Her family was small, but her lessons touched generations.
Brenda Swaim Sexton was born in Elkin, N.C., to Ruby and Clay Swaim. While attending Appalachian State Teacher’s College she met Kenneth Sexton, who would later leave to serve in the Army in Laos, and Okinawa. When he returned, the two got married and moved to Okinawa where Brenda went to teach at an Army base.
Eventually, the Sextons came to Atlanta - and Brenda, to a teaching career.
Peachtree Corners resident Brenda Toebben remembered Sexton from Hambrick Elementary. Her friend began teaching there in the early 1970s but took a break to spend time with her children. She returned as a substitute teacher before going fulltime again. “She would make special arrangements to get care for her children, so she could come in and teach for you. That’s the kind of person she was,” recalled Toebben.
In a tribute to her friend, Toebben said, “Brenda was a fantastic teacher. She knew her subject matter and knew how to present the information to her students. But more importantly, she loved her students and they loved her. She was such a good listener that the kids often confided in her and and she helped them deal with many of their problems.”
“She always saw the sunny side. She had such a good sense of humor. And when you were with her, you always had fun,” she recalled.
“She also kept up with friends and former co-workers really well,” said Toebben. “She was interested in their lives.” She said, “How many people do you know who still hang out with their high school and college friends? Well, Brenda did.”
Brenda Swaim Sexton of Buford died Dec. 15 of cancer. She was 71. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22 at Dennyville Baptist Church, Ronda, N.C. Tom M. Wages Funeral Service, Snellville is in charge of arrangements.
Sarah Vaughn of Stone Mountain was a traveling companion and former neighbor. “She was very kind and concerned about others and their feelings,” she said. The pair also attended a Sunday school class at Mountain Park First Baptist Church. Over the years, they traveled to Hawaii, Colorado, Boston and Asheville.
She said her friend also enjoyed cooking and sharing new recipes. “We were both North Carolina girls,” she said, “so she liked that North Carolina barbecue.”
Her son, Bryan Sexton of Atlanta, said his mother “could be a little dry, but she was a very caring person. She kept her emotions close, so she could be seen as a little reserved.”
“Mom could be a strict teacher,” he added, “but she was fair, and you always knew where she stood.”
Brenda Swaim Sexton’s brother, Steve Swaim of Statesville, N.C., recalled his sister’s habit of speaking her mind. “You always knew where you stood with Brenda,” he said. “And after all this time, she was still telling me what to wear. You had to have the right shirt in the right style.”
Kenneth Sexton died in 1997. Brenda Swaim Sexton retired a few years later. Her last assignment was with a sixth grade class at Hambrick Elementary. Though she’d left the chalkboard behind, she kept a teacher’s touch. “With two grandchildren, and one on the way, the important thing to her was spending time with them,” Bryan Sexton said. “She was very loving - but as a former educator, she did not spoil them. She taught them about the alphabet, and she read to them – and loved to have them read to her, too.”
Survivors also include a son, Brandon Sexton of Smyrna; and two grandchildren.
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