On August 1st, 2017, Fort Thomas lost one of its own. Michelle Elizabeth Chalk was a beloved student, friend, and member of our community. Since then, many have mourned her death and celebrated her life. On Friday, June 15th, Michelle’s classmates celebrated her birthday which was on June 16th.
After Art Around Towne, an event which always brings the Fort Thomas community together, students who had just completed their Freshman year on May 25th gathered at the Bolling’s house. Kayla Bolling went to Johnson Elementary with Michelle, and her mother, Julie Bolling was Michelle’s 4th grade math teacher. Over 40 kids gathered, celebrated and talked around a fire, and, at 12:01 a.m., released paper lanterns with sweet notes written on them that warmed hearts.
Patty and Keith Chalk, Michelle’s parents, were at the end of Scenic View just before midnight to watch the lantern launch. They were invited to partake in the event, but after much discussion, they decided that this was an event for Michelle’s friends, and they didn’t want to divert attention. Patty Chalk said, “It was an emotional experience as we watched each luminary lift up and toward the Cincinnati skyline.”
After watching the last of the lanterns, they went to visit Michelle’s grave and tell her about all that had just happened.
Sam Burnham, an incoming tenth grader, was at this event. He originally met Michelle in fifth grade when they were both in Highland High School’s production of The Sound of Music.
Burnham said, “Immediately she impacted my life and only spread positivity. She was always smiling and laughing and making others do the same. Her attitude was contagious and made me feel like I belonged in the cast even though I had never done anything like that before. I truly believe that if I had not met Michelle and spent time with her, I would not be the same type of person I am today.”
This event impacted him because, as it’s still a “relatively fresh wound in the community,” events like these help to heal. While this was just an event for Michelle’s class, he would love to see more of the community involved in more events to come because she impacted so many lives, and everyone needs to heal and remember her bright presence.
Even though the kids who participated in sending love to Michelle came together from different groups, Maddy Baldrick, also an incoming tenth grader, said, "Everyone there was very comforting and I talked to people I never thought I would. The community spirit was so warm and welcoming that night and it was nice seeing that people cared.”
The class of 2021 has participated in many other events and done many other things to honor Michelle. Kayla Bolling, incoming 10th grader said, “We have gotten together before to raise money through projects and donations to give to the Live Free Like Michelle fund. We want to continue her legacy and show kindness to others as she did. I hope to do this in the future as well.”
At several times throughout the past year, Michelle's friends have put up ribbons and bows around town to remember her by. In the days before her 16th birthday on June 16th, her friends put up yellow and gold bows to commemorate her Golden Birthday. Patty Chalk said, “The HHS class of 2021 is truly a 'class act.'”