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Grace Miller alums look back

Friday, May. 30 | By Julie Taylor
Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
"They're immortalized there," said Tish Inman, who painted the wall that that surrounds the playground at Grace Miller.
Every day, throngs of Grace Miller Elementary children tear out the door toward the best part of their day. On the playground, they are surrounded by a wall that tells a story.

Silhouettes playing basketball, singing, and doing backflips were painted onto the wall to commemorate the first group of students to go from Kindergarten to 5th grade at the Bealeton school.

"They're immortalized there," said Tish Inman, who painted the wall and is mother to one of the students. "It froze childhood, which I think is a good thing."

Judy Williams, currently the principal at Grace Miller, remembers this first-hand, because she was the assistant principal when the mural was dedicated June 11, 1996.

"If you look at the last three figures on the mural, you will see the silhouette of the artist, Ms. Inman, walking away with her paint bucket, the silhouette of the first principal, Mr. Mike Wine, and my silhouette (waving a hankie!)," said Williams.

In their late 20s and living local and far, what are the rest of the students doing now?

Sam Bernard, formerly Blackburn, now lives in Ohio with her husband Ian, who she has known since grade school.

"I work from home for Boeing, providing support to about 15 different metrology labs spread out across the United States," said Bernard.

Melissa Wible, formerly Kincaid, was a cheerleader at Grace Miller, so her silhouette holds a football sign. She has lived around the world with her husband and two daughters.

"I always wanted to see the world and my husband is in the Army so we've seen a lot of America and Europe," Wible said. "Now I live in Kansas, which I never ever expected."

Wible is excited for her nephew as he enters Kindergarten at Grace Miller this fall.

"We're going to show him my shadow this summer," Wible said.

Stacy Morrison lives in Catlett, and has been a bookkeeper for almost 11 years with Scheulen, Patchett & Edwards, PC. Her shadow holds a Pillsbury Doughboy sign, though she can't remember how that tied in to her hopes for the future.

"I have a blonde-haired sassy daughter, Lily Grace, who just turned 6!" said Morrison.

Heidi Trude, a member of the Warrenton Chorale, has made a life for herself in Warren County where she was just nominated Rotary Teacher of the Year. Her silhouette is pictured as singing.
"I am teaching French at Skyline High School in Front Royal," said Trude. "I absolutely love my job and couldn't be happier."

Jessica Bean is a stay at home mom, and a part-time school bus driver for Fauquier County. She and her husband Bryan are getting ready to welcome their second son at the end of May. Her silhouette is running and jumping.

The adults look back at their days as students with a better perspective.

"I would tell myself to not care so much what other people think," Bernard said. "I struggled with confidence issues and it wasn't until college when I really learned the value of embracing your individuality and being confident in who you are."

Others wish they could tell their young selves to value their desires.

"When I think back to 1996 when I was in 5th grade at Grace Miller, the best advice I would have given my future self would be to follow your dreams," Trude said.

Bean said, "Never let anyone or anything keep me from being me or following my dreams. I feel I have succeeded in that by overcoming so many obstacles life has thrown at me."

Morrison mixes profound with practical, "You’re stronger than you think. Be grateful for every second you get with someone you care about. Enjoy those late nights with the baby, it doesn't last long and you will miss it. You don’t have to choose a path, make your own. Don’t dye your hair black, it’s not a good look for you."

Now that their lives are starting to take on a definite shape, the former students feel satisfied with their choices.

"With a few bumps along the way and a head strong, hell-bent attitude for not settling, I am happy with where I’m at," said Morrison.

Trude also feels pleasantly surprised by her lot in life.

"If you would have told me when I was in 5th grade that I would be named the Rotary Teacher of the Year for Warren County before the age of 30, I would have never believed it," she said.

Bean looks at the loves in her life like a happiness checklist.

"I married a man I love, I have beautiful children, I got a college education. I think my parents are/would be truly proud of me, and I am honestly happy with the course of events my life took and where I ended up," Bean said. "And being happy really is what life is all about, right?"

At the 100 year anniversary, Inman added a mustang, the school's mascot, 100 stars, and herself, walking away.

"I think it's fun that it's still there," said Wible. "I wonder if it'll be there forever."

The artwork leaves more legacy than it does entertainment value.

"Time went by so fast, but their shadows remain the same," Inman said.

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