Salem to pay respects to late educator

SALEM — A procession of respect and remembrance to celebrate the life of beloved Salem High School English teacher Jody McCracken, who passed away Oct. 7, will take place Sunday afternoon.

Plans call for the procession to leave the high school parking lot at 2 p.m. via F.E. Cope Drive, turn south onto South Lincoln, then west on East State, following U.S. Route 62 into Damascus and ending at Damascus Friends Church, where calling hours will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., followed by a celebration of life service for McCracken at 5 p.m.

“I think it’s nice for our community to be able to do this. I think it shows how much we cared about Jody. I think it shows how much we care for our kids and our community,” Superintendent Sean Kirkland said. “Anything we can do to help everyone through this grieving process, we are more than willing to do.”

The procession will be led by the Salem Police Department, in a nod to one of their own, Patrolman Michael Wirkner, who is Jody’s brother, and in support of the school district that the department counts as a community partner. Jody’s immediate family will be part of the procession, along with the school administration and a school bus provided by the school to transport any students who want to attend the calling hours and service. Any students who want to drive themselves or members of the community who want to take part can also join the procession, with everyone asked to arrive in the school parking lot by 1:15 p.m. to line up their vehicles and for students to board the bus.

“It would be appropriate if people want to come out and show their respect to the family, to stand along the route,” Police Chief J.T. Panezott said.

The department will pay its respects during the calling hours, as well, and he said the fire department also plans to take part in the procession in some way.

“We’ll be there for anything the family needs,” he said.

Panezott talked about the wonderful relationship between the police department and the school district and how the department wanted to help out, for the community, the school district and Patrolman Wirkner. Jody is also survived by her husband, Dennis, her daughter Angela, a student at SHS, her mother Nina and her sister Angie.

“Jody was a wonderful teacher but was an even better person. Anybody who’s come into contact with Jody, she’s touched their lives in some way. Our staff has been true professionals in handling this situation and our students and staff are grieving, as expected,” Principal Todd McLaughlin said.