An outpouring of love was shown Sunday evening to parents Rick “Doc” and Connie Shinpaugh and other family members of 35-year-old Waxahachie resident Mandy Shinpaugh Carter, who died May 16 from injuries suffered in an automobile accident.
Hundreds of friends, students and co-workers came together for a candlelight vigil in the parking lot of the Fine Arts Center at Evelyn Coleman Junior High School to mourn the death and celebrate the life of Carter. They remembered her as “an amazing” individual who touched many lives while living and who, as an organ donor, gave life to several people with her passing.
Tears flowed freely as attendees of the event embraced one another as they remembered the beloved Carter, who had filled many roles: mom, wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister, teacher and friend. Glowing comments filled the Facebook pages of her family, students and friends.
Having served as a paraprofessional in the Waxahachie Independent School District at Finley Junior High, Carter received her certification to teach – and this year was her first year to do so, at Coleman. She was remembered as an educator who did more than teach. She mentored her students and always had a caring spirit and positive attitude toward her students. She was able to get her students to strive to be the best they can be and she is greatly missed by all who knew her, it was said.
Connie Slay and four of Carter’s friends – Joe Carbajal, Kelley Edwards Ivy, Ray Devone Fautt Jackson and Shelly Smith – made the decision on how to honor Carter and show love to her grieving family.
“I wanted to do something for this precious family,” Slay said. “I was sitting on the couch crying and was thinking about what could I do and it’s like God was talking to me.”
After calling the four friends who she knew would be willing to help, she put the information on Facebook and within an hour had more than 100 supporters. A GoFundMe account also was set up to help Carter’s parents, children and husband to defray medical bills.
As the event was being set up, Carter’s colleague, Ryan Essex, spoke fondly of when they worked together teaching ELAR (English, Language, Art).
“Mandy and I served as co-sponsors of the OG Squad (Original Gentlemen at Coleman,” Essex said. “This squad is made of 30 boys in 6th-8th grade who we introduced to business leaders and take them on field trips to various businesses in our city.”
As a tribute to Carter, the OG Squad is having new T-shirts made with a ribbon on the sleeve to honor their beloved teacher and mentor.
“I was very sad when I learned of her death,” student Spencer Robles said, with student Jose Rivera saying, “When I found out, I was very emotional. She was an awesome teacher, the best the OG Squad had.”
Amari Lavine had Mandy for fifth period. “I think we were the worst class but some of us really respected her and felt she was the best teacher,” he said. “She really impacted my life and I really enjoyed being in her class.”
OG Squad members Nathaniel Jones and Benjamin Zavala also spoke with the Sun and shared their feelings for their teacher. Jones commented, “I was shocked. This was so unexpected. She always tried to make us laugh if you were having a bad day. She didn’t like sadness. She made school interesting and gave rewards when we did all our work. She made school interesting and she was my favorite teacher.”
Zavala added, “We first heard of the accident and then we learned of her death – and none of it seemed real. I thought of her family and was heartbroken. She was the nicest woman you would ever meet. She was always smiling and tried to put a smile on your face when you were sad.”
At the vigil, Joe Carbajal took the podium and spoke highly of his longtime friend and fellow graduate from Waxahachie High School. Nathan Bickerstaff then gave a prayer.
“Heaven Was Needing a Hero,” a song by Jo Dee Messina, was played and followed by the reading of the obituary by Carbajal.
After MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine” played, Slay read the poem, “The Road to Eternity.”
After Carrie Underwood’s song, “Temporary Home,” played, Rick Shinpaugh talked about his daughter, remembering her birth in 1983, noting how proud he was of their daughter and how she loved being a teacher.
“The message I have for her students is what she would say, “Be all you can be,’” he said before reading a poem about giving.
“I have never been so proud as I am of Mandy being an organ donor and giving life to several people,” he said. “At the hospital, we had the organ donor walk and, as we took Mandy to the operating room, the entire staff in that floor lined the hallway as we proceeded down the hallway.
“We are two very proud parents,” he said. “I want to thank everyone for being here tonight. There is a special blessing for being here. We have prayed for all the recipients of Mandy’s organs and for the doctors and nurses who did the procedures.”
As Gus Shinpaugh sang “I Will Rise,” candles were lit. The audience then joined on the singing of “Amazing Grace.”
A moment of silence was observed and then Wiz Khalifa’s “When I See You Again” was played.
Bickerstaff gave the closing prayer as Carter’s family released several white balloons that were lifted toward the heavens by a slight wind.