There will be a celebration Tuesday night in Chester that nobody wanted to have - but must be held. Because Cynthia "Cindy" Furr was a teacher who taught not just English, but students who wanted to be teachers themselves. Her life was about not giving up.
All Cindy Furr wanted was to excite others to learn - then have that person excite others. But on April 4, 2009, Cindy Furr and her 2-year-old daughter, McAllister died in a car crash just north of the Buster Boyd Bridge in Charlotte, within a stone's throw of her home. The crash happened when two other drivers were racing on N.C. 49 at speeds reaching 100 mph, police said.
Just like that, 45-year-old Cindy and her daughter were gone. Furr - the kick boxer, the aerobics instructor, the music minister at Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church, the Winthrop University professor and high school teacher before that - gone.
The deaths devastated her parents, Joe and Jean Furr. Sharon Furr, Cindy's sister, described that April 4, her birthday, as "the day our lives stopped."
Because Cindy Furr believed in living life fully, a life of mind and spirit and body, Sharon Furr has started a foundation to help others realize their dreams. The "CindyMackie Foundation," will have a fundraising gala Tuesday night in Chester at Anna's Arbor.
"We want to carry on the legacy of Cindy, a legacy of helping children," Jean Furr said. "She touched so many people."
Joe Furr is a retired lineman from Southern Bell. He grew up on a farm, married a farm girl in Jean, and has done nothing but work in his life.
He has sung in a choir at church since childhood. He has travelled through both Carolinas, almost every Sunday, singing, for more than 50 years. Cindy sang, too, just like her daddy. McAllister, "Mackie" to all, sang at age 2.
Mackie sang "Amazing Grace," every word, as astonished shoppers gawked, as she rode in the front of the shopping cart at Target just a couple hours before both she and her mother died.
"Cindy was a beautiful singer, and Mackie was going to be just like her," said Joe Furr.
Maybe Sharon, the little sister, took Cindy's death the hardest. A journal Sharon started years ago turned into a book, just published, called "Bittersweet," which chronicles Cindy's life, and death, and Sharon's joys and heartaches. Sharon compiled two CDs of Cindy's music, so it would be known forever.
"Cindy was always promoting me, complimenting me - my champion," said Sharon. "She was like that for me and all her students. It is those students who have truly showed us what a difference Cindy made in their lives."
The drivers of the other cars that April 2009 day - Carlene Atkinson of Lake Wylie, and Tyler Stasko of Matthews, N.C., - have yet to go to trial. Both have pleaded not guilty. A passenger in Atkinson's car, 13-year-old Hunter Holt of Clover, also died that day.
That day does not go away for Jean and Joe and Sharon Furr. Sharon can tend the cows on her Chester County farm, all day every day, and she still relives her birthday when her sister and niece died. They wait for court. They wait and they grieve.
They wait for justice for Cindy and Mackie.
Yet they have showed that some of that hurt and loss can be used to help somebody else. Tuesday night marks the beginning of two annual scholarships to help students in English and the performing arts.
One grant will be the "Mackie," for children still in schoolwho might need help to play violin, or reach some other dream that might otherwise be unattainable.
"Cindy spent her entire life trying to show each student how special each one was, to strive for the best, to dare to be great," said Sharon Furr. "That legacy can't end."
On Tuesday, her former students , and Furr's family, and others who with gather to honor this renaissance woman who came to kickboxing practice in red cowboy boots and high fashion dresses, then left to take students, who had never heard opera or a symphony, to concerts and plays, showing them lives they did not know existed.
Cindy Furr wanted others to see life, smell life, and hear life. To grab life and shake it and hug it. Then pass that love of life to the next person.
See, Cindy Furr was a teacher.