JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A memorial service was held Thursday evening for Elizabeth McNew, 12, who died of COVID-19 on Friday, Sept. 25.
The Atlantic Beach girl was a student at Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School. She was learning virtually from home on Duval HomeRoom.
The service was held at the Hardage-Giddens chapel in Jacksonville Beach.
A beach chair, beach umbrella, and tiki torches were set up outside the chapel to honor Elizabeth’s memory. Chapel staff told Action News Jax that Elizabeth loved the beach.
The McNew family invited Action News Jax reporter Ryan Nelson to interview those who attended the service about their memories of Elizabeth.
While maintaining a respectful distance during the service, Nelson interviewed several people as they arrived to pay their respects.
Tracy Farthing, Atlantic Beach Elementary School teacher, tells us she and Elizabeth’s mother, Elda, worked together in the classroom. Farthing said she’d known Elizabeth since she was very young.
“She had a bright, bright smile, and a beautiful, beautiful soul,” said Farthing.
Farthing described Elizabeth as vivacious, caring and positive.
“She helped in the cafeteria in the morning. All the kids would come down, she would come in and sit at the table and help us open milks and cartons for the kids,” said Farthing.
Brett Veneziale, who tells Action News Jax he served as a volunteer at Atlantic Beach Elementary, described Elizabeth as a model student.
“Anytime you saw her, never saw her without a smile on her face,” he said.
Atlantic Beach Mayor, Ellen Glasser, was also in attendance.
“When I saw her picture, it really was like a gut punch. I knew her, I knew her brother, I knew her family,” said Glasser.
Glasser saw the mementos on display inside Hardage-Giddens in Elizabeth’s honor.
“It’s unicorns, it’s artworks, it’s a bicycle, it’s flowers, it’s drawings. It’s so personal and so touching that it’s hard not to weep,” said Glasser.
She shared a message to the community about the coronavirus.
“Be careful. We’re not through this challenge with COVID. Wear a mask and maintain your social distancing,” said Glasser.
Action News Jax observed dozens of police officers in attendance, many from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Attendees we spoke to said they’ll be there to support the family however they can.
“Your loss is everybody’s loss; we love you so much,” said Farthing in a message to Elizabeth’s family.
Elizabeth’s funeral service will be held Friday.
© 2020 Cox Media Group