Before she was barely old enough to spell “perfect,’’ Amy Rehner was convinced she knew the meaning of it.
After all, she had a living example. Her name was Amelia. Everyone called her Amy, too.
She loved music. She taught Spanish. She drank every drop from the goblet of life.
Amelia was Amy’s godmother and a special friend of the family. They spent time together.
“She was my role model in every way,’’ Amy said. “One day I asked her: ‘How are you so perfect? You do everything right. You are such a great person, always giving and loving.’ She said she didn’t worry about being perfect and doing everything right all the time as much as learning from her mistakes. That really impacted me. It was a turning point in my life.’’
Amelia Hinckley had no children of her own, unless you count the hundreds she taught in the classroom. She was a popular Spanish and English teacher at Stratford Academy in Macon.
Her husband, James, was the band instructor at Thomson Middle School in Centerville, where Amy’s mother, Julie, was the chorus teacher. The Hinckleys attended Faith Lutheran Church in Warner Robins, where Amy’s father, Don, was the minister.
At 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 22, 2000, Amelia was driving to school when her car was hit by a dump trunk at the intersection of U.S. 41 and the Watson Boulevard/Ga. 247 Connector. The truck was hauling a heavy load of gravel and dirt. It failed to stop heading downhill on 247 at the traffic signal. Amelia was pronounced dead at the scene. She was 37 years old.
Julie had to go to Warner Robins Middle School to tell her daughter the sad news. Amy had just finished drama practice. She fell to her knees and wept.
Amy, her parents, and her brother, Daniel, sang at Amelia’s memorial service, which was held in the auditorium at Stratford. Amelia’s mother, Phyllis Halle, gave Amy the cross Amelia had received following her first communion as a young girl.
Although Amy was only 13 and still a few years away from getting her driver’s license, she began a personal crusade for traffic signal improvements at the dangerous U.S. 41 intersection.
She went to the library and researched the number of accidents at that location. She collected more than 200 signatures on a petition calling for the placement of advance warning lights on the hills leading down to the traffic light. Local officials were so impressed and appreciative of her efforts, she was presented the key to the city of Warner Robins.
Amelia taught at Stratford for eight years. She took students on educational trips to Spain. She loved Spanish art and was an enthusiastic admirer of architect Antonio Gaudi. In 2003, the school dedicated a Gaudi-style bench on campus in her memory.
Amy was drawn to the arts. Her family once formed a gospel quartet called “Prodigal” and sang at churches and charitable events. She took ballet and dance and was involved in theater performances.
After pursuing her dream in college in Atlanta and Augusta, she returned home to Warner Robins. She taught voice lessons independently until Georné Aucoin, the founding artistic director at International City School of Ballet, relocated to Atlanta.
Amy, 27, had been one of Aucoin’s students and jumped at the chance to open her own studio in an established location.
In June, she moved into the building at 500 Osigian Blvd. She began offering voice and dance lessons (ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and ballroom), piano and guitar lessons, as well as acting and musical theater. Earlier this week, she held a music video camp.
Although Amy never had Amelia as a teacher, her godmother’s life lessons stayed with her.
“Whenever I was discouraged or felt like I couldn’t succeed with my singing and acting, I would remember her words of encouragement and the good times we had together,’’ Amy said.
On Saturday, July 26, Amy will hold her official grand opening from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. She could have chosen any name for the marquee, even her own.
But she has known all along what she would call it.
Amelia Fine Arts Studios.
It is located less than a mile from the intersection where Amelia Hinckley lost her life almost 14 years ago.
“I wanted to honor her memory,’’ Amy said. “I want people to ask about the name. Some may think my name is short for Amelia, but it’s not. I want it to be a conversation piece. It is meaningful for me to be able to tell them what a wonderful person she was and how much she supported the arts.’’
It is the perfect match for the perfect reason.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.