LAKE PARK -- The Lake Elementary School family mourns the death of one of its most beloved and dedicated educators.

Mary Olive Strickland Cribbs, 49, died Thursday, March 20, losing her most recent battle with cancer. She had taught the students at Lake Park Elementary School for two decades.

"How thankful we are to have worked with Mary Olive," said Principal Christine Baker. "She taught children, not just curriculum, and touched the life of each student in a special way. As an outstanding faculty member, teacher, and friend, it is evident no one will ever take her place. That sense of humor, insight, and cheerful spirit will be greatly missed."

Student Charlyn Atkinson agrees.

"I helped her get her room ready in the beginning of this school year," she said. "She gave me lots of stickers when I helped her. She said I was good at cleaning. I will remember that time. I will remember how nice she was. I really miss her and ... will always remember her."

Cribbs was born Oct. 9, 1953, in Clinch County to Eloise Stalvey Strickland Stalvey and the late William Jackson "Bill" Stalvey. Throughout the years, she remained loyal to her Homerville roots while reaching out to citizens in the surrounding areas.

She was a graduate of Valdosta State University, earning bachelor's, master's, and education specialist degrees, and a member of Omieron Delta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. Cribbs never tired of learning and has a list of academic honors and recognitions too numerous to list.

She was also a leader outside the academic arena, serving as a participant in the Leadership Georgia Program. Cribbs was a member of the Leadership Georgia Class of 1986, a program chair for Leadership Georgia in 1987, and an active adviser to the program's Board of Trustees from 1988 to 1990.

She received the coveted J.W. Fanning Award in 1991.

Filled with a passion for the written word and a desire to share her thoughts and ideas with others, Cribbs contributed to numerous area newspapers over the years, including The Clinch County News, the Lake Park Post, the Lowndes County Review and The Valdosta Daily Times. She was even quoted several times in the National Geographic Magazine, having such a firm grasp on the history of local genealogy.

"Mary Olive loved children and she showed it everyday at school," said Beth Brady, friend. "She will truly be missed by her coworkers, students past and present, and all others who were fortunate enough to have her pass through their lives."

Cribbs was buried in the North Cemetery near DuPont March 23.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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