Brunson officiated at the funeral. He let everyone know that he “LOVED” Sandra Mercier—and the Sandra Mercier he loved was comprised of many parts.
He spoke to Tim Mercier, Sandra’s husband of 51 years, “She was a perfectionist in some ways…she wanted everything to be perfect—especially spelling and grammar—that sort of thing. When she was out of the country and writing letters back and forth to Tim—I think this is true, isn’t it Tim? That you wrote her love letters—and she corrected them and sent them back to you?” (Tim Mercier nodded that it was true.)
Rev. Brunson also asked the packed room for a show of hands, how many had been a student of Sandra Mercier? More than half raised their hands.
It was 2003 when I met her, just after Jim and I moved to Blue Ridge. I had recently retired from teaching, and she had recently been named Superintendent of Schools. We talked of different methods, motivation, and feeling responsible when a student “dropped out.”
In a (sometimes) superficial world where everyone seems to be concerned for self, Sandra Mercier was genuine. She wanted to share her knowledge, her experience and “help” others More than once, she asked me to send an image she had seen in the paper of someone in her family, saying, “I’m a proud mama.”
How lucky we all are to have known someone who is so hard to say goodbye to.