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Gary Phillips, the grandfather of the West Rowan student who was killed nearly two months ago while catching the school bus, was overcome with emotion as he held in his hands a wooden plant stand. The stand was the final woodshop project Makinzy Smith was in the midst of creating before his Oct. 17 death.
Makinzy, 17, was struck by a vehicle and killed around 6:30 a.m. while crossing Woodleaf Road in front of his grandparents’ home.
Other West Rowan High students, some of whom were Makinzy’s friends, completed the project that included two wooden plant stands. The students, along with shop teacher Richard Taylor, presented the finished work on Wednesday to Phillips, his wife, Brenda, mother-in-law Dorothy Wilkerson, Makinzy’s brother, Brandon, and other family members. Makinzy’s mother, Amy Phillips Flannery, was unable to attend.
“We didn’t want Makinzy not to have it finished so we made them for you,” said friend Chris Johnson, “and each cabinet making class helped a little.”
“It’s a great privilege for us because it shows he was respected and he was a great friend of people. He helped us a lot. And we wanted to finish it to show them our support for him,” Johnson said.
Phillips said the entire school system, including the students and staff at West Rowan High, has been wonderful.
“They have been so good to honor Makinzy, and his friends have been so super nice. It means so much to my family and myself,” he said through tears.
Brenda echoed her husband’s sentiments, saying the school had gone above and beyond for the family.
“He was such a special boy, I know that,” Wilkerson added.
Makinzy was the kind of 17-year-old who, had he lived in the 1950s, would’ve been in his element. He was artistic and quite the old soul, his family has said.
Makinzy liked the boogie-woogie music of the 1940s and ’50s and he liked the look of a Zoot suit. He wore his favorite blue suit often.
Every now and then Makinzy and his friends would decide they would have a “blue day” and wear the school’s colors.
“We all wore blue and he wore a suit. He’d try to outshow us every single time,” Johnson said with a smile.
Makinzy spent many weekends at Johnson’s house, and when he wasn’t there he was likely at another friend’s house playing video games. Makinzy’s dream was to become a video game designer, his family has said.
Chris Johnson, who was born in South Africa, went there on a trip this summer and his first day back to North Carolina, Makinzy wanted to hang out.
“The day I got back. He was like, ‘Man, can I come over?’ ” Johnson said.
“Of course, my parents were like, ‘Sure, why not?’ ” he said.
Taylor said the students jumped right in to finish the project. He said West Rowan students have always been that way.
“If you get together and have something for them to do for a good cause, they always jump in there,” he said.
Taylor said he believes through Makinzy’s death the students have realized, “you never know what tomorrow’s going to bring,” and that has inspired them to live life to the fullest.
Barbara Harrison Smith, 57, was charged with felony passing a stopped school bus. She and Makinzy Smith are not related.
Also on Wednesday morning, Barbara Smith appeared in district court for a scheduled probable cause hearing. Phillips said he received a phone call saying he did not have to attend the hearing, which was continued until Jan. 15.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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