BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — People who knew Mary Jo Nye best say she will be remembered as a beloved teacher who always supported her students. Nye, 60, was one of four victims killed in the parking lot of a Kalamazoo Cracker Barrel on Feb. 20. She was laid to rest during a ceremony on Sunday at the Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Battle Creek.
"I would’t of graduated on time if it wasn’t for her," said Josh Pittman, one of Mary Jo's former students.
Nye was a retired English teacher who helped write the charter to create Calhoun Community High School. It was that high school where Nye made a difference in the lives of so many students.
"Whatever mistakes they (students) made, there were no excuses," Pittman said. "Whatever it was that got us in those positions, Ms. Nye looked past that and saw a way for us to get out."
Pittman was 18 years old when his son, Joshua II, was born days before his high school graduation. Mary Jo never let Pittman lose track of what was important in life.
"Ms. Nye broke it down to me like you can continue to make up excuses and do what you feel is necessary, or you can go ahead and make sacrifices to get stuff done so that you can be what you want to be," Pittman said.
Mary Jo loved to travel, bake, and quilt. She was a member of the Human Resources Committee at the Chapel Hill United Methodist Church.
"The community should remember Ms. Nye as someone who didn’t look at color, she didn’t look at your financial station, she didn’t care what your situation was," Pittman told FOX 17. "She wanted you to be better and she would let you know you could be better and why. It would make you want to be a better person."
As family, friends, and students gathered to say their final goodbyes, many told FOX 17 the difference Mary Jo made in the lives will be cherished.
"If anyone can take anything from this, it is appreciate the people who do stuff for you. Take time to remember things that people say to you. Don’t take for granted the words that people say when they have your best interest at heart," said Pittman.
A Go Fund me page has been established to help the family with funeral costs and other expenses.