Katherine Yeager | Echo
Research contributed by: Annabelle Blair, Cassidy Grom, Ellie Hershberger, Becca Robb and Peyton Smith
Dear Cindy McWhirt,
We were blessed to be served by you. A life spent in Grant County, from attending Wes-Del High School and Tucker Vocational School, to serving at Taylor since 1993, you invested in your community until the end of your 52 years. One of three children, you loved your family. You loved your husband, your two sons, your two grandsons and your "Taylor kids." Thank you for reminding us to FROG (Fully Rely On God) and teaching us the value of knowing the person behind the name.
Gina Walker, First Cousin
McWhirt and Walker came from a large family. Walker recalls family get-togethers at their grandparents' home.
"Growing up, Cindy was always laughing and smiling," Walker said. "I cannot ever remember a time when she was not showing happiness . . . To think of Cindy has always put a smile on my face."
Ron Brooks, Line Cashier
Ron Brooks worked with McWhirt for the last 8 years. Above everything else, McWhirt's friendliness toward students and guests to Taylor consistently stood out to Brooks.
"Cindy wanted to know as many of them by name as possible," Brooks said. "Cindy always took time to talk and get to know everyone! She usually always had a smile and good word for everyone."
Susan Malone, East Line Cashier
Susan Malone worked with McWhirt for many years at The Grille until McWhirt became a DC cashier. In February 2016, Malone became a DC cashier, joining McWhirt once again.
"The past 10 months have been a joy getting to rekindle our friendship," Malone said. "Cindy was always trying to start a new fad! She wanted to implement the ringing of a cow bell (dinner bell), signaling that the front service staff was ready to start the line and let the students down."
Erica Kieffer, Breakfast Cashier
McWhirt was the first co-worker 16-year-old Erica Kieffer met as she began her first job as a cashier in the Dining Commons. Kieffer remembers McWhirt seeing the potential in her and bringing her out of her shell.
"When you work with someone almost every day for over five years, the influence they have on your life is substantial," Kieffer said. "Although I had planned to leave after high school, I stayed because of the friendship I developed with someone who, two years prior, was a complete stranger."
Kieffer saw McWhirt as a mother and a best friend. Kieffer would visit McWhirt on her days off. As a college student, Kieffer would work on papers at McWhirt's desk. McWhirt would ask Kieffer to take a break and grab her a coffee: one pump of hazelnut, one of vanilla and a truvia packet.
Kieffer recalls listening to everything from classic country to current pop hits with McWhirt. The duo would often talk of life lessons or the little details occurring in their lives.
"When someone such as Miss Cindy has had such a big impact on my life, it's the little things that happen every day that I will remember her by-even one of those small things like writing in pen when I should be using a pencil," Kieffer said. "I will miss our cruises and long talks but most of all will miss making her laugh."
Matthew Riley, Director of Dining Services, Taylor University
Matthew (Matt) Riley, director of dining services, remembers entering his current position at Taylor in 2012.
"I was the new guy, and people were unsure of me because they had not had a 'new guy' in a long time," Riley said. "Cindy took it upon herself to figure out my story." Soon, Cindy told Riley, "I think you are going to be all right."
McWhirt's sons are near Riley's age, and she treated him like one of them. McWhirt got to know Riley's wife and oldest daughter, and, as his family grew, McWhirt ensured she had pictures of his children so she could show them off as if they were her own.
"My kids loved Cindy so much and were always very excited to see her whenever they would come to eat a meal with me," Riley said. McWhirt and her husband, David, who also works with Dining Services, would often stop by the Riley home just to see Riley's wife, Stacey, and their children.
Riley remembers McWhirt for her servanthood and genuine love for strangers; her listening ear and uplifting words, and in all of this, claiming she was "just doing her job."
"The thing about Cindy," Riley said, "is that when she 'just did her job,' she was forever changing lives."
Penny Mitchener, Office Coordinator, Taylor Dining ServicesPenny Mitchener began working with McWhirt when Creative Dining Services became the contract food service at Taylor in June 1993. McWhirt began in the DC bakery. A year later, Mitchener moved to the position of Grille Manager in the student union. When Mitchener's baker at The Grille retired, Mitchener gave McWhirt the opportunity to assume the role. Over the years, McWhirt worked as a DC baker, the "care package lady" in the Grille and Mitchener's lead cashier, concession stand coordinator and friend.
"We didn't go shopping together, we didn't go to the movies, we didn't travel together . . . but when we were at work, we were connected and shared a huge love for Taylor and her students, staff and guests," Mitchener said. "Every morning she would pop in my office with a big smile and a 'Hidyhoo and fine day to you . . . how is everyone today?'"
