By Christopher Smith
“If it wasn’t for her.”
That’s how many long-time residents of Murray County begin when talking about Linda Lunsford. Asked about the 30-year Murray County High School teacher (she graduated from the high school as well), former students said they were “lucky” to have Lunsford for English literature or Bible literature.
It’s little wonder then why several former students are rallying around the retired school teacher as she recovers from a kidney transplant she underwent on Aug. 30.
A group of former students and others have set aside Saturday, Oct. 5, to raise funds to help Lunsford pay medical expenses. Sole Commissioner Brittany Pittman is officially naming that day “Linda Lunsford Day.”
“She is a sweet, kind lady,” said Tammy Gold, who is helping organize the event. “She is a fine Christian woman who is very vocal about correct English. She never married and didn’t have children so she treated all her students as her children.”
Gold said the event, which will take place at the old recreation center on Chestnut Street in Chatsworth, will feature a bake sale, live music, entertainers and raffles. It will begin at 10 a.m. with a 2-mile run and walk around the nearby “loop” and will last about two or three hours.
The primary medical cost facing Lunsford, Gold said, is anti-rejection medication administered to ensure Lunsford’s body doesn’t reject her new kidney.
“It can cost about $30,000 a year,” Gold said. “The first couple of years, some insurance should cover it, but after awhile it won’t. She has to pay out of pocket a lot for the treatment.”
Murray County residents want to give back to Lunsford, Gold said, because “she has done a lot for us and the county and her students.”
One of those students is Bagley Middle School teacher Tim Howard, who says he is retiring at the end of the school year after 32 years of teaching. Howard was picked as the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) student of Murray County High School in 1978 and named Lunsford his STAR teacher.
The STAR program is part of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a statewide organization with 84,000 members that selects students from each school district who have the highest SAT score from a single testing period and are in the top 10 percent of their class based on grade point average.
“If it wasn’t for her,” Howard said, “I wouldn’t have become a teacher. She helped start a program called Scholars Bowl where students would answer academic questions. Part of the competition was us going to Berry College and while there I got a scholarship. That’s how I went to Berry and became a teacher.”
If it hadn’t been for Lunsford, Pittman, who had Lunsford for 11th grade English literature, said several “students who are now adults” wouldn’t be who they are today.
“She continually went above and beyond the call of duty to encourage even the most unambitious,” Pittman said. “She is just truly a ball of joy. She got to know her students inside and outside the classroom and always showed personal interest in them.”
“I had Ms. Lunsford for Bible literature, which was — at the time — an elective you could take,” she said. “She treated all her students like her own children. I remember her singing. She sang for several years. I remember hearing her sing in church services. She’s just a wonderful lady who needs our support right now.”
Gold said the event still needs food and craft vendors and volunteers to help with the run and walk. For more information or to get in contact with event organizers, Gold said people can visit the “Love for Linda Lunsford” Facebook page (tinyurl.com/LoveForLunsford) or call Gold at (706) 537-1150.
Gold said anyone who wants to help pay for Lunsford’s treatment can make a check out to the “Linda Lunsford Kidney Fund,” put Linda Lunsford in the “for” or memo line and mail it to Linda Lunsford Kidney Fund, Bagley Middle School, 4600 Highway 225 N., Chatsworth, GA 30705, adding “ATTN: Toby Westmoreland” on the envelope.