Mullings – Ms. Kelsey Grace-Ellen Dunn … An Educator Whose Shortened Career and Life Still Impacted So Powerfully

It is only appropriate a quote by Christa McAuliffe be used to describe the shortened life of Ms. Kelsey Grace-Ellen Dunn, a 28-year-old educator whose life ended suddenly in recent days as a result of a traffic accident.

McAuliffe, a teacher and U.S. astronaut who died at the age of 37, provided these six words penned so eloquently – “I touch the future. I teach.” It is in the past, present, and the future that Ms. Dunn’s life made and will continue to make such an impact. A native of Sharon Grove and a 2013 graduate of TCCHS, Kelsey earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Murray State as well as a master’s degree in conducting and teacher leadership from Western Kentucky University. Most recently the band director at North Hardin High School in Radcliff, Kentucky, Ms. Dunn was described in a Facebook post by the Todd County Bands as “a shining star in the music education world and a light in the lives of all who knew her. It was impossible to have a conversation with her and not leave with a smile on your face.”

In a statement via Western Kentucky University’s Big Red Band, Ms. Dunn was described as “an incredible musician, an educator who shaped lives every day, and a light to every community in which she was a part.” The post also shared, “Kelsey made such an impact in this world – you could see it in her students’ faces, their passion, and their love of music.” Explaining his sorrow about the loss of Ms. Dunn and what he was not anticipating about her visitation and funeral, Calvin Warren III, former band director at TCCHS, also shared to counteract his sadness, “I’m looking forward to hearing the impact you had on so many people. I’m looking forward to the laughter that you gave people. I’m looking forward to hearing about everyone’s joy when they were in your presence.”

A former Murray State music professor, John Fannin, shared about Ms. Dunn’s sudden loss, “What’s really unfair is thinking about the thousands of future students who will never get the chance to have their lives positively influenced by Kelsey.” Explaining what Ms. Dunn would encourage her to do, her sister-in-law, Mrs. Emily Dunn, commented, “I will stop to smell the wildflowers because that’s what she would do. I will say yes to more things even when I’m scared because that’s what she would do. I will take time to make beautiful music because that’s what she would do. I will take more pictures and take time to laugh because that’s what she would do.”

Noting she admired Ms. Dunn for her determination and genuinely kind heart, a friend of Ms. Dunn’s at TCCHS, Ms. Kelsey Jones commented, “She instantly brightened up every atmosphere she was in. Her smile and laughter were contagious.” Another post shared similar sentiments – “Kelsey Dunn was an amazing young educator and inspired many. Her tragic loss has been felt statewide.” A colleague of Ms. Dunn at North Hardin, Ms. Cassie Lucas, shared recurring characteristics that portrayed the young educator Ms. Dunn was – “focused, determined, talented, extremely skilled, and most of all, compassionate.” She also added, “You taught me to believe in myself, and to fight for the things I wanted out of life. You reminded me that big things are just a bunch of little things pieced together; to slow down and take things one step at a time.”

Ironically, in a Facebook post on February 24, Ms. Dunn commented, “Life is too short for you not to convey raw emotions and feel sentimental.” Ms. Cloie Rager, a friend of Ms. Dunn from TCCHS, noted she was “one of the best people on the planet. If you knew her, you loved her, no question about that.” Those myriad sentiments definitely highlight the life of a young daughter, fiancée, educator, colleague, friend, and sister whose 28 years of life brightened the lives of those she touched. Murray State’s Department of Music said it so eloquently, “Kelsey was a bright light extinguished too soon. She will live in our hearts forever.” Christa McAuliffe’s six words also so poignantly illustrate the impact of this young and talented educator, one who taught and touched the lives of so many a part of her world and her very shortened life.

~ Article by Carolyn L. Wells

June 11, 2024

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