While Mitchener served as McWhirt's boss, she considered herself, first and foremost, McWhirt's friend. To Mitchener, McWhirt was the epitome of selflessness. Her love for her husband, David, sons Tyler and Caleb, and grandsons Liam and Radley, was evident to Mitchener.
"She would drop anything to get the opportunity to spend time with her family," Mitchener said. "She always considered the TU students 'her kids'-all 1,700 of them-and even tried to learn all of their names. It is my hope that all the Taylor students past and present will neverforget her name, the Cindy that made their Taylor experience a memorable one. I know that God must have been in need of a new 'swiper' at those pearly gates, so I promise you, Cin, I will have my TU ID when I get there."
Daniel Morrison ('16)
Daniel Morrison considered McWhirt a consistent blessing in his life throughout his time at Taylor. He appreciated her cheerful attitude and effort to get to know students.
"I bet she knew almost everyone by name," Morrison said. "She was a very gracious card-swiper, letting me in at times when I had forgotten my ID at the dorm! She will be greatly missed."
Nicole Senft ('16)
Alumna Nicole Senft ('16) describes a unique connection between herself and McWhirt.
"She always thought I had so much spring in my step as I would come in the DC, and that was how my nickname came to be 'Hoppy,'" Senft said. "I would run up and down the stairs multiple times during each meal to tell Cindy what was being served. Through my relationship with Cindy, I got to know more of the DC staff."
Kelly Helton ('15)
Kelly Helton remembers her first Christmas at Taylor. She complimented the mouse pin McWhirt was wearing on her way to dinner. When Helton left the DC, McWhirt caught her eye and handed her the pin. Helton thinks of McWhirt every time she wears it.
Adria Mccardy ('15)
"I don't really remember the first time I met Cindy, but that's because Cindy was the type of person that once you met her, you felt like you've known her forever," Adria Mccardysaid. "We would have our frequent discussions at the DC about our love for accessories and fashion trends and just kept each other updated about what was new for us that week."
One of the things that made McWhirt memorable to Mccardy was that she remembered the little things they would mention in passing.
"Even with all the students she saw every day, she could make you feel like you were the only student there," Mccardy said. "Though her occupation stated 'cashier,' Cindy was a counselor when needed, a dear friend when wanted and a strong woman of faith and sunshine whenever and wherever she went."
Kevin Schillinger ('14)
Kevin Schillingerknew McWhirt from working in concessions for basketball and football games. He remembers her joy in every situation. According to Schillinger, no matter how long she worked or how her day was, McWhirt made it a priority to interact with every student she could.
Cassie (Vaflor) Israel ('12)
As a student, Cassie Israel remembers McWhirt's daily greetings in the same way she remembers God's constancy. The hellos and goodbyes were reminders of God's faithfulness.
"One spring, we got to talking about strawberry and rhubarb pie," Israel said. "She said I should try her mother's recipe. Knowing that I did not have any ingredients or a kitchen, Cindy offered her own, and we made everything at her house, and she drove me there and back! Her actions spoke about our Savior as much as her faithful hellos."
Christopher Gearhart, Sophomore
Christopher Gearhart remembers McWhirt's joy-filled, passionate life of faith and is encouraged to pursue the same traits.
"Cindy, you blessed so many with your beautiful heart," Gearhart said. "Thank you for all the memories we shared as I fumbled for my ID or tripped up the stairs; you always made me smile. I know you're sharing that lovely, heart-warming smile with the one who loved you the most."
Tanner Huber, Sophomore
Tanner Huber remembers McWhirt stopping him one Saturday in the DC to ask about his evening plans. He told McWhirt that he had a worship event with his sister floor. Huber remembers McWhirt's response: "Well, I was going to have you work tonight, but no way! You have to get your Jesus on, Tanner!"
Taylor Treece, Sophomore
During J-term of her freshman year, Taylor Treece got a scratch on the black strip on her Taylor ID, so it no longer worked when she went to the DC.
"Not only did Cindy remember me by name, but she knew she had to always type in my ID code and would make a game out of it," Treece said. "She would always see if she had it memorized, and by the end of the year she not only knew who I was but knew my Taylor ID by heart.
Maria Belmont, Taylor parent
While visiting Taylor, Maria Belmont and a group of parents spoke with McWhirt. The conversation, according to Belmont, was unforgettable.
"That time spent interacting with her was one of the significant factors of me, as a mom, feeling a peace about our son's decision to attend Taylor," Belmont said.
McWhirt's funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. on November 10 in Rediger Chapel. Her death appears to have occurred from natural causes, according to Jim Garringer, media relations director.
Penny Mitchener, office coordinator in Taylor Dining Services, said a table will be set up in the lobby on Monday for students to write their favorite memory of McWhirt or send condolences to her family. The cards will be assembled in a scrapbook and given to her family to keep her memory alive.