The flag was at half-staff at Lula City Hall on Monday and a memorial wreath hung on the building’s front door, stark reminders this small town on the Hall-Banks county line was deep in mourning for one of its most energetic leaders.
“We’re still in the we-can’t-believe-it-happened phase,” said Karen Bowling, owner of Lula Pharmacy at 6102 Banks St.
From the pharmacy to the collectibles shop on Main Street, residents and businesspeople were still expressing shock over Vicky Chambers’ death following a Jan. 10 crash.
It wasn’t just that the longtime city councilwoman who pushed so hard for improvements to the historic rail town was taken so suddenly from them, although that’s part of the pain, but that Chambers appeared to be improving in Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s intensive care unit and that she would be OK, even though a long recovery was likely ahead, friends said.
And then she took a turn for the worst.
“It’s not supposed to happen like that,” pharmacist Amy Miller said.
Chambers, 57, had been out to eat with a friend, Lisa Page, in the East Hall community of Rabbittown when the wreck happened.
Chambers was traveling on Joe Chandler Road when her Toyota Sienna minivan was struck by a Honda Accord driven by Joshua W. Armour, 23, of Gainesville, according to the Georgia State Patrol.
Following the wreck, Armour was charged with driving under the influence. But after Chambers died Thursday, he was charged with vehicular homicide.
Armour was booked on the more serious charge in the Hall County Jail on Saturday, according to the jail’s Web page.
Wendell Armour, Joshua’s father, said his family also is enduring much pain in the ordeal.
“He’s a good child. He didn’t mean for this to happen,” he said. “He cries day and night. He is sorry for the (Chambers) family.”
Joshua also suffered physical injuries from the wreck, Armour said.
“Every bone in his body is broken, but he is more mentally disturbed than anything,” he said. “Our prayers go out to that family. We pray for them day and night.”
Throughout the ordeal but especially since Chambers’ death, there has been an outpouring on Facebook, with people saying they were praying for all parties involved.
“This has shocked the whole community,” said Anne Baggett, who worked part-time at Chambers’ business, Around the Corner Florist.
Baggett was Chambers’ friend for 35 years, so Chambers’ death especially has hit hard.
“She was so loving and giving, and she was vitally interested in seeing Lula grow,” she said.
Chambers served in many community efforts, including with the Lula Area Betterment Association, Lula Downtown Development Authority, Hall County and Banks County Cemetery Restoration, Lula Historical Society and animal rescue.
Chambers particularly was interested in redeveloping downtown and sprucing it up through a city-led “streetscape” effort. One of her favorite accomplishments was construction of downtown Lula’s Veterans Park, according to a city press release last week.
The city is researching next steps to fill her seat on the city council, City Manager Dennis Bergin said.
But, beyond that, “we’ll find some way to honor her passing,” he said. “We’ll look to see what works best. She made a great impression on the city … and (her death) leaves a void.”
Chambers’ efforts weren’t just geared toward civic pride. She also was neighborly.
Dusty Porter, who works at the business next door, Lanier Arts & Crafts, described how she “gave us wreaths every Christmas. She always made sure we were set up.”
“We’re going to miss her,” said his grandfather, Roy Gowder. “She was involved in so many things.”
Page said she is tending to her own physical injuries from the wreck right now. But her emotions also have been affected, stretched in different directions since the wreck, from prayerful concern to anger.
She said her doctor warned she also may suffer from guilt because of the wreck’s circumstances.
“Everything’s going through my mind right now,” Page said tearfully.