Cassie Elmira LeGrand Decatur, age 69 of Durham, NC (formerly of Rockingham, NC) transitioned into eternal rest on Saturday, July 18, 2020 at Inova Fairfax Hospital, Falls, Church, VA.
The daughter of the late Price “Bob” LeGrand and the late Ruth Ella Mae McInnis LeGrand, was born on June 1, 1951 in Hamlet, NC. She departed this life on Saturday, July 18, 2020, at INOVA Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, VA.
Elmira, as she was called by most and the name she received as a tribute to her paternal grandmother, began her educational journey at Ashley Chapel Elementary School in Rockingham, NC in 1957. In 1965 she attended Leak Street High for one year, then transferred to Rockingham High, as a part of one of the first classes to integrate the school. Facing racial and social injustice head-on, she continued to flourish academically and socially. While there, she became a basketball star, averaging more than 20 points per game, earning the nickname “Spark Plug”. Her classmates were amazed at her athleticism, character and scholastic ability. And she was well-liked amongst her peers. Despite her school counselor encouraging her and other African American classmates to be cashiers or clean houses, she headed to North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC. There, Elmira graduated cum laude with her Bachelor of Arts in English in the Spring of 1973.
Her counselor’s words urged her to want to change the way students would experience education in the future. So, as a part of her studies, she participated in student teaching at Hillside High School in Durham, NC. She felt so at home, that upon graduation, she returned to Hillside High School as an English teacher. She remained at the school for the next 40 years. Elmira taught hundreds of students, coached basketball, acquired tons of friends and “family”, inspired those in and out of her classroom, and became Hillside Royalty. She not only taught in the classroom, she also supported the Drama Department and traveled with them to Africa and Australia.
Everyone knew that she was hard on them because she loved them, and she wanted nothing but the best out of her students and all those with whom she came in contact.
While at NCCU, Elmira met Joe Decatur. Their relationship blossomed after she graduated, and they were married in 1975 at Greater St. Paul Church in Durham, NC. Elmira was blessed with a daughter (Josette) instantly through their union. A few years later, the couple was blessed by the birth of their daughter Joyienne Edele Decatur in 1978.
Elmira continued to support and impact her community throughout her lifetime. She became a member of the Durham Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., in 1976. She was also a member of Phi Delta Kappa, the National Educators Association, and several other organizations. She and her daughter participated in Jack and Jill of America. She was named Who’s Who of North Carolina Teachers. She regularly attended St. Mark AME Zion Church in Durham but was always a member of her childhood church, Ashley Chapel AME Zion in Rockingham, NC.
Elmira was preceded in death by her parents, Price and Ruth LeGrand, and her sister Dorothy Gibson. Her legacy lives on through her daughters Joyienne and Josette; her grandchildren, Harley and Zen; siblings, Lucille Williams of Ellenwood, GA, Wanda Johnson of Capitol Heights, MD, James LeGrand (Brenda) of Rockingham, NC, Charles E. LeGrand (Thomascena) of Durham, NC, and Rachel Jackson (Artis) of Forestville, MD; brother-in-law Jesse Gibson (Durham, NC); and a host of nieces, nephews, family, and friends.
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