Thoughts of an angel for our Christmas — and ways to share her loving example with others:
Jill Bailey Chenet: You probably heard of the beloved young woman and her unborn child who drowned at the Outer Banks this past summer.
Husband Matt had struggled to save her, fighting the fatal waters. The couple was on a last vacation before baby Olive’s expected November birth.
If you were very lucky, you knew Jill personally.
Heartfelt tributes to her were many: From her husband. From eloquent brother Jason Bailey. From teachers and Headmaster Nancy Mellon at Washington’s The River School, where Jill lovingly taught the hearing impaired.
Jill’s mother Barbara Bailey shared the heartbreaking eulogies and DVD of The River School’s October celebration of Jill’s beautiful life.
All speakers ached at the loss. All celebrated Jill’s selfless, bright goodness — every day. She seemed determined to bring joy and kindness to anyone on her path.
Jason had wondered how he would endure that cruel July night. He asked himself “what would [she] do?” Calm, transformed, he heard “Put on your boots, buddy, and we’ll get through it.
“And so we begin our journey…. And LIFE moves ON. And so must we. Yet in a changed manner.”
He called for creating “a world of Tooties” — her nickname.
The family is on that journey, making the world better, touching lives — as she did. They have established a new Salem Education Foundation scholarship in her memory.
Though trying to compress “how someone should be like Tootie in 25-words-or-less” was difficult, Jason defined the criteria: “The Jill Bailey Chenet Scholarship recipient among other qualifications demonstrates a leadership role in school, exhibits a compassionate heart, has a passion for teaching, is active in athletics and is an A/B honor roll student.”
Barbara said this memorial was inspired by people who wanted to give locally, since Jill graduated from Salem High School. (A separate fund will enable a needy child to attend The River School.)
“If it weren’t for God right now and my faith in what is to come, I don’t think I would make it,” wrote Barbara.
It seemed our whole town’s heart did break. We still join Jill’s family — Matt, parents Barbara and Jack, Jason, sister Julie Hamilton, grandparents, aunts and uncles and all — in grief. Especially during this poignant holiday season.
Yet we remember that Christmas is about Love and celebrating Life in the midst of darkness.
In the words of Jill’s obituary: “Now we choose to celebrate and live with love in our hearts, and to pass it on. Because that’s what Tootie would do.” We can be kind in her honor.
How to help
Jill Bailey Chenet Scholarship fund
Salem Education Foundation
P.O. Box 1461
Salem VA 24153