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‘Woven into the hearts of all who knew her’: St. Francis ACE fund honors another teacher for service

Thursday’s gathering at St. Francis Central Catholic School was a lot like what happened two days after the funeral Mass for Adrianna Chico Evans in 2021.

But that might be getting ahead of the narrative.  

Meanwhile, an audience of friends and mainly St. Francis teachers had made themselves present in the gym of the school on Guthrie Lane.

On a mellow evening with a golden sunset, the eyes had it.

The eyes of Adrianna, as it turned out.

Smiling, as she was, in a picture-day faculty photo projected onto a screen at the end of the stage, her eyes positively crinkled with good humor — and love, her dad Bob Chico said — while she appeared to regard the assemblage.

“Adrianna would be proud,” Chico said, as his eyes welled.

“She’d also be embarrassed.”

You know, he said: From the attention and all that.

“But she’d still be very proud. Because this evening really isn’t about her. It’s about all of you.”

‘Because we appreciate you’

Adriane Brown blinked tears after Principal Arthur Moore called her name while he stood at a podium on that stage.

Brown, who has taught kindergarten at the school for 13 years, was being recognized by the Adrianna Chico Evans Family Fund.

Now in its third year, ACE, as it is known by St. Francis shorthand, honors teachers at the Catholic school for their compassion and calling in the classroom.

“That’s what it is for teachers in parochial schools,” the principal said.

“It’s a calling.”

As the 2024 ACE honoree, Brown received a $2,500 check.

And the offering, as Chico decreed, came with no stipulations or unspoken directives.

Hey, he said, go on vacation.  

Apply it to your mortgage payment.

Or your car payment.   

“It’s yours to spend however you want to,” he told Brown.

“Because we appreciate you.”

Losing her

Chico said he appreciates the St. Francis family and countless other supporters for making the evening possible.

It was a dark, wrenching journey to get there.

His daughter, he said, had her life set. She was happily married to her high school sweetheart, Zach Evans.

She had her dream job, teaching third grade at St. Francis.

Adrianna wanted to be a teacher for as long as she could remember.

She was loved unfailingly, both by the kids in her classroom and parents, too.

And she was also growing rounder by the day.

While unfailingly loving every swell of it.

She and Zach were happily expecting their first child.

The pandemic didn’t care.

COVID had other cruel plans.

Adrianne came down with it, and the accompanying pneumonia made a clinical crisis even more so.   

She was eight months pregnant by then with baby Luke.

Both were being pummeled by the contagion. She would have to be admitted.

Luke arrived by emergency Caesarian, and just three weeks later, shortly after noon on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, Adrianna slipped away.

She didn’t give up, her dad said.

She gave out.

A rally — and a legacy

His grandson would spend 33 days in the neonatal intensive-care unit, but every day etched onto the calendar made for a little act of amazing grace.

Make that a big act of amazing grace.

Luke’s vital signs kept trending up, as he got stronger and — finally — started putting on weight.

Now, he’s a bright-eyed, rambunctious toddler with a solid support group.

His maternal grandparents are part of the babysitting network, while Zach works during the day as a loan officer for a local bank.

Chico, as he said, jokingly, has to collapse in his recliner when Luke goes home.

He’s also quick to add, without joking, that he wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the immediate days after his wife’s death, Zach, too, wouldn’t have it any other way.

About the GoFundMe account, that is.

Friends set one up as Adrianna languished in intensive care.

Evans was adamant about not taking other people’s money. He and his father-in-law, though, started talking.

And they started musing.

What if those dollars, Chico wondered out loud, were set up as an endowment to honor Adrianna’s time on earth as a teacher?

Evans couldn’t stop thinking about how his wife’s students would run and clamor to offer hellos and hugs, if they saw them out shopping, or at a restaurant or movie.

“If you’re a teacher and that happens,” he told The Dominion Post previously, “well, that’s your legacy.”

‘I know’

Come future years, a son and his father-in-law wouldn’t mind seeing ACE expand outward across the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and other schools in general.

After all, they said, teachers are heroes.

On this evening, though, St. Francis Central would do nicely.

It was better than good-enough, in fact.  

The latest ACE recipient echoed that, during her brief remarks.

“We are all here because we’re in the business of wanting to see children succeed,” Brown said.

“Adrianna leaves behind a legacy of love that is woven into the hearts of those who knew her, especially her students. I am truly overwhelmed with gratitude.”

Moore carried that same theme, when he talked about the mystery and majesty of faith.

And how darkness always manages to find a way to lose to the light — even if it doesn’t always seem like it at the time.

Everyone in the St. Francis building was overwhelmed by how it all it turned so fast with Adrianna.  

In the days after her death, it had rained — a lot.

And the heavy, leaden clouds mirrored the mood of the school community, which gathered, as it had, for the sad goodbye during the funeral Mass.

Two days later, when the sun peeked out and the arching rainbow appeared, people had to stop.

They had to — well — look heavenward.

And a St. Francis kid and a St. Francis mom had to — well — make note.

“Mom, that’s Mrs. Evans.”

“I know.”

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