Woman gives away late mother's doll collection to local schoolchildren .
FORT WALTON BEACH — Violet McGhee passed away in Tennessee four years ago, but thanks to her daughter and the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, Violet’s legacy and her collection of Barbie dolls are touching the lives of local children this Christmas.
According to Debbie McGhee, Violet’s daughter and a special education teacher at Meigs Middle School, her mother had a habit of collecting Barbie dolls throughout her life. She mostly kept the dolls in their boxes and displayed them in the basement of her Manchester, Tennessee home.
“She just loved Barbie dolls. I think a lot of it had to do with growing up on a farm and she didn’t get those luxuries at Christmastime, so she took an interest in them,” Debbie said. “Some she bought, some I gave her and her sons gave her, some her friends gave her.
“She liked that they came in all kinds of different costumes and she liked that they were seasonal,” Debbie added. “She liked that at Christmas they would have a new Christmas seasonal Barbie doll.”
By the end of her life, Violet had collected around 200 Barbie dolls over a span of 35 years. Before she passed away in 2013 at the age of 83, she told her daughter of a special wish.
“She asked me if I would take her Barbie collection and if I would share it with less fortunate children at Christmas,” Debbie said.
She added her mother had spent most of her life working in schools as a secretary or other type of assistant. She traveled the country often with her military husband and loved being around children, including her own. In addition to Debbie, Violet was the mother of two sons, one of whom went on to become a doctor and the other who served in the armed forces.
About eight months ago, Debbie said she finally received her mother’s Barbie collection. After choosing a few to save for herself, she reached out to her friend, Deputy Trey Ellison, a school resource officer at Davidson Middle School in Crestview. Ellison spoke to his supervisor, Sgt. Erick Denny, who said he would be happy to help Debbie distribute the dolls before Christmas.
“I’ll distribute the Barbie dolls among my elementary school resource officers and let them make that determination and choose who they elect to pass those Barbie dolls on to,” Denny said. “It could be someone that made a difference or is constantly doing well in school even though they may not be the straight-A student, someone who goes above and beyond. We’ll let them be recognized for their achievements.”
Denny added he was sure the dolls would “make a little kid’s day.”
“We always look for some kind of reward for these kids because that little extra step just really goes a long way with these kids,” Ellison said. “We’re delighted for this donation of the Barbie dolls because it will allow us to be able to lighten up a special child’s life.”
Debbie, who has been a special education teacher for 26 years and has coached Special Olympics for the same amount of time, said she was just happy to be carrying out her mother’s wishes.
“I think my mom would have been very proud to see these dolls go to these kids,” she said. “She said she enjoyed them for years and years, and it was time for other children to enjoy them when she couldn’t any longer.
“It makes me happy that I was able to fulfill my mother’s wishes,” Debbie added. “I am very blessed to have had a mother like Violet McGhee.”