Bearden bids farewell to its favorite Jewel

Jack C. Evans

If you’ve bought your lunch from the Bearden cafeteria in the past 42 years, you’ve met Ms. Jewel. She’s been there that long, just as long as the school’s current building, which was finished in the late 60s. But today she’s not smiling on her stool at the cash register, because Tuesday, she retired after being diagnosed with breast cancer last week. That’s why students were asked to wear pink on Tuesday in a huge sendoff for Bearden’s longest-serving employee. In addition to that, Ms. Jewel Eubanks is also “one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” according to Mrs. Linda Radcliffe, another longtime faculty member and close friend of Ms. Jewel. “She is a wonderful, compassionate, woman of great faith; she has loved and been kind and considerate to so many children through 42 years of service; and she’s going through a difficult time right now,” Mrs. Radcliffe said. “She begins her chemo this week, and it will be very intense.” So Bearden decided to show its support, not just with Tuesday’s pink-out, but with gifts, fundraisers, a banner, announcements, and flowers. “Our school secretaries had a wonderful idea to have a pink-out in honor of Jewel,” Mrs. Radcliffe said. “And then we started coming up with all these other ideas as well." The Bearden staff collected gifts – books and magazines and anything to help Ms. Jewel during her chemotherapy. They even researched the best foods and drinks for patients, just trying to repay her years of service and kindness. Next came the pink banner that hundreds of students signed Monday and was hung up on the cafeteria wall. While it was being signed, Mrs. Ann Ham took up donations for breast cancer research, which supplemented the money raised by her organization of a Bearden team in last weekend’s Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure. With help from National Honor Society and DECA, they formed a team of 15 teachers and students. Mrs. Ham has a special reason for all her hard work, too. “I am a survivor,” she said. “In February of 2012, I will have been breast cancer free for 12 years.” She knows firsthand how important help and support is. "Things like the pink-out and the gifts mean a lot to a person going through this disease," she said. "And you need a lot if you’re going to get better." Finally, one last little thing was done by the staff for Ms. Jewel. “We got six dozen pink carnations; to show our love.” Mrs. Radcliffe said. But it wasn’t just the Bearden staff showing support. Many students, some who never even formally met Ms. Jewel, wore pink Tuesday. Senior Delaney Thomas, for example, rarely buys her lunch from the cafeteria. “But I’ve experienced breast cancer in my family,” she said. “So I’m wearing pink to support her.” Ms. Jewel has left her mark on countless other Bearden students over the decades, though. “We would always see her at lunch,” junior Noah Wooten said. “She would always say ‘Hi’ and ‘How are you doing?’ so it was always really good to her there.” So what does Ms. Jewel think of all this help and attention? “Well you never know it until you need it, but it has really meant the world,” she said on her last day. “The students, the teachers, my co-workers… they all just give me strength. “And I feel like I can do it now.” And that is obvious, because Ms. Jewel isn’t completely retiring. She plans on coming back by the end of next semester, to work the cash register maybe a few more years. And the students of Bearden look forward to greeting her.