It may take a village to raise a child - but it can also be said Mary Jane Eubank was by herself raising a village.
Anyone who would doubt the impact one person’s presence has on a child had only to witness the hundreds of youth who attended Eubank’s memorial service Tuesday morning.
Waxahachie ISD’s biggest booster will be remembered as a kind, caring soul who considered all of the district’s students as her own. Described as omnipresent and omniscient by her own pastors for her ability to be everywhere and know everything about everybody, Eubank’s loss simply can’t be measured - as testified to by those who bade her farewell.
Eubank passed away Friday, two days after being found unconscious and injured at her home. Friends found her after becoming concerned when she wasn’t seen at several functions - including a basketball game last Tuesday night.
Many stories were recalled during the service about the Waxahachie icon, who had been previously named “Queen of the Stands” and “Hachie Fan of the Year” by the students, particularly the athletes, she so loved. A number of school administrators, teachers and coaches accompanied “her children,” many of who wore their uniforms to honor her memory along with green and white ribbons marked with writings such as “MJ, No. 1 Fan.”
Also on hand to say good-bye were chamber officials and members, city staff and elected officials, representatives from state Rep. Jim Pitts and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton’s offices, her church family, countless friends and her relatives. She had touched all walks of life in her special way - and indeed, a cross-section of the community was on hand to remember her.
“I know you know Mary Jane very well,” the Rev. Richard Miller said. “She made sure of that.”
Miller recalled the day Eubank had called his office no less than 13 times, wanting to keep tabs on a church member’s pending birth of twins. She wanted to know, he said, saying he knew of no one else but God who could seemingly be so many places and so in the know about people’s lives.
“I’ve had people tell me, ‘She was at my business every day or she was at my school every day.’ I have no idea how she accomplished that. She was everywhere all the time and she knew everyone,” Miller said, saying he thanked God for having had “the gift of Mary Jane.”
Her brother, Cullen Eubank, announced the creation of the Mary Jane Eubank Waxahachie ISD Athletic Fund, which will be used to help student-athletes on and off the field.
“She’ll still be there cheering you on,” he told the youth on hand. “She will always still be there for you. … Know that she loved all of you and it’s clear that you share that same love. Keep that love front and center. … I know you will make her proud and I know you will bring her honor.”
Athletic director and head football coach David Ream said he met Eubank early on after his arrival.
“This short lady in a little bit of disarray who was talking 90 miles an hour came into my office, putting a bunch of football programs onto my desk,” he said, noting Eubank had gone to several other districts, gathering samples to bring back and show him how it could be done. “When she left, I was thinking, ‘Who is this lady?’ and little did I know, she already knew everything about me.”
He recalled the many conversations they’d had through the years since in which she would give him advice, voice her opinion, express her approval or disapproval on any number of topics and always in her own special way.
When the varsity football team’s loss streak ended this season with Ennis, “There was no one more excited than Mary Jane,” he said, noting that after the team’s playoff run ended the next week, “There was no one more disappointed than she was.”
Friend Melissa Ballard described Eubank as a “sweet, sweet person” and told the student-athletes to “keep that sweet spirit in your hearts, because I know she’s touched so many of you.”
Ballard shared her special memories, describing how she and Debra Wakeland would take Eubank clothes shopping and how she was called on to help Eubank make her rounds one day.
Eubank had been in an accident and was without a ride, so she called Ballard, who noted it was the morning after an ice storm.
“We went to 12 stores in the ice in my brand new car, but we made those rounds,” Ballard said, describing a subsequent trip to buy Eubank another vehicle. “I don’t know how many of you ever were a passenger when she was driving, but I will tell you, that test drive was the ride of my life.”
Wakeland showed the last “designer knockoff” bag purchased by Eubank, who was known for her signature large handbags and a clothing style selected primarily from the juniors department.
“We had such fun shopping,” said Wakeland before recalling yet more memories and remarking on Eubank’s childlike nature and naivete.
Friends since 1984, when Wakeland and her family met Eubank after moving in three doors down, Eubank had joined them on an overnight trip to Wakeland’s mom’s for Thanksgiving.
“She said she didn’t know what she was doing for Thanksgiving and I said we were going to my mom’s and she said, ‘That’ll be fine,’” Wakeland said. “So we picked her up the day before Thanksgiving and when we drove up she was already out on the front lawn waiting for us to pick her up, just like a little schoolgirl waiting for the bus.”
It was special to have spent that time with Eubank, Wakeland said before quoting from her late sister’s writings about what it was like to have lived with special needs and what it takes to overcome obstacles in one’s life.
The first rule is not to worry about what other people think, the second is to be creative in overcoming any obstacle and the third is to cultivate a sense of humor, Wakeland said, noting she knew about special needs from her sister and expressing her appreciation toward everyone who had shown her friend, Eubank, kindness and acceptance.
She asked the students to remember Eubank and their love for her - and to show that love in little ways that in turn would come back to them.
“You want to be able to say you were good to someone less fortunate,” she said. “She made a difference in your life. All of you were her children.”
It was fitting, the Rev. Ron Crane said, “that the students are sitting on the front rows. She loved you, she loved you, she loved you.”
Indeed, he said, there is sadness at the loss, “but she has gone home.”
As did the other speakers, Crane shared memories ranging from humorous to the poignant about his times and conversations with Eubank.
She was first and foremost a Waxahachie resident and fan.
“If you lived in Midlothian, she’d ask you, ‘Why would you live in Midlothian?’ If you lived in Red Oak, the question would be, ‘Why would you live in Red Oak?’ and you dare not live in Ennis,” he said. “And that was Mary Jane expressing her love for the city of Waxahachie.”
One of the images he recalled was of having attended a girls basketball game and how afterward, Mary Jane made her way to the court, where she was surrounded by the girls.
“I saw such a genuine love for you and I saw that reciprocated,” he said. “And I wondered how is that possible in our culture today? … She gave an unconditional love with no strings attached and - if you lived in Waxahachie - you got a little more love.
“Everyone of us here has been impacted by Mary Jane. If you met her one time, she knew you for life. It was a bulldog tenacity, she never let go,” he told the standing room only crowd. “She had an unconditional love and she accepted us all for who we are and that mirrors Christ’s love for us all.”
Eubank’s faith was deep, Crane said, noting how they had studied the book, “The Purpose-Driven Life.”
“Mary Jane had a purpose … and she knew that purpose,” he said, asking that everyone honor Eubank’s memory with acts of kindness and to show others the same unconditional love she had.
E-mail JoAnn at firstname.lastname@example.org