MEMPHIS, Tenn. — School is out for the thousands of children in Shelby County Schools. Students and staff at Belle Forest Community School spent the first part of their winter break saying goodbye to their beloved music teacher, Christopher Waters, who was killed in a home invasion last week.
After the bell rang, they headed across the street to Ridgeway Assembly of God for a memorial service to celebrate his life.
"Nothing about him was somber. He was always happy. He was always full of joy," said Belle Forest Principal Lori Phillips.
It was standing-room-only at Waters' memorial service. The 30-year-old music teacher died a tragic death last week, but the focus today was on how he lived.
"There's just so many stories about Christopher Waters. He brightened our school. He brightened the lives of our students. He made our day just easier. We had hard days, but he would make those days fun," said Stephanie Phelix, a co-worker.
They wanted this service to embody his spirit, one of love and laughter.
"That's just his personality. I think it's just coming right out in the service, and I know that's how he would have wanted it," said Lori Moscato, a former co-worker.
His co-workers shared stories about break time, which Waters affectionately called "lunch and learn." He did the schooling. They learned about his candid fun take on life.
Sondra Hinton explained some of the things they laughed and joked about.
"Who wasn't pulling their weight at car-rider duty. Who wasn't turning in their detention slips on time," she said.
Students from Mr. Water's Virtuosi Club performed and shared what he meant to them.
"I want to say thank you Mr. Waters for making me who I am today in orchestra. You have taught me a lot of valuable things about music," said student Chandler Harley.
His friends say he loved his profession and loved the children he taught. One of his former co-workers said that's their challenge now, show more love and do it in his memory. She ended by calling out mutual friends in the audience and telling them she loved them.
"Mario, I love you. Tequila, Rekeisha, I love you and I'm going to give you the Chris smile," she said.
A funeral for Chris will be held in his hometown of Nashville.