Her friends always knew when Melanie Myers was around – and they were glad.
They could hear her laugh from down the hall or knew it was her rich soprano voice singing to her 4-year-old students at the Weekday Preschool at uptown’s First Baptist Church.
Her voice was exuberant but never annoying. “Melanie wasn’t a quiet person,” said Babby Smith, the preschool’s director. “She didn’t have a whisper voice. She just had this great big passion for life and for the children in her class. She was truly invested in them.”
That voice and passion were silenced Monday when the brakes on the 1987 Ford pickup truck Myers was driving apparently failed at the bottom of the ramp at John Belk Freeway and Third Street uptown. Myers swerved the truck around several stopped vehicles and a CATS bus struck it on the driver’s side, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said.
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Myers, 60, was taken to Carolinas Medical Center, where she died. Her passenger, Gloria McMenamy-Moreno, 59, had minor injuries and 14 on the bus were taken to Charlotte hospitals, also with minor injuries.
McMenamy-Moreno told police that the truck’s brakes had failed, CMPD detective Andrew Oberer, an investigator with the Major Crash Investigation Unit, said Wednesday. Oberer said damage to the truck is hindering his investigation.
Myers had taken McMenamy-Moreno, who also works at the church, to Walmart for groceries, said Debbie Smith, the church’s family and preschool minister. While there, Myers began hand-picking small pumpkins for Halloween for each child in her class.
“She selected them so carefully,” Debbie Smith said. “But that’s who Melanie was – she was very thoughtful.”
Babby Smith said Myers was hired at the school about three years ago, after she’d been laid off at Duke Energy.
She didn’t have a whisper voice. She just had this great big passion for life and for the children in her class.
Babby Smith, preschool director at First Baptist Church in Charlotte
Myers’ mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease in a Charlotte nursing home, and Myers looked after her almost daily, Babby Smith said. Myers couldn’t afford to replace a family car, so a church friend had loaned her the pickup.
Myers constantly worked other jobs, too. She was a house sitter, a baby sitter and pet sitter. “Melanie never had children, so the children in her class were her children, and the church family and the people she worked for were her family,” Debbie Smith said.
Myers, who had recently switched to Calvary Church from First Baptist, showed her heart during a mission trip to Cuba in summer 2007 to build a retirement home for ministers, said Mark Harris, senior pastor at First Baptist. “Melanie made sure everyone stayed hydrated, and she made it her ministry to pass water around,” Harris said.
When they left town, Harris and wife Beth wouldn’t leave their long-haired chihuahua Blizzard with anybody but Myers. “Blizzard would get depressed, but soon Melanie and Blizzard were off, and everything was OK,” Harris said. “Melanie just had a great compassion for people and animals.”
Funeral for Melanie Myers
A Saturday funeral will be at Calvary Church, 5801 Pineville-Matthews Road, starting after visitation from 1 to 3 p.m. Burial will follow in Sharon Memorial Park, 5716 Monroe Road.