Classmates mourn loss of Brynleigh Welch

By JAN GRIFFEY/Editor

COLUMBIANA — All will agree elementary school children shouldn’t have to face the harsh realities of life, but that’s just what greeted classmates of Brynleigh Welch on Monday when they arrived at school.

Welch, a fourth-grader at Elvin Hill Elementary, died Friday evening, the result of an ATV accident in Columbiana.

Her brother, an eighth-grader whose name has not been released by authorities, was injured and hospitalized as a result of the accident.

“Yesterday was pretty tough,” said Betsy Hillman, Elvin Hill Elementary principal. “We spent a lot of time talking about it, drawing pictures, making cards for the family and writing about memories of Brynleigh.”

Hillman and her staff had help from Shelby County Schools counselors Cindy Wiley and Scott Mohon, as well as counselors from Shelby County High School and Wilsonville Elementary School, who spent the day at the school, talking with children who needed that.

“Most of them knew about it when they came to school yesterday, but we did make sure every class knew,” Hillman said. “We just told them there was an accident, and if they wanted to talk about it, we let them talk for a little bit.”

Children were led in their discussions to focus on happy memories of time spent with Welch, who Hillman described as “just a very joyful child, always.”

She said Welch’s teacher referred to her as the “class greeter. She loved to greet people who came to her classroom.”

Hillman said Welch was very involved with softball and with school in general.

“One thing I’ve heard teachers and friends say over and over is that she was always smiling and gave a hug to everyone.”

Funeral arrangements are pending at Bolton Funeral Home in Columbiana.