The city of Porterdale is in mourning after the death of 11-year-old Jesse James Dukes Sunday.
Dukes' principal at Middle Ridge Elementary School, Karen Crowder, has fond memories of the boy she described as a pleasure to be around.
"I don't think there could be anyone in the building for very long who did not know Jesse," Crowder said. "I've been here for two years, so I don't know all of the 620 plus children that are in this building, but I definitely knew Jesse Dukes. He was just one of those children that stood out in your mind."
Dukes was killed at just after 1 p.m. Sunday in a single car accident. According to the Georgia State Patrol, Dukes' sister Crystal Steger, 23, was driving a 2006 GMC Sierra on Interstate 20 when the vehicle veered onto the road's right shoulder. Steger attempted to correct the truck, but soon lost control.
The truck reportedly rolled several times before coming to a stop in the middle of the road. GSP and medical first responders arrived on scene, but Dukes was later pronounced dead.
According to the GSP, both Dukes and Steger were wearing their seatbelts. No charges have been filled and the accident is currently under investigation by the GSP Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team.
Dukes would have entered the sixth grade later this month. Last year, while in the fifth grade, Dukes was first introduced to art, a class Crowder said he slowly warmed to. By the time he left the class, his art teacher described his work as incredible
"His mom said to be yesterday when I was talking to her that she had put an art poster out to throw away and he said, 'now mom that means a lot to me and I don't want you to throw that away.' So she took it back in," Crowder said.
While he might have been an excellent art student, Dukes favorite past time at school might have been talking with his friends and teachers. Sheryl Marrett, former assistant principle at Middle Ridge, knew Dukes for his entire academic career. When he was in first grade, Marrett helped Dukes through the death of his father.
"She would go to him and say, 'Jesse, I just need you to be quiet for just two minutes,'" Crowder said. "And he would say, 'yes ma'am I can do that.' And he would, but then he'd start talking all over again. He was just that kind of a young man and I know we are going to miss him very much."
Middle Ridges' counselor is prepared to help any student or staff member in need of guidance during the rough time. The faculty and staff have also agreed to do something special for the Dukes family once school begins again.
Crowder said there was one special gift she wanted to personally give to Dukes' mother, Cathy Dukes.
"The fifth graders made an electronic year book and so we have some things that Jesse actually did, some of his writing and some other things he thought were important," Crowder said. "His mom hasn't had a chance to come by and pick that up, so I am exited that I will be able to take that to her. That's a case of teachers doing some good stuff that has lots of meaning and especially will be a good memory for his classmates. They will always have that little part of Jesse to take with them."
Dukes' funeral was held Thursday at the Chapel of Caldwell & Cowan. The Rev. Darryl Payne and the Rev. Joe Kirbo officiated.