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‘A true fighter’

South Boston News
Heather Anne Tucker making a final appearance on the soccer field during the 2014 Soccer Splash in May. A special U19 team was formed, which enabled Heather Anne to play with sister, Hannah Rose Tucker. / July 16, 2014
In the end, there was this Tweet from Heather Anne Tucker, after the famous quote by Winston Churchill: “This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. It is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

The British Prime Minister expressed the sentiment at the height of World War II, a conflict this side would go on to win. Tucker, a 15-year-old Bluestone High School freshman, expressed the same indomitable spirit as she fought her battle against brain cancer.

The daughter of Trish and David Tucker of Clarksville died Thursday, the result of an inoperable Stage 4 brain tumor, Glioblastoma Multiforme.

“Heather Anne [Tucker of Clarksville] fought a good fight but went to be with Jesus today [July 10] at 12:04. She was one tough girl who will never be forgotten,” observed a post that appeared on the Facebook page, “Prayers for Heather Anne,” on the day of her passing.

Before her affliction, Tucker was a 14-year-old Bluestone High School freshman; after learning of the diagnosis, she went public with the news of her disease, gaining fans and admirers with her displays of candor and grace — sharing the anguish of first love, her passion for soccer, and the joys of being accepted into the Mecklenburg Junior Women’s Association with her friends on Twitter. As recently as May, she made an appearance on the soccer field to play side-by-side with her sister, Hannah Rose Tucker, at the 2014 Soccer Splash tournament in Clarksville. She also co-chaired the community’s Relay for Life cancer fundraiser in May.

Friends remembered Heather Anne this week for her kindness and determination: “I will never forget her smile, her spirit and her love for the game,” said Chris Williamson, for three years her soccer coach. “She never backed down from a challenge and she always encouraged the other players and the coaches.”

Teammate Lucas Glasscock recalled Tucker, as a 12-year-old, holding her own in soccer action against a team of much older players (U18): “She lived and breathed the game, and never let anyone get under her skin. I often wished I had her passion for the sport. When you played with her you were at ease, because you knew she would not let anything bad happen.”

The Rev. Doug Geddes, pastor of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Clarksville and St. John’s in Chase City, baptized Tucker as an infant. He said it was evident from an early age that “she had a profound sense of faith you don’t find in a lot of people. She just seemed to know that Christ was present in her life.”

It showed in her choice of a favorite Bible passage, Psalm 23:4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Geddes observed that he was at Tucker’s side on the day she learned her brain cancer was inoperable. Yet moments after hearing the diagnosis, the smiling teen posed arm-and-arm with Geddes. He said he keeps the picture on his cell phone, a reminder of a young girl who he calls courageous, selfless, inspirational and sweet.

He also had only praise for Tucker’s parents, Trish and David, and the way they have allowed the community to be a part of Heather Anne’s fight against cancer. Geddes said he believes that because of the Tucker family, other families in the community have grown closer and not taken their relationships for granted.

As Heather Anne’s tumor progressed, friends, admirers and even rivals rallied to her cause. Teams at Cumberland and Bluestone High Schools, normally rivals on the playing fields, united to host a volleyball fundraiser for the Tucker family. Friends and neighbors stepped forward with words of support and gifts to help Heather Anne fill her “bucket list.”

“She wanted to go skydiving,” recalled her godfather, Nat Hutcheson, this week. At first, it seemed as if this would not be possible. Some locations refused to allow anyone under 18 to parachute from a plane. “She was able to go with her mother and sister,” he said, adding, “She was a true fighter, she never gave up.”

As word of Tucker’s illness spread, she was often called on to assume an advocacy role in the cause against cancer. Geddes said many people in her position would have shied away or begged off. Not Tucker: “Heather Anne saw her illness as a gift that gave her an opportunity. Instead of being self-centered, she accepted her new role in the community.”

In May, she joined Julie Ames as honorary chair of the Clarksville Relay for Life. During the Relay ceremonies, older sister Hannah Rose read from letters Tucker wrote chronicling her illness. “You never know what plan God has for you,” Heather Ann wrote in one letter, adding that she had no time for anger or hurt, and had it not been for her cancer, she would not have had the opportunity to meet so many kind, loving and supportive people.

Ames said of her time with Tucker, “It was easy to love Heather Anne immediately. She was 15, adorable, smart and brave. She was always a good sport. No matter how many times I thrust her into the spotlight, she just rolled her eyes a bit, smiled and jumped in.”

Ames continued, “When I first met Heather Anne and her mother Tricia, they made a significant impact on me. The bond between mother and daughter was tangible and what touched me most. Being in their presence together was to be profoundly impacted by their mutual faith, strength and love.”

Trish Tucker, speaking to the crowd at Relay for Life, quoted one of Heather Anne’s favorite lines from Winnie the Pooh: “If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together ... there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart ... I’ll always be with you.”

Pondering her fate on another occasion, Heather Anne tweeted, “I’ve always wondered if I died who would cry over me and who would come to my funeral.” Mourning her loss, her godfather, Nat Hutcheson, offered this rejoinder: “If there were more people like Heather Anne, this would be an entirely different world.”

Geddes added that Heather Anne’s passing will be felt for some time to come. “This is not the end for the Tuckers. For them, it is not over,” he said. “In fact, they need the community now more than ever.”

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