Mary Ann Elvington died how she lived, her son said, at the foot of the cross.
Elvington was born in Mullins, South Carolina, and graduated from Floyds High School in 1959. She married and graduated from Coker College in 1964 and from University of South Carolina in 1990.
She had three children, Margol, Harold and Hugh.
She was a devoted Christian, a beloved teacher and according to her family, “the best Grammy.”
“She would never miss a birthday or a ballgame,” her youngest son, Hugh, said. Hugh’s daughter has a birthday this month, and it will be the first one without her grandmother.
Elvington’s life came to an end March 28 after police say she was kidnapped and murdered.
It was Palm Sunday.
Her body was found near a church in Marion County. The steeple on top of the church had a cross on top of it.
‘I’m on my way home’
The last time Margol Elvington heard her mother’s voice was over the phone; she was “on her way home.”
Margol said she now knows her mother was talking about heaven.
All of Elvington’s three children spoke about her devotion to her Christian beliefs. Harold, her oldest son, said that his mother wasn’t afraid to die, because “she knew where she was going afterwards.”
Elvington was well known at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Nichols. The 80-year-old taught Sunday school and was a faithful parishioner.
Bailee Elvington remembers making Easter bunny cakes with her grandmother. Easter egg hunts at Grammy’s fully decorated house were always something the family looked forward to.
“We made our own individual cakes because she didn’t want us to have to share,” Bailee said. “She wanted us to make them how we wanted to.”
This year Bailee, now grown up, was going to be in charge of baking the cakes at her house and bringing them to get decorated at her grandmother’s house.
The now-unoccupied house is decorated for Easter, a tradition — like the cakes and Easter egg hunts — Elvington kept alive for her grandchildren.
The devotion to family and faith was passed down through the generations, and the Elvingtons are leaning on it to get through their loss.
“When times are the toughest, that’s when you come together,” Harold Elvington said, surrounded by his children and siblings. “What would we do without it?”
‘Nothing you wouldn’t do for your students’
Elvington spent three decades teaching elementary school. Most of her students from Green Sea Elementary are now grown but they haven’t forgotten the impact Elvington had on them.
“You were the sweetest teacher. There was nothing you wouldn’t do for your students,” Shaquana Goodwin, a former student, wrote on a virtual tribute page. “Such a sweet spirit that spread through your teaching. It was a pleasure to have known you.”
Harold Elvington said the family has been getting calls like this since his mother’s death.
“They all start off by saying ‘You don’t know me, but I knew your mama,’” he said.
Another former student, Charlie Fogle, said Elvington had a lifelong influence on his wife and him.
“In Sunday School, she taught me in a child’s class, my wife and me in a Young Married Couples Class and most recently she taught my wife in the Older Ladies Adult Class,” Fogle wrote on the page. “She will be missed but her legacy and Christian influence will go on forever in the lives she touched”
By Easter Sunday, a week after Elvington’s death, hundreds of people had written short tributes to her on the memorial page.
The criminal case
Police have not released many details about the events leading up to Elvington’s death.
She was reported missing from an Horry County home on March 28 and found dead in Marion County the following day.
The following Wednesday, Horry County and Marion police arrested Dominique Brand and charged him with murder, kidnapping and several weapons offenses.
He appeared virtually at a bond hearing the next day. He answered questions from a magistrate judge and was denied bond because of the violent nature of the crime he is accused of.
Elvington’s three adult children stood side by side, holding hands, leaning on each other for strength, and spoke at the bond hearing. In an attempt to paint a portrait of their mother to the judge through emotional testimony, they described a woman who spent her life serving her community, her family and her God.
“She was the epitome of a perfect lady,” Margol Elvington said, fighting tears. “She was our rock.”
Outside of the Marion County Detention Center, joined by more family, the children said that they had faith that law enforcement had done their job and that “justice would be served.”
They told stories, shared laughs and tears and were thankful that their mother had made funeral arrangements in advance.
Elvington even had her funeral song picked out, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
“She did it her way,” Harold and Bailee remembered. “The Grammy way.”