Despite the horrendous way Mary Hagins died in her own home, those who knew her best chose to celebrate her life. Quite a bit of laughter inside the Greenwood Missionary Baptist Church in Tuskegee, smiles over the memories of a lady who wasn't shy about speaking her mind and conveying a love that knew no bounds.
"She will be dearly remembered by this community," said Mayor Johnny Ford before the funeral service Friday morning.
Friends and her daughter used words like 'inspiration,' 'dedicated school teacher,' 'generous with her compliments,' and a 'true friend during good and sad times.'
Just for one hour today, Tuskegee Police Chief Lester Patrick symbolically put away his badge and became a private citizen, joining the mourners in wondering 'why.' Patrick never had Hagins as a teacher but she still found a way to reach him one day in the hallway.
"She said, 'come here baby.. always be proud and walk proud.' I was around 15 then and I never forgot that and I remember it so vividly," said Patrick.
The coroner declared Hagins had been murdered after he found bruises on her body and a blow to the head, killed after authorities initially thought Hagins died in a fire in her home. She was 79.
"I was thinking why this had to happen against her," Patrick said.
During the eulogy the minister said 'it was obvious Mary Hagins was one tough lady.' Part of that toughness emerged during her darkest hour one week ago tonight.
"There is plenty of evidence that she fought back vigorously for her life and in life she was a fighter," said Mayor Ford.
A retired school teacher gone, her killer still at-large, someone she knew and trusted, according to investigators, someone who cut a life too short.
Mayor Ford and the Macon County School District delivered proclamations and resolutions honoring Hagins during the service.
The main thing police are waiting on are the lab tests from forensics. They expect those results next week. Chief Patrick tells WSFA 12 News he senses two people were allegedly involved in Hagins' murder, but he wouldn't say why he feels that way.