Emmenita Virginia Covington was a hard worker, someone you could count on, a friend, a mother and, ultimately, a role model.
And now, she’ll never be forgotten, thanks to a future community garden at McClintock Middle School that will be named in her honor. Em, as she was known to her friends and loved ones, died Sept. 14 from cancer. The 45-year-old had worked at McClintock Middle School for the past nine years as one of the school’s two counselors.
“Em was an amazing lady. She was strong, loving and even when she was her sickest, she would still come in because she wanted to help. She always wanted to pull her weight. She was very spirited and outgoing. She’s going to be greatly missed,” Paul Williams, principal at McClintock, said.
Covington announced to staff in the summer of 2012 that she had cancer. As the lead counselor at the school, Covington worked as a liaison between students, families and teachers, working to lift up a generation of successful students, Williams said. It was this spring, he added, that Covington thought she had won the battle. With good reports, Williams said the school had a celebration for Covington’s news that she was clear of cancer.
But she soon fell sick again, he said.
“It wasn’t spreading, but it wasn’t going away,” he said. But that didn’t stop Covington from living her life. Just like the other teachers and staff at McClintock, she worked all summer, packed up her things and moved into McClintock’s brand new school building in August.
But about a week before school started, Covington took a turn for the worse, Williams said. She would serve her last days at McClintock doing as much as she could to ensure a smooth start to the new school year.
“The way she carried herself and her work ethic even through her illness is a model for all of us to follow,” Williams said.
Williams told staff and students about Covington’s passing on the school’s Monday morning, offering kind words and a moment of silence in her honor. Now, the school is working to secure funding for a community garden to be located outside the south wing of the new school building, right outside Covington’s office, he said.
William said he’s hoping to announce the garden to students at the new building’s dedication ceremony Sept. 27, a Friday.
“When it’s all finished, we are going to dedicate it as the Em Covington Memorial Garden,” Williams said. Artifacts from the old school building also will be represented in the garden. “It’s a sign of old and new, but also her memory. She had already put out her bird feeder stand and that’s not going anywhere.”
School leaders have written a grant through Lowe’s Home Improvement store in hopes to secure funding and materials for the initiative. Right now, Williams said they are still in the planning stage, but eventually, the school will hold a dedication ceremony for the garden where they’ll present a plaque with Covington’s name.
But the greatest way to remember her right now, Williams said, is to dedicate the 2013-14 school year to Covington by working with the students the best way they can.
“We need to come together as a staff to really move our school forward and just do a great job in her memory. We’re going to miss her,” Williams said.
Currently, Covington’s office is more of a memorial, with notes and messages from students and staff. For now, that’s how her office will stay, Williams said.
Covington, born Feb. 26, 1968, in Charlotte, was the daughter of the late Emmett Covington and Virginia Louise Rumph Covington.
In addition to her job as a counselor at McClintock, Covington was an active member of Girl Scouts, a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and was a founding board member of Tri It For Life.
She is survived by her wife, Nichole Graham, and their three children, Shanice Jade Littlejohn, Christina Noelle Graham and Christopher Randy Graham, Jr., all of Charlotte.
A memorial service was held Thursday, Sept. 19, at Christ Lutheran Church. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to an education fund for Covington’s kids in care of Nichole Graham, 212 North McDowell St., suite 108, Charlotte, NC 28204.