A local principal was in for a surprise when she checked her mail Monday morning.
“I opened a letter and out fell a $15,000 check, which doesn’t happen every day,” Principal Jennifer Hauser said.
The check was from Elizabeth Ann McCracken, who died in September at age 62. McCracken left the money to Easley Year-Round Magnet Elementary School as part of her estate.
McCracken had no direct tie to the school on Lebanon Circle, but she lived in the neighborhood, loved the children and was an avid supporter of public education.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that she supported the school like she did,” neighbor Mike Williams said. “The kids meant a lot to her; the families meant a lot to her. If she believed in you she looked after you, and she believed in the children there.”
Williams moved in across the street from McCracken in 2012, and she quickly become an important part of the family. “She was a godsend,” he said.
Known around the neighborhood as “Miss Ann,” McCracken was always looking for ways to do for others.
$15,000 could get us a lot of resources and materials that have been on our list but we haven’t had the funds for.
Principal Jennifer Hauser
Kristen Barnhill, an Easley first-grade teacher and McCracken’s neighbor, said McCracken filled in as substitute grandparent on the school’s “Grandfriend Day” for a neighbor’s child whose grandparents lived too far away to attend.
The day Williams and his family moved in, McCracken came over with a hand-drawn map of the neighborhood marked with the names and ages of children living nearby.
When her health worsened, McCracken decided to pay Williams’ children a quarter a day to get the mail and paper for her. Health care workers could have gotten them for her, he said, but she wanted to teach the children the value of work and responsibility.
McCracken was born in Henderson and graduated from Duke University in 1974. She spent most of her career in Washington, D.C., working as a press secretary for Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., and handling media relations for The Willard hotel. McCracken returned to Durham in 2002.
Hauser met with the school staff Monday afternoon to share the news of McCracken’s gift. She charged them with deciding both how to use the gift and how to honor McCracken.
“Fifteen thousand dollars could get us a lot of resources and materials that have been on our list but we haven’t had the funds for,” she said.
Durham community members can make tax-deductible donations of cash or classroom supplies to Durham Public Schools, and may designate donations for specific projects or schools.
Like Williams, neighbor Sandy Ebbert, another first-grade teacher, was familiar with McCracken’s generosity.
“Ann loved her neighbors, the neighborhood kids, and Easley is just an extension of the things she loved most, besides her dog Columbus, of course,” she said.