Alice Ann Hamilton, 79: Former DeKalb educator "got her life back" at Emory cardiac program

Alice Ann Hamilton had always walked for exercise.

In 1991 those walks, and physical exercise in general, took on new meaning after the retired  DeKalb County educator suffered a heart attack. She was spared open-heart surgery, but underwent angioplasty at Emory University Hospital.

Afterward, Ms. Hamilton modified her lifestyle tremendously. She  immersed herself in the Emory HeartWise Risk Reduction Program, which stresses cardiac health and fitness. She became its ambassador of sorts, called upon by nurse Bailey Pendergrast to greet new arrivals.

"She was our welcome wagon, basically," she said. "She was friendly, made everybody feel incredibly important, and could talk about how great the program was for her."

Initially, Ms. Hamilton harbored some concerns about life after the heart attack, said family friend Robert Lower of Atlanta.

"She was afraid to travel for a while because she thought she might have another heart attack," he said. "The heart attack really woke her up, and she talked a lot about it. But in conversation, she would often talk about the wonderful experience at Emory and how it gave her  her life back."

On Monday, former Decatur resident Alice Ann Hamilton died of natural causes at Sheridan Place in Dublin. She was 79. A graveside service will he held at 11 a.m. today at Riverside Cemetery in Macon. A memorial will be held at 11 a.m. July 21 at North Decatur United Methodist Church. Stanley Funeral Home and Crematory in Dublin is in charge of arrangements.

Born in Macon, Ms. Hamilton graduated from Wesleyan College with a bachelor's degree in psychology. She later earned a teaching certificate at the school and a master's degree in administration from Georgia State University.

In 1954, she was hired to teach at DeKalb's Medlock School. Eventually, the avid reader moved into administration as a personnel counselor. From there, she rose through the ranks as assistant personnel director, personnel director and assistant superintendent. Her 1984 retirement capped a 30-year career with the DeKalb district.

"I never saw a child who didn't absolutely adore her," said Joyce Paris, a retired Decatur city schools teacher and principal who met Ms. Hamilton when both were Wesleyan students. "She loved everything she did."

Besides reading, Ms. Hamilton enjoyed cross-stitching and volunteering for the local chapter of the Wesleyan Alumnae Association. In 1984, she received the group's distinguished achievement award for her professional career.

Last year, Ms. Hamilton moved to an assistant living facility in Dublin to be near one of  four surviving cousins. Her only sibling, Dr. Charles Hamilton of Atlanta, died in 2007.

In recent years, she had not been as active physically, but back in the day she often rose to attend a 6:30 aerobics class.

"She  really became involved with that Emory program," Ms. Paris said, "and never really had any other problems."