Ms. D: A Friend to All

Rilee Bone, Editor

As most everyone knows, our town recently lost such an important person after three weeks of battling Covid-19. AshLee Demarinis, known as Ms. D to all of her kids, was a 34 year old special education teacher at John Evans Middle School going on her eleventh year of teaching. She was also the coach of both the middle school and high school cheer teams. She had the biggest heart and loved working with kids. She was heavily involved in St. James Catholic Church in Potosi and took on the youth group and teaching PSR. All of her school and church kids loved her and she changed so many lives, including mine.

Ms. D took me in the minute I joined the middle school cheer team. She cared so much about all of her cheerleaders and wanted us to be the best possible athletes we could be. She instantly became my best friend. Cheer practice was never something I dreaded after a long day. I knew every day that I would get to go see her and update her on how my day had gone. Although I never had her as a teacher, her classroom was my safe place. When I needed somewhere to go if my days were stressful, I always knew she was there and she could help get me through anything. Everyone that knew her knew she had the biggest heart and genuinely cared about everyone.

Ms. D was a great coach. She took our cheerleading program and made it something huge. During my time on her team, she took a group of middle schoolers and worked us harder than any coach had ever worked any of us. She believed in us and was so proud of us and entered us in a cheer competition in the middle of nowhere in Illinois, which we won. I am sure she was tired of us by the end of the bus ride home, but it was still one of the most exciting trips she probably ever could have taken to say the least. I will never forget the look on her face when she saw our team with that trophy and we never would have been able to bring that home without everything she did for us.

Not only was I lucky enough to be one of her athletes, I also attended St. James Catholic Church and took PSR classes. Every Wednesday after practice, Ms. D was my ride to PSR. We left practice, got dinner, usually Taco Bell, and went straight to PSR. She took on a lot at church, but she loved it. She was extremely involved in her faith and was even named AshLee after Ash Wednesday. The minute she came into this town, she became so important to our school district and our Catholic church. She made church so exciting for kids. It became fun. Every year, we took a trip to Washington D.C. to attend the Pro-Life March. Attending that march and being able to bring dozens of kids along to experience that with her made her so extremely happy. She did always tell me it was not her fault if she lost any of us, though.

Because Ms. D cared so much about her faith, she wanted everyone involved in everything. One morning I woke up to a text from her saying ¨I had a dream last night.¨ I was extremely confused and texted back ¨So what was it?¨ She told me there is this group of Catholic kids and some sponsors from a few different schools around us called Vincentian Marian Youth and she wanted to be involved in it, but could not figure out who the perfect person was to get involved in it with her. That dream she had told her that it was me. I was reluctant, but I could not tell her no. She dragged me along to various events in Ste. Genevieve and Perryville and quite honestly, that group of Catholic kids and sponsors were not our kind of people, but we had each other there and it was always fun. The fun part was not always the events, though. The car rides there and back were the most fun. We talked about every subject you could name. We introduced each other to new music and learned everything there was to know about each other. Everything she had to say was so interesting to me. She was the least boring person to talk to and she always had something to say.

She loved teaching PSR and working with young Catholics all the time, but she loved being a middle school teacher, too and she was a great one. Everyone she taught and worked with was so thankful for her. She lit up every single room and could make anyone’s day better. She was not just a coworker, though. Tonya Bradley considered her her ¨best friend¨, as did many other teachers.

Not only was she a great friend to everyone she worked with, she became a friend to her students. Former student Maddie Saunders and her family were proud to call Ms. D their best friend, too. Maddie said, ¨You could tell her anything. It was like your family member.¨

Ms. D truly cared about everyone she knew. She absolutely loved her nieces more than anything. Her family was so important to her, but she had this way of making me feel like family, too. She loved me so much and she never forgot to say it or show it. She saw something in me that nobody else could see. She knew the person I was capable of becoming and wanted to watch me take on the world. I absolutely would not be the person I am today without her giving me a little nudge, or a huge shove, in the right direction. I could not thank her enough for everything she did for me. While she was in the hospital, I sent her a card. In that card, I wrote, ¨Get better fast. I can´t get through my senior year without you.¨ Now I can´t believe I have to go through every day of the rest of my life without her. She was one of the most important people in my life and changed me forever. This was a really hard loss for everyone that knew her, but we are all so thankful for everything she did. She was the best person I had ever met and she will never be forgotten.

Ms. D and I at one of my dance recitals where she came to support me.
Ms. D and our team after winning our competition.
Ms. D and I, along with some of her other students marching through Washington D.C. for the 2017 Pro-Life March.