Mother and child killed in wreck Teachers remember their ‘bright, happy’ student By Lynn Hobbs

Two crosses made anonymously by a rescue worker serve as a memorial to the two lives tragically lost at the corner of Imperial Mill Road and U.S. Hwy. 441 Tuesday. The crosses bear messages left by family members.

An Eatonton woman and her child were killed Wednesday, Sept. 20, in a two-vehicle crash on U.S. Hwy. 441 Bypass at Imperial Mill Road in Eatonton, and their family and friends are mourning their loss. Georgia State Patrol Cpl. Corey Seymour said Jakeda Ellison, 37, and her 9-year-old daughter, Shamaylaka Ellison, died in the wreck that happened about 4:55 p.m. Shamaylaka was a fourth-grade student at Putnam County Elementary School. “The school is certainly saddened by this tragedy and mourns with family and friends at this time,” PCES Principal Scott Sauls said in an email. “We have received numerous comments and expressions of concern from the community, which further shows the love and support of our county in supporting each other in times of tragedy. We certainly send our most heartfelt sympathy to the family.” Cpl. Seymour said Ellison was driving a 2013 Toyota Corolla east on Imperial Mill Road and attempted to cross the heavily-traveled bypass. Her car was T-boned on the passenger side by a 2013 Chevrolet 3500 pickup truck driven by Cathy Harwood, also of Eatonton. Harwood was driving northbound on the bypass in the left lane. Both vehicles went off the northeast shoulder of the road and the car also struck a tree, the trooper said. Cpl. Seymour said the child was believed to have died instantly, and her mother was taken by ambulance to Putnam General Hospital, where she later died. The victims reportedly were trapped in the car and had to be freed by firefighters/first responders with the Eatonton Fire Department and Putnam County Fire Rescue. Officers with Eatonton Police Department and personnel with the Putnam Emergency Medical Services also responded to the scene, as did Putnam County Coroner Gary McElhenney. Ellison's 3-year-old niece, who was buckled in a carseat in the rear seat of the car survived, as did the driver of the pickup truck. Harwood complained of shoulder pain, Seymour said, but she declined medical treatment at the scene. The woman stood on the side of the road sobbing as the wreckage was being cleared. "I told her (Harwood) there was nothing she could have done any differently when that car crossed in front of her," Cpl. Seymour said, noting everyone in both vehicles was seatbelted and alcohol/drugs were not a factor. Eatonton Police Chief Kent Lawrence immediately notified school officials of the fatal accident, and Sauls said counselors were at the school Thursday morning to assist faculty and staff with talking with students. Jakeda Ellison was a member of the Putnam County High School Class of 1998 and had worked at Rock Eagle for three years. She was affectionately called “Momma Keda” by many, according to the obituary and posts on her Facebook page. Shamaylaka, who also was known as “Tank” to her family and close friends, had the speaking part of Carlotta, a nanny and caretaker of Arial the mermaid in the elementary school’s upcoming production of “The Little Mermaid” next month. “Our cast is heartbroken to lose sweet Shamaylaka,” musical theater teacher Kathy Carroll said; “she was a happy smiling angel at all times and gave everyone great joy to be around her. Tears and hugs have flowed while we have taken care of each other like a family during the loss of our sweet cast member and friend. She was always happiest when at play practice.” Third-grade teacher Sheila Turk, who as Shamaylaka’s homeroom teacher last year, remembered the first time she saw Shamaylaka’s name on her class roster.  “I thought ‘my goodness, I’ll never get this one right,’” she said, noting that she got it wrong the first day, and trying to think of a way to make it easier, she asked Shamaylaka what her mother called her. “She said ‘Tank’ and I said ‘well, I’m not calling you that,’” Turk continued. “She just laughed and was very patient with me until I finally got it right. There would be some things that made her sad, but mostly she would just laugh things off. She had a wonderful attitude about things. The day before she died, I saw her standing at the end of a hall that I passed by. She was waving to me. It keeps running through my mind that she was telling me goodbye then. I’ll carry that memory with me forever. We shall surely miss her and regret her passing. I guess God just couldn’t wait to welcome someone so special into his arms.” Please see Page 8A for the complete obituary, and see more teacher’s memories and comments with the online posting of this story at msgr.com. 

OTHER TEACHERS’ MEMORIES:

Several teachers responded when The Messenger asked for their memories about Shamaylaka:

Cammie Branan, 5th grade teacher -- “I did not teach Shamaylaka, but I have helped with the Little Mermaid play and I knew her from that. She seemed to be a very happy child. Every time I was around Shamaylaka she was smiling. She was working very hard on her part in the play. Our school and community lost a bright light, but I feel certain that we gained a guardian angel!”

Bobbi Jo Mashburn, 4th grade teacher – “Shamaylaka Ellison was a wonderful student and could light up a room with her beautiful smile. I am grateful for the opportunity to have taught and get to know her this year. She will be missed dearly.”

Cathy Tuel, PCES physical education teacher – “What a wonderful student to teach and a fabulous role model for others. Shamaylaka’s big smile will forever be missed.”

Evie Hill, 3rd grade teacher – “I taught Shamaylaka when she was in the third grade. She was an exceptional student with a wonderful personality. This year she came by to see me daily to say hey in the morning. I would look up from my desk and she would be standing there with her beautiful smile. She would say hello to me and give me a little hug. I would tell her how much I needed that hug and how she had made my day. She would just smile. We would talk for a little while, and she would be on her way. Later on after school, she would come back by to tell me good-bye as she went to play practice. Shamaylaka was a so special to me!! I will always remember her beautiful smile and her friendly personality.”

Sheila Turk, 3rd grade teacher – “I was Shamaylaka’s homeroom, science, and social studies teacher last year. She was well liked by all. Even though she moved on to the 4th grade, she would come back to see me often to give me a hug and her bright, beautiful smile. I remember well when I received my class list last year. I looked at her name and thought, “My goodness, I’ll never get this one right.” I finally settled on a pronunciation of the name and, of course, I had it wrong. I thought maybe I could find a way to shorten it to make it easier. I asked her what her mother called her (thinking she would say, “Sham”). Shamaylaka told me that her mother called her “Tank.” I said, “Well, I’m not calling you that.” She just laughed and was very patient with me until I finally got it right. There would be some things that made her sad, but mostly she would just laugh things off. She had a wonderful attitude about things. The day before she died, I saw her standing at the end of a hall that I passed by. She was waving to me. It keeps running through my mind that she was telling me goodbye then. I’ll carry that memory with me forever. We shall surely miss her and regret her passing. I guess God just couldn’t wait to welcome someone so special into his arms.

Kathy Carroll, music theater teacher – “Our cast is heartbroken to loose sweet Shamaylaka. (In our upcoming musical “The Little Mermaid,”) She had the speaking part of Carlotta, who was a nanny to the prince and a caretaker of Arial the mermaid. She was a happy smiling angel at all times and gave everyone great joy to be around. Tears and hugs have flowed while we have taken care of each other like a family during the loss of our sweet cast member and friend. She was always happiest when at play practice.

 

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