FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- About a year ago, I walked into Scales Child Development Center with my newborn son tucked into a sling wrapped tightly around my chest. I was looking for a safe place for him to stay while my husband and I worked; I was looking for assurances that putting him in on-post child care was what was best.

And I found both, through the help of Peggy Smalls, one of Scales' assistant directors.
Coincidentally, Smalls had just joined the center's staff, after more than two decades of working in various other positions on post, including a stint at the Youth Services Center.

I don't know if it was her first week or her first month at the center, but I know that from the moment I first called the center to schedule an appointment for a tour, Smalls made me feel welcome. Petite with an open, joy-filled face, Smalls led me through the maze of infant and toddler rooms, allowing me the chance to meet those who may be caring for my child.

Although we entered classes that my child may never see, she took the time to familiarize me with the entire layout. In addition to being knowledgeable about the center's goings on, she was also perceptive; I don't know if I had a particular look on my face or if she was simply familiar with the reticence of a new mom leaving her first child in the hands of virtual strangers. Whatever the case, she reassured me that she would find a good fit for my son. In fact, for the first few weeks, she checked in with me to make sure things were going OK.

As time went on, I didn't see as much of her, but when I did, she was always ready with a smile and a remark at how far my son had come since those days of being carried around in a sling.

Sunday, Smalls died in a car accident in Fredericksburg, Va. Already, the center's loss is apparent. A small photo sits atop the check-in desk and a larger photo in the room shows just how much Smalls will be missed by her Fort Jackson family. Though small in stature, my impression of Smalls will be a big one; her constant smile, her patience with me as I asked question after question. Even during stressful times, I don't think I ever heard her raise her voice.

Each center room now carries a note to parents, informing them of the loss. And on that note, is a portion of Charlotte Bronte's "Parting," a fitting poem as we all remember

Smalls in our own ways.
There's no use in weeping,
Though we are condemned to part:
There's such a thing as keeping
A remembrance in one's heart:
So there's no use in weeping,
Bear a cheerful spirit still;
Never doubt that Fate is keeping
Future good for present ill!"

Editor's note: Crystal Lewis Brown is an Army spouse of five years and the editor of the Fort Jackson Leader.