Teachers remembered

Published 9:37 am Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Two of the four victims who died in a May 28 crash in Dinwiddie County were, in addition to beloved by their families, friends and communities, educators in Lunenburg County.

Constance Wynn was a longtime educator in Kenbridge, and Wartena Somerville formerly taught at Victoria Elementary School.

The crash involved a truck and a van. The van carried members of the Shiloh Baptist Church, based in Blackstone.

According to multiple news accounts, four people died, three people were flown by helicopter to VCU Medical Center with life-threatening injuries and four people were transported to nearby hospitals for serious injuries. The accident is believed to have been caused by a truck pulling a trailer carrying metal, rear-ending the van as the van was pulling into a church parking lot, causing the van to overturn several times.

Ruby Ingram worked with Somerville in the late 2000s. Somerville was a former student of Ingram. Ingram taught Somerville when she was in preschool.

Both Ingram and Somerville were assigned to teach first grade at Victoria Elementary School. They worked together for seven years.

“We became the best of friends,” Ingram said.

When Somerville’s mother died, Ingram said they supported one another, and Ingram grew to see Somerville like a daughter.

“It was such a joy to work with her,” Ingram said. Somerville and Ingram frequently traveled together and participated in family, church and community events.

Ingram said Somerville transferred to Nottoway County, teaching at Crewe Primary School, where Somerville met her husband and another former student of Ingram, Michael Somerville.

When Wartena and Michael had their daughter, they named Ingram the godmother.

“I never thought I would have to fill the role of a godmother so soon,” Ingram said.

“I’m going to do the best I can to help her learn the legacy of her mother, and to carry on that legacy.”

Somerville loved teaching, Ingram said. She had this prayer on her refrigerator door.

“Father, I thank you for this position. I do not take it for granted but commit myself to performing every task unto you and not man. Give me the strength Lord and move in me throughout the day regardless of circumstances or situations. Lord, let my light shine and share your love with every child I teach.”

Lunenburg County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Charles Berkley Jr. said Wynn had been an educator in Kenbridge for approximately 30 years.

Billy Coleburn, mayor of Blackstone, remembers Wynn as a force of nature whose curiosity, positivity and ability to speak up on important issues were gifts to everyone she knew and loved.

Wynn was a longtime member of the Blackstone Town Council until she retired in 2010. In the year she was elected, she and another woman were the first African American women to serve on the town council.

“Constance was just a really vibrant personality,” Coleburn said.

Coleburn said the four deaths was an enormous loss to Shiloh Baptist Church and to Blackstone.

He said Wynn’s energy and impeccable sense of style brought the community together. Coleburn said Wynn was always up for discussion about important issues, even issues that may cause discomfort.

“She was curious, she was tolerant of others’ viewpoints,” Coleburn said.

He said Wynn’s advice and guidance when they worked together was meaningful to him.

“I don’t live to seek others’ approval, but I always cared what Constance thought,” Coleburn said. “Constance had her hand on the pulse of people … She could tell you what was going on.”

Photo of Wartena Somerville provided by Ruby Ingram. Photo of Constance Wynn provided by Courier-Record.