This year, during “Day of the Dead,” the students at Special Care celebrated the life of, who they call, “mother”.
A few years ago, construction workers at the center found an old headstone on their property, with only the word "mother" chiseled on it.
When the entire facility found out about the headstone, the students wanted to learn more about mysterious “mother”.
After a few conversations on social media, Cindy Lowan, a teacher at Special Care, found who it belonged to.
“I knew someday someone would find it and wonder why…” said LaWanda Smith-May.
Smith-May, is the granddaughter of Hattie Payne-Smith, or better known by the students as "mother".
Smith-May, her husband Bob and son Rob, used to live on the land that now belongs to Special Care. They never knew Hattie, but say she was a farmer's wife and loved her children.
Hattie passed away in her thirties from the 1918 flu epidemic.
“She's been dead my whole life. But what the children have done here, and what the school has done, brought my grandmother to life. Something I've never had,” Smith-May said.
When Hattie's headstone was replaced with a properly engraved granite one at her gravesite, Smith-May wanted to keep possession of the "mother" headstone. So, she placed it under a tree in her yard.
Due to the importance it brings to the students, the May family will not be moving Hattie Payne-Smith’s old headstone. Instead, it will continue to reside on Special Care's property.
Students and teachers plan to clear the branches, and plant flowers in the next few months.