‘This one isn’t fair’: Hundreds mourn teacher lost to COVID
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
Hugs, tears and face masks filled the Darlington High School gym Saturday morning as hundreds paid their respects to a Darlington teacher who died from COVID at age 28. Jackqueline M. “Jackie” Lowery taught 7th-grade science at Darlington Middle School for the past five years and served as girls’ volleyball coach for the past three years, the Darlington County School District said. She died Sept. 18 after battling the virus at a Charlotte hospital. Speaker after speaker at the two-hour Celebration of Life for Lowery, a single mother of two children, expressed shock at how “unexpected” her death was at such a young age, when she had just bought a home, when she was nursing her 8-month-old child, when she was very close to earning a master’s degree. “This is not the way this one was supposed to go,” said family member Jessica Joint Brigman, standing at a podium directly behind Lowery’s coffin. “This was not the end of her road. MooMoo (Lowery’s nickname) was literally in her prime. This one isn’t fair. She needs a little more time.” “This shouldn’t be her last destination,” Brigman said. “This can’t be her last stop. She just had a baby, bought a house and was moments away from her master’s degree. I’m sorry. This one doesn’t even make sense to me. Because this is not how things were supposed to be.” “Death doesn’t normally go this way,” she said. Brigman, a nurse, said she has dealt with many COVID patients. “I’m even more confused how, even after seeing her story, people can still give me their stupid ‘anti-vax’ excuse. … COVID doesn’t give a crap about you or me.” (Lowery’s family has told news media that Lowery was not vaccinated because she was breast-feeding her infant and was concerned the vaccine might affect him. They are urging everyone to get vaccinated.) Jeffrey Lampkin, a friend of Lowery and director of the Francis Marion YGB Gospel Choir, said: “I’m numb. … Jackie smiled every time I turned around. Jackie had a smile on her face. Jackie radiated a room when she walked in. Jackie was everything to me.” Eddie Shuler, principal at Darlington Middle School, described Lowery as “an absolute sweet soul. You couldn’t meet a sweeter individual. Every time I ever saw her, she was smiling. … Every day, no matter what the circumstance was, she was smiling.” “She made certain that she loved everyone,” Shuler said. “She was dedicated and loyal and a true representation of her family and our school.” She “brought balance into everyone’s life,” one friend said, describing Lowery as her “Superwoman” and her “safe place.” Lowery said on her blog, “Life with Lowery in 216” (a reference to her classroom number): “My philosophy on teaching is to show my students I care about them before I expect them to care about what I’m teaching.” She added: “What this means to me is that no matter how much I love science and how passionate I am about the content, this does not mean my students will be engaged or even care! However, once I take an interest in the students and their lives, only then will they take an interest in me and what I have to offer.” “As a first-year teacher, I used to be all about my business,” Lowery said on her blog. “I wanted to dive straight into the material without stopping to get to know my students and what interested them. “I soon realized I needed to backtrack, take the time to understand my students and what they were capable of, and finally meet them where they were. My students are brilliant inside and out and although teaching has its challenges, I’m in this for the long run!” Lowery said that, growing up, she attended St. John’s Elementary, Darlington Junior High, Darlington Middle School and Mayo High School for Math, Science and Technology. She said that in 2016, she earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from Francis Marion University. She earned her teacher certification in Middle School Science from the S.C. Education Department in 2018. At FMU, Lowery was vice president of the Student Government Association, president of the Senate, a member of Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, vice president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, treasurer of the Francis Marion YGB Gospel Choir and chaplain and treasurer of the Esteemed Xi Omicron Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. The daughter of Morris and Emma Joint Lowery, Jackie Lowery was a lifelong member of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Darlington, where she served as a missionary, Sunbeam Choir member, and member of the church’s Youth Department. Education Week estimates that as of Sept. 17, at least 1,116 active and retired K-12 educators and other school personnel nationwide have died from COVID. About 316 of them were active teachers. Education Week estimates that 18 educators in South Carolina have died from COVID this year.