Biloxi teacher thanks her heroes in death bed letter

By Rebecca Powers - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Rene Carnley, a teacher at North Bay Elementary wrote a letter to us about her heroes at North Bay Elementary School before she died.

"It makes you wake up every day, it makes you look at your own children and think, 'I've got to enjoy this day, because you just never know what will come,'" North Bay Elementary Principal Dr. Laurie Pitre said.

Rene Carnley was a devoted mother and teacher. Last month, she died of colon cancer at the age of 48. Hours after her death, a two page handwritten letter was found next to her bed.

Part of it read, "Dear WLOX, I also call my heroes 'angels.' I could tell them thank you every day for the rest of my life and I would never be able to convey how much they have meant to me. When I was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer, I was terrified. But not one day since have I been alone."

Her friends at North Bay Elementary, who Rene called her angels, will never forget her beauty, grace and devotion to the students she loved so much.

"She had a way of connecting with the older kids. She was at work many days sick, would have to holler for the next door teacher while she ran to the bathroom very sick. Came to school taking chemo," Popp's Ferry Elementary Principal Patti Hughes said.

Rene fought back for four long years. In her letter, she wrote about the many wonderful things her North Bay family did for her in her darkest hours.

She wrote, "The faculty, students and parents took it upon themselves to take care of me. They purchased wigs for me, bought my medicine and helped pay for doctor bills and even took me to Houston for treatment."

Principal Pitre says 38 year teaching veteran Nancy Lamey is the one who often drove Rene to MD Anderson, using countless unpaid personal days. Nancy was a devoted friend till the end.

"I mean till the very last second, she was by her side," Dr. Pitre said.

"I was blessed to know her," Nancy Lamey said.

Rene's long time boyfriend, Randy, wishes he could have been with her more. His job kept him on the road a lot during her illness. But just 12 weeks before her death, while she was extremely ill, Randy made her his wife.

"He was willing to take on all that and more so he could be her husband," Pitre said.

One of Rene Carnley's final acts was to honor the friends she called heroes. In her short life and through her courageous battle and death, she taught them all something about living.

"We do have so much to be thankful for and not to take a second for granted. And I think that if she could say anything to anybody, that's what it would be," Principal Patti Hughes said.