GARDENDALE, Ala. (WIAT) — A grieving community said goodbye to its beloved teacher and pastor on Friday.
58-year-old Mark Ridgeway passed away Wednesday morning in a tragic bus incident at Mortimer Jordan High School.
It was an emotional day as community members gathered at Ridgeway’s memorial service to remember and celebrate his life.
Those who knew him said Ridgeway was more than just a man. He was a husband, father, friend, mentor and a guiding light to many. Several said they are still in shock after the devastating loss.
“He’s going to be greatly missed,” said former school mate and colleague, Christy Barnett.
Barnett said she always looked forward to his friendly morning greetings.
“He’d ask us or say ‘Good morning, ma’am. How are you doing?’ Want to know what was for lunch,” Barnett said.
She said he was such a Godly man and an inspiration.
“He was a great prayer warrior,” Barnett said. “There wasn’t a day he didn’t have nothing bad to say about anybody, and if nothing else, we always knew he was praying for us and he prayed for our students.”
Many of those students attended the memorial service. Several said he was their mentor.
“Someone to try and be like,” Dalton Dabbs said, one of Ridgeway’s students. “Even if he didn’t see it that way. I mean this world would be better if everyone was like him.”
Others said when they think of their teacher, they will always remember pure happiness.
“He was always the light of the day,” Nevaeh Jackson said, another student of his. “I had him and I’ve had his wife since I was a freshman in High school and I’m now a senior. And she used to always tell me that, you know, he prays over everybody that goes in his classroom and her classroom.”
No matter who he came across, those who knew him said he encouraged them to always live life fully.
“He gave us these 10 rules,” Dabbs said. “It’s how to live life fully every single day. He never missed. And he implemented these ideas and ways to live is our head and not just because he had to because he wanted to. He wanted to make every student in this school better, a better person.”
Ridgeway’s friends, colleagues and students said they are keeping his family in their thoughts and prayers, and that they will help carry on his legacy of living life to the fullest.