The Sun News

Warner Robins community mourns loss of principal

The family of the late Warner Robins High School Principal Steve Monday proceeds into the Central Baptist Church for services on Saturday.
The family of the late Warner Robins High School Principal Steve Monday proceeds into the Central Baptist Church for services on Saturday.

Hundreds of people gathered Saturday afternoon at Central Baptist Church in Warner Robins to pay their last respects to longtime Warner Robins High School Principal Steve Monday, 50, who passed away April 26 after experiencing ongoing health issues.

A large floral arrangement with the “Rockin’ R” on it was placed at the head of the casket while a large drape bearing the letter “R” hung over it. Prior to the service, a DVD played on large television showing a smiling Monday at a variety of school activities with both family and students.

The solemn crowd, largely made up of educators, faculty and both present and past Warner Robins High students and their families, listened intently during the service to Owen Bozeman, the school’s retiring head football coach and Athletics Director Bryan Way, Perry High School Principal Darryl Albritton and Kevin Wall, an educator at The Westfield Schools in Perry, as they shared some of their personal memories of Monday. His dedication to his family and Warner Robins High, his faith and his love of golf were common themes throughout the service. The Warner Robins High School Chorus and local musician Bruce Brookshire sang.

He always told me that family comes first ... the Demon family and personal family.

Chris McCook, interim principal at Warner Robins High School

Way described Monday as “selfless, driven and loyal” and that he “wanted WRHS to be the best” and was its biggest booster.

“No doubt he loved his children, he loved his friends and he loved WRHS,” Way said. “He was proud to be a Demon. He put students first. He never forgot he was there to help kids ... his absence has already left a big void.”

Love of family and school

According to his biography on the Warner Robins High principal web page, Monday was a 1984 graduate of the school. He received his bachelor’s degree in education from Georgia Southern University and received an advanced degree in school leadership from Troy State University. He worked at both Tabor Middle School and Houston County High School before obtaining a job as an assistant principal at Warner Robins High in 2000. In 2004, he was named interim principal and was permanently hired as principal in March 2005. He was selected as a Georgia Distinguished Principal in 2007, one of only seven principals recognized throughout the state, and in 2009 and 2010, Warner Robins High was recognized as a Title 1 Distinguished School under his leadership.

Throughout the week, educators, friends and family spoke freely of Monday’s kindness, drive, dedication and love of family — especially for his two children, Katie and Matt, and his three sisters. Many people noted his love for his students and faculty, and how Warner Robin High School was also his “family.”

Monday’s nephew Ben Lindsey said he was fortunate to have a unique perspective on his uncle, having trained under Monday’s football coaching while he was a student at Houston County High. He said his mother and sisters, who referred to Monday as “Stevie,” have been overwhelmed with the amount of support they have received both during Monday’s illness and since his passing.

“I can tell you that from the time he was sick and up through now, there has been a tremendous amount of support and well-wishers from (people) coming to the hospital ... reaching out with social media … we have been blown away by the number of people who have reached out with phone calls, text or social media,” he said. “It has been a massive outpouring of support and thoughts. It’s surprising and almost overwhelming ... it was unbelievable. We are very happy to know he was that well-loved ... the number of people that he touched. Warner Robins is still a family, tight-knit community. It’s nice to see the community kind of come together on that.”

On Thursday, Way emphasized that Monday was not a micromanager, even though he knew and loved the sport of football and knew what the program needed.

“He was never one to try to tell me or anybody else how to do our job,” he said. “He trusted us enough to do what we were doing. If we needed something ... he would leave no stone unturned to get that for us if we needed something.”

Chris McCook, interim principal at Warner Robins High, was hired by Monday in 2008. He said Monday was a mentor to him as a second-year teacher, showing him the “right way to go about as a coach, principal and leader in the building.” He said the school has really come together since the loss of their leader with “teachers and students rallying together to be there for one another ... as a true family.”

“He always told me that family comes first ... the Demon family and personal family,” McCook said. “He has always been a good father figure ... for his kids, for me and for a lot of lives he has been in contact with.”

McCook said a scholarship is in the works to be given in Monday’s name and that at graduation next month, Monday will be honored in the Warner Robins High tradition of an empty chair, draped with a Warner Robins High blanket, his graduation hood and a rose.

Northside High School Principal Greg Peavy has known Monday for about 20 years. Although Peavy said he is “true blue” Northside and Monday was a “die-hard Demon,” they had a mutual respect for one another and that his school held a moment of silence in Monday’s honor Wednesday.

“He was a type of a mentor to me. ... He was helpful, supportive and answered questions,” he said. “We trusted each other to lean on and support each other. He’ll be missed. He was a great person for this community, and I know WRHS will miss him as well as the Houston County School System.”

Houston County Career Academy Principal Sabrina Phelps echoed those sentiments. She said she was hired by Monday in 2006 as an assistant principal at Warner Robins High and was part of his first leadership team. She said five other assistant principals and Monday were on the team, and he told them that his job was to prepare them to be principals of their own schools. Today, three of those five are principals in Houston County.

“One thing he always emphasized was instructional leadership ... not just discipline, but learning about data ... learning how to help teachers to understand how to use data to guide their instruction,” she said. “He always wanted to recognize the students and celebrate in their successes — whether it was academically, sports or clubs. ... He celebrated students’ successes.”

I will miss his smile and giggle and his warmth ... He had a sense of humor like you would not believe.

Celeste Newberry Hobson

Longtime friend and classmate Celeste Newberry Hobson started a GoFundMe page before Monday’s passing, in hopes of raising money to help ease some of his medical costs. So far, it has raised about $3,500, and she said she is going to change the account so that it is a fundraiser for Monday’s two children, for their needs and education.

Hobson said she shared a locker with Monday the entire time they were at Warner Robins High together and that for his close, personal friends, Monday had a nickname for everyone. Monday’s nickname, Hobson said, was “Rick” because of the baseball player Rick Monday, and his nickname for her was “Locker Buddy.”

“Collectively, we all feel a mortal sense of tragedy,” she said, adding that Monday was the go-to person for anything their class needed. “Steve always met you with this smile that made anybody feel like you had a personal friendship. He never had a bad word to say about anybody.”

“I will miss his smile and giggle and his warmth,” she said. “He never wanted anybody to know anything was wrong ... He was strong in character, strong in conviction, but the best friend anybody could ever have. He had a sense of humor like you would not believe.”

Deputy Superintendent Cindy Flesher released a statement saying, “It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Mr. Steve Monday, a long-time member of our school system family ... This is a great loss to our community and district and especially to his school, Warner Robins High. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”