After years of struggling with cancer, former Bryan County High School valedictorian and homecoming queen Angie Cowart-Hammerstein, 42, has died from cancer.
"For me, Angie will always be remembered as that beautiful young woman who graduated with honors from Bryan County High School," said her former teacher, Carolyn Downs. "She was always so bright and full of life."
It was merely a year and a half ago when over a thousand people flocked to a benefit festival in Pembroke’s Dubois Square to help Angie with her mounting medical bills as she fought the deadly disease. The successful event garnered $15,000 in proceeds and included carnival rides and a homecoming concert from BCHS graduate-turned-American Idol Michael Sandecki.
She leaves behind her husband Gene, her seven-year-old daughter Taylor and a large number of friends and family in Pembroke, where she grew up.
Since first diagnosed in 2002, she has been traveling to specialists across the country in hopes of defeating the disease. When interviewed prior to the festival, Hammerstein said she fought back physical pain in order to maintain a normal family life for her young daughter. Up until 2007, she was able to do so and was seen at numerous events, including Bryan County’s 2006 Seafood and Balloon Festivals.
Her husband said cancer took a harsher toll over this past summer until finally rendering her bed ridden.
"It just happened way too fast," he said. "But thanks to her will to live, she was able to teach Taylor those things that only a mother could. She was such a strong person and a fantastic wife. She would’ve quit a long time ago if not for Taylor and did more than any human being should be asked to do. For that, I am forever indebted to her."
"A couple things happened the day she died to let me know that Angie is O.K. and will always be in our lives," he added. "This holiday season is not going to be an easy road, but I’m so thankful for everyone in the community who has helped Taylor and me."
Jay Cook, who has been close to Angie since childhood, has even set up a fund for those who would like to help the family. It is a college fund for Taylor. To donate, you can send a check or money order to: Taylor Hammerstein College Fund, Attention Jay Cook, BB&T Bank, PO Box 878, Statesboro, GA 30459.
"This is what she would have wanted," Gene Hammerstein said. "Not so much flowers or something like that – something to help with Taylor’s future. It really was a wonderful thing for Jay to do."
"She was a planner from birth and she loved to entertain," Cook said. "Cancer was not in her plans. I know one thing though – there’s a new social director in heaven."
Cook’s mother, Pembroke Mayor Judy Cook, was also very close to Angie. She recalls working together for the city of Pembroke. Angie went on to become an executive with UPS and a director of Brewton Parker College after earning degrees at UGA and Brenau University.
"I remember dropping her off at college in Athens," Mayor Cook said. "This disease was certainly a bump in the road for her, but she achieved the majority of what she set out to do. Angie will always be with us in our hearts and memories. She had a way of touching the lives of everyone she met."