Beloved Texas Choir Director Dies Minutes After Students Serenade Her: 'She Loved Her Kids and Her Kids Loved Her'
One of the last sounds Texas school choir director Mariana Walker heard before she died was a group of her beloved students singing to her.
Around 20 former Alvin Junior High choir kids gathered outside the teacher’s Alvin, Texas, house on October 5 to perform a rendition of Hillsong United’s “Oceans” for the woman they considered to be “a mentor, teacher and friend.”
Walker, who was diagnosed with cancer, was released from hospice care a few days prior and living at home. Her daughter, Alyx Vesey, opened Walker’s window and front door so she could hear the music drift in.
Twelve minutes after the students left her house, Walker, at the age of 69, passed away.
“It’s honestly like she was waiting on the kids,” Lisa Turner Howell, who filmed the heartwarming moment, tells PEOPLE. “They sounded like angels. ”
Turner Howell’s daughter and son both had Walker – who taught at Alvin Junior High for 16 years — as a choir teacher and says her kids “absolutely adored” the director.
“You can see how loved she was by all the kids who showed up to sing to her,” she says. “Everyone came together.”
Alvin Junior High band director Kyle Norman worked with Walker for seven years and says hearing students sing gave her “so much joy.”
“She talked about their singing in terms of it being exquisite and glorious and beautiful,” Norman tells PEOPLE. “Music was important to her and her kids were important to her, so of course her kids’ music was the most important.”
When the longtime director’s cancer forced her to stop working last year, students and staff at Alvin Junior High “felt her absence.”
“She was such a big presence at the school,” says Norman. “Middle school is a hard time for kids and her classroom was a safe haven, even for kids who weren’t in her class. When they had a rough day they always wanted to go talk to her. She gave great advice. ”
He adds, “There was no mistaking it. She loved her kids and her kids loved her.”
Walker’s funeral service was held at a church in Alvin on Monday and over 100 students attended and sang “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” while holding hands.
“She’ll be so missed,” says Norman. “She used music to reach kids and inspire confidence in them, she changed lives.”
“She’ll be remembered for that.”