Staff Photo by Nick Terry
North Augusta Department of Public Safety leads the funeral procession for Ella Bumgardner down Georgia Avenue on Wednesday.
NORTH AUGUSTA — For a few minutes early Wednesday afternoon, downtown North Augusta stood still.
Traffic stopped, shop owners stood in front of their businesses and residents lined Georgia Avenue to pay respects to the late Ella Bumgardner, the 10-year-old daughter of the Rev. Jeff and Jody Bumgardner of First Baptist Church of North Augusta, who died last Friday and was laid to rest Wednesday.
Ella, who was also an organ donor, suffered a brain aneurysm while at the church Oct. 5 and died Oct. 7 in Children’s Hospital of Georgia.
“She was a very sweet, gentle-spirited child,” said Dena Riley, the children’s minister at First Baptist Church of North Augusta. “She was just very soft-spoken, kind, considerate and thoughtful. She was really a delight to be around.”
Green was Ella’s favorite color, and everyone who lined Georgia Avenue sported some sort of attire in the color.
The sidewalks were filled with those who knew the family, as well as people who had heard of the tragedy and wanted to show their support.
“I knew who they were, but I did not know them personally,” said CJ Bigger, of North Augusta. “We heard what a wonderful family they are and how much they’ve done, and we felt like we needed to do something even though we didn’t know them.”
Sherri Toole said she met the family through Ella’s hospitalization and immediately noticed the strong will and faith of the Bumgardners.
“I met her family at the hospital, and they were a very strong family and a very strong witness to a lot of the nurses and doctors. Even in their time of a hardship, they were witnessing to others,” said Toole. “I think that she touched a lot of people, and it shows that North Augusta is a strong-knit community because a lot of people that didn’t even know her, had never met her that just heard about her, it touched their hearts; and they came out to show the support for the family.”
Ella’s church held a special service Sunday in her memory. Like Georgia Avenue on Wednesday, green clothing and other features were a part of Sunday’s scene.
Among those involved in Sunday’s activities was Mark Melton, a second- and third-grade Sunday school teacher at First Baptist with deep appreciation for organ donors. This month is the 10th anniversary of Melton’s heart transplant, and he gave each of his students a “Donate Life” bracelet Sunday morning.
“It just happens to be green. That’s the color for organ donations,” Melton said.
He commented on the unusual learning opportunity.
“The whole deal just really struck home with me, because of the fact that her parents made her an organ donor when they saw the situation was not going to come to a good end, and I wanted to give my little guys something to … take home, and explain to them … in the sadness of what happened, how important it was that she was able to carry on the legacy of her life by doing something for others.”
Nick Terry is the news editor for The North Augusta Star and is a USC Aiken graduate.
Bill Bengtson has worked for Aiken Communications since 1996, providing pictures and stories for the Aiken Standard and The North Augusta Star.