A Jacksonville State University groundskeeper known to many students and staff died Thursday morning in a single-vehicle wreck north of Piedmont.
Tatum Deason, 41, was traveling north on Alabama 9 into Centre before 8 a.m. when her 1999 Ford Ranger left the roadway, Cherokee County Coroner Jeremy Deaton said Thursday afternoon.
“Her vehicle flipped and she was partially ejected from her vehicle out the side window,” Deaton said. “She was pronounced dead at the scene.”
State Trooper Curtis Summerville wrote in a news release that Deason was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the wreck.
Deason was remembered by JSU officials on Thursday for her rapport with students.
“She was known for giving encouraging words to students — particularly young women — while pruning hedges and trees around campus,” JSU President John Beehler wrote.
Buffy Lockette, spokeswoman for the university, said the news broke her heart, and that the groundskeeper left behind small children.
“I’ve talked to her numerous times and thought she was a cool individual,” Lockette said. “She got everyone’s attention because she was such a hard worker.”
Deason had been a groundskeeper at the university since 2007.
“She told me once that she doesn’t work any harder than the men, but that people weren’t used to seeing a woman do that kind of work,” Lockette said.
Still, Lockette and many students, the spokeswoman said, took notice of Deason’s work.
“She looked like a Disney princess ripping a tree out of the ground. It was an empowering image,” Lockette said. “She was a little hero on campus. It’s really shocking and sad.”
Beehler wrote that grief counselors would be on campus on Friday for anyone who may need them. The counselors will be in the Capital Planning Conference Room in the Maintenance Shop from 9-11 a.m. and the HR Conference Room in Bibb Graves Hall, Room 323, from 1-3 p.m.