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1-car accident kills 2 Dahlonega women
Families to hold a gathering
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Dahlonega lost two beloved members of its Albanian community to a one-car accident Thursday evening.

Mariana Spahija, a 42-year-old Lumpkin County High School special education teacher, and Donika Bardho, 51, both died after their vehicle became airborne and struck two trees on Shamans Way at 7:52 p.m., according to friends of the families.

Georgia State Patrol officials said they are unsure of the cause of the crash but say alcohol was not a factor.

It was the second fatal car accident this week connected to the high school.

Lucas King, a Lumpkin County High freshman, died in a one-car accident Wednesday. Counselors spent time in the schools providing support to students, Moye said.

Spahija immigrated to the United States with her husband, two children and a college degree in 1998.

Friends say she humbled herself her first years in Georgia, cleaning toilets to support her family as she received an American education.

In 2002, she earned a master's degree in special education from North Georgia College & State University, enabling her to teach at Lumpkin County Elementary School for four years.

Then, in 2006, she assumed her most recent role as a special education teacher at Lumpkin County High School, according to the high school's website.

Describing herself on the website, Spahija wrote, "With God's help/guidance and a lot of support from my family and friends, I was able to fulfill my dream in America: To go back to school, get my teaching certificate and be able to teach in the USA."

Friend Mary Owens said it was this dedication that made her a "shining light" to many in the community.

"She will be so sorely missed by this high school, this Albanian community and this town," Owens said. "She was an amazing friend, a generous friend."

As a teacher, Lumpkin County Schools Superintendent Dewey Moye said she was a dedicated and outstanding educator.

"We're all in a state of shock because she's a very special individual," he said Friday. "She made a lot of difference in other people's lives. She will be missed by all those who knew her."

Spahija's friends and family say they plan on establishing a fund dedicated to special education programs in her memory.

Bardho also immigrated to the United States from Albania in 1998 and worked for Aramark Food Services, according to friends of the family.

Though funeral arrangements have yet to be finalized, the families will be holding a gathering 2-5 p.m. Sunday in the Dahlonega United Methodist fellowship hall.


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