Michael in the center seated. Delsie on the left, Aron standing in the middle, and Walter on the right.
This is a story about a long time Seven Lakes resident that has had an amazing impact on our community and the surrounding area.It has been years since this person was a “public figure”.
Often, after years, memories fade as people live their lives and manage the day-to-day jobs that are part of life. I was in for a real surprise!
My friend, Aron McRea wanted to introduce me to his sister, Delsie, and his brother Walter.So happily, we arranged a cookout. I have been in Seven Lakes for a long time, but Aron, Delsie, and Walter were born and raised in West End. I expected to hear remarkable stories about their early life in West End.
There was a little bit of that in our conversation but soon we started talking about school and how much they loved Michael Donnell. Michael was a teacher and later the Principal at West End Elementary School. All the kids knew him as “Mr. D” and they all loved him!!I knew him as a guard on the worst football team the North Carolina Hall of Fame coach Paul Gay ever had. I was an end on that same team.
Mike was a Junior, and I was a Senior. Soon Aron, Walter, and Delsie were arguing about who Mr. D liked the best. So, what did I do, I texted Mike and asked him who he liked the best.
Soon the reply came that all of them had their special characteristics and he loved them all. There was no doubt that as with each of his students, he remembered them all these years later.It was then that I realized that I had never heard anyone say anything negative about
Michael Donnell, The McRea’s confirmed that all the kids that went to West End Elementary loved Mr. D. The respect that he had from all the children was earned. He had such a positive impact on so many of what were young people then but are now adults and, in their forties, and fifties. He helped shape the character of hundreds if not thousands of people that live in our area today.
So, fast forward a year from that first cookout. I decided to have Aron, Walter, and Delsie over for another cookout. This time there was a surprise guest. Mr. D. and his lovely wife. Linda joined us. The picture that is part of this article shows it all.
The love and respect that Mr. D. had earned from his kids was so clear.
Several days later, I enjoyed an adult beverage with Aron. He told me a story that brought tears to my eyes. But did not surprise me in any way.
A child was absent from school way too many days and Mr. D talked to the child in private and asked, ‘what is the problem.’
The child started crying and said that we must share shoes. The next day the child had shoes of his own.In so many ways, Michael Donnell has provided shoes for so many of the people in our community.
Thank you, Mr. D., for all you have done to make our place a better place. It is no wonder why you were inducted into the East Carolina University Educators Hall of Fame.