Carrying on his light: Rock Bridge honors Mike Woods with vigil
Hundreds of community members gathered to honor the life of Mike Woods on Monday night at the Rock Bridge High School football field. Former students, co-workers and old friends shared their fond tributes of Woods.
Woods, who was the Rock Bridge home-school communicator, was shot and killed at a rest area in Tennessee on Friday evening, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. His son Micah McElmurry, 30, of Decatur, Illinois, has been charged with the homicide.
Woods, 55, was a Rock Bridge graduate and longtime employee in the district. His wife, Tina, has also worked in Columbia Public Schools. She was recently announced as the new principal for Derby Ridge Elementary School.
As onlookers hugged and comforted each other at the hour-long vigil, people lined up to share their favorite memories of Woods. Several students released gold and silver balloons into the sky while they commemorated the impact he had on them.
From cracking jokes in the hallway and arguing about who cooked better hamburgers to giving life advice and mentoring students going through rough patches, story after story was told about Woods’ kindness, joy and positivity.
“He had the impact of someone that would go out of his way to make you feel special,” said Columbia Superintendent Brian Yearwood. “Just by seeing the outpouring here today, I see this as his legacy of how he made others feel.”
Several self-proclaimed “troubled students” said they would not have graduated without Woods’ support, and many students said he was a father figure to them.
Carla London, supervisor of the district’s home-school communicators, said Woods was always kind and the life of the party. She said he would want people to continue his legacy of kindness by paying it forward to others.
“What brings me some comfort is looking out at this crowd and looking out at the students and the lives that he touched,” London said.
Tributes and condolences are also being shared on social media to remember Woods.
“Mike Woods was an angel who lifted everyone up. I mean everyone!” tweeted Peter Stiepleman, the former superintendent of Columbia Public Schools. “No kid was ever a stranger. He was there for us all — every single day. Heartbroken doesn’t begin to describe how the Columbia community must be feeling. We lost a hero for kids.”