The Center Grove woman was known for noting every birthday, sending cards to teachers who had a bad day, hosting her co-workers at her home for an annual Christmas dinner and making friends so easily.
Sherrie Buchanan, a former Center Grove Middle School Central classroom assistant, had a huge impact in the many lives she touched.
Less than four months after being diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2012, Buchanan died at age 59.
Buchanan worked for more than three years as a teacher’s assistant in Kristin Rodman’s special education classroom at Center Grove Middle School Central. Her career working with children at the school began when she was in her 50s and when her own children were in their 30s.
“She always wanted to be a teacher,” said Mark Buchanan, her husband of 10 years.
Buchanan’s college education was in business, but she taught kids in Sunday school and loved children, her husband said. For her, the job at the school wasn’t about making a living.
“She loved working with kids, and she had always wanted to get involved in helping, especially the kids who were challenged,” Mark Buchanan said. “The parents also knew the kids responded to Sherrie’s way of instilling confidence in them. She was there to calm them down. She was there to help them achieve. She was there to show them appreciation of what they were trying to do.”
Assisting in the classroom grew into hours of volunteering and building friendships outside of the school. Buchanan chaperoned Center Grove dances, attended student birthday parties, showed up at football games and tennis matches and volunteered as a school greeter.
She also served as a board member for the Center Grove Education Foundation. From 2010 to 2012, she served as committee chairwoman for the organization’s biggest fundraiser, Gala for the Grove. Under Buchanan’s leadership, the galas raised $100,000, foundation executive director Carla Johnson said.
The foundation raises money for special projects at Center Grove schools that aren’t tax-funded, such as teacher grants like the new Sherrie Buchanan Teacher Grant Program. Buchanan’s friends plan to host a bike ride in June in her honor to raise funds for a grant.
Buchanan’s husband and friends recall the hugs from Center Grove students who saw her at the grocery store, the cheerful way she could motivate an unmotivated student in class and the notes she had sent when she knew a teacher had a bad day. She also religiously remembered birthdays and was the first person to send a sympathy card,Rodman said.
“She wanted us all to be a family. She would reach out to anybody,” Rodman said.
Buchanan, who lived in the Center Grove area, openly offered her friendship to students and staff at the school, Rodman said. For example, Buchanan started an annual ladies’ Christmas dinner at her home for school staff as a way to build relationships.
“Everyone just adored her,” Rodman said. “Honestly, it didn’t matter who you were. She helped you. ... She kind of became a lot of kids’ confidante.”
Buchanan’s faith in God was her motivation, Rodman said.
“She had such a caring heart. She wanted everyone to see Jesus as she saw Jesus, and she brought that light to the school,” she said.
Buchanan’s diagnosis with a rare form of brain cancer inspired giving in her honor. Friends loaded the Buchanans’ kitchen with food while she was sick. Family and friends also donated about $5,200 toward the Center Grove Education Foundation in her honor. After her death, they began planning a memorial bike-ride fundraiser to further fund the grant.
Marcia Duke of Bargersville ran into Buchanan repeatedly in the community before they became closer friends about three years ago. Eventually they rode bicycles together twice a week.
“It’s kind of like there’s just a kindred spirit from the moment you met her. You immediately felt like you knew her your entire life. She was just a very, very unique lady,” Duke said.” She was always interested in what was going on in your life. It was always questions. ... Every question out of her mouth was ‘How was so-and-so?’”
Even while she underwent cancer treatment, Buchanan used her experience to try to help others. She met with, called and sent articles to three other women who were in various stages of cancer treatment, Mark Buchanan said.
Buchanan died Nov. 15, 2012. As she was dying, Buchanan asked about a friend’s surgery, Duke said.
“It was just so in line with who she was,” Duke said. “She was on her death bed. She had such a sharpness about her and such compassion for other people.”