Community mourns loss of THS student

Published 12:27 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Thompson High School student Elaine Roberts passed away on Feb. 7 after a battle with a rare form of cancer. (File)

Thompson High School student Elaine Roberts passed away on Feb. 6 after a battle with a rare form of cancer. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – The hallways in Alabaster’s Thompson High School were a sea of purple on Feb. 8 in memory of a classmate taken too soon.

On Feb. 6, 16-year-old THS student and tennis player Elaine Roberts died after a several-month battle with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, sending ripples through the close-knit Shelby County community.

After Roberts’ THS classmates learned of her passing, most of the student body donned purple on Monday to honor her memory and show their support for Roberts’ family.

“This is a tough time for our students and community,” Alabaster School Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers said after holding a moment of silence in Roberts’ honor during a Feb. 8 Board of Education meeting. “The student body, teachers and administrators are to be commended for coming together to show their support.”

In April 2015, Roberts was diagnosed with metastatic alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, which is a rare form of cancer primarily affecting children. Her diagnosis came after she began complaining about pain in her right foot in the fall of 2014, which was originally thought to be tendonitis or a sprain.

When the pain continued through the 2015 tennis season, Roberts visited another podiatrist in April 2015, who ordered an MRI and a biopsy confirming the cancer diagnosis.

After Roberts was diagnosed with cancer, she and her family have seen an outpouring of support from the community. Last summer, several mothers of THS girls’ tennis team members organized and held a successful yard sale in the school’s cafeteria to raise money to support Roberts and her family.

Through her involvement with the THS tennis program, Elaine spent plenty of time at the Pelham Racquet Club, where she earned the respect of the center’s staff.

“I love all the children I teach, and Elaine as much as any. We will miss her sweet laugh and beautiful smile!” Racquet Club Assistant Tennis Pro Rusty Wilkes wrote on his Facebook page. “Elaine brought so many of us together during the last few years. I feel blessed to have been a small part of Elaine’s life, and (I’m) thankful I knew her. Elaine is a winner in her fight, because she will live in our hearts forever!”

Roberts’ funeral will be held at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at Alabaster’s Westwood Baptist Church. Visitation will be held from 10:30-11:50 a.m. Following the funeral, a short graveside service will be held at 3 p.m. in Curry.