Chris Mance’s death
Gainesville Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer released a statement Sunday concerning the death of Gainesville High School principal Chris Mance:
“Gainesville City Schools and the greater community mourns the untimely passing of Gainesville High School principal, Chris Mance. All who encountered Chris realized and admired his honesty, strength, courage, professionalism, and undisputed love of our students and for Gainesville High.
“Undoubtedly, and unabashedly, Chris was the spirit of the Red Elephant nation.
“As Chris would insist, we will conduct the business of all schools as best we can. We ask all in the community to join us remembering the pioneer, the consummate leader of all students, the family man who gave much of himself to a school’s tradition and success.”
Gainesville High School principal Chris Mance died Sunday morning at Northeast Georgia Medical Center after a brief battle with esophageal cancer. He was 50.
“It is a tremendous loss for all of us in Gainesville, not just for Gainesville High School but our community,” Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. “Our prayers are with his family and friends.”
She went on to say, “We were grateful for the time we had with him and he will be missed.”
In a written statement, Dyer said that “all who encountered Chris realized and admired his honesty, strength, courage, professionalism and undisputed love of our students and for Gainesville High.
“Undoubtedly, and unabashedly, Chris was the spirit of the Red Elephant nation.”
A candlelight vigil remembering Mance is set for 7:30 tonight at “The Rock,” an iconic boulder that Gainesville High uses for spray-painted messages. The Rock sits off Pearl Nix Parkway, just down the street from GHS.
Mance “had been having health issues of some concerns since about late November, early December, but he wasn’t diagnosed until five or six weeks ago,” Dyer said.
The principal’s duties had loosened up in the final weeks of his illness.
“We already made a transition there,” Dyer said.
Adjustments were made four weeks ago in administrative and support staff at the high school, with LaCrisia Larkin serving as acting principal, “in anticipation of Mr. Mance being out for a lengthy period of time,” she added.
Also, “any decisions, as far as going forward, would be made in context of our planning for next school year,” Dyer said.
“As Chris would insist, we will conduct the business of all schools as best we can,” she said in the prepared statement.
News of Mance’s passing left many grieving.
Bruce Miller, GHS head football coach, likened the news “to someone kicking you in the stomach.”
“We lost a tremendous leader and a tremendous person,” he said.
Miller knew Mance for 10 years.
“He was an assistant principal when I first came to Gainesville High School, and he befriended and directed me in the ways I should go,” Miller said.
Mance was “a fantastic person and a good moral man who just wanted to treat people right and treat people fairly.”
Through tears, longtime GHS drama teacher Pam Ware said Mance cared deeply about every aspect of school life.
“He wanted us to pretty much be the master of our own ship but to also know we could always come to him for support,” she said.
“I think he truly believed that if (something) was worth doing, it was worth overdoing and doing it right.”
Mance was named principal in 2008, after serving as interim principal for about four months. Previously, he had served as an assistant principal for seven years.
Before Gainesville High, he served as the assistant principal at Elbert County High School and as the boys’ head basketball coach at Rabun County High School for 13 years. He also coached golf and baseball and assisted the football coach at Rabun County.
Dyer said that Little & Davenport Funeral Home in Gainesville will be handling funeral arrangements, which will be announced later.
She added that she expects that visitation and a memorial service for Mance will take place in Gainesville, and “final services will be in Rabun County, where he grew up.”
“We ask all in the community to join us remembering the pioneer, the consummate leader of all students, the family man who gave much of himself to a school’s tradition and success,” Dyer said.