Mother’s Day is going to be hard for Michele Gagne and Shelly Wells. It will be the first one without their mother, and the day falls on the four-month anniversary of her untimely death.
“I just want to skip over the day. I just don’t even want to think about it, but everywhere you go, it’s Mother’s Day, it’s Mother’s Day,” Wells said.
“That makes it hard,” her sister added as the two sat at Gagne’s dining room table in her Little River home where images and reminders of their mother fill every room.
Frances “Mae” Davis was a day away from celebrating her 79th birthday when police say she was found slumped over in the front passenger seat of her car in the Myrtle Beach Mall parking lot Jan. 8. Davis died from a gunshot wound. Her purse was missing.
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Wells said she had been out shopping with her mother Jan. 8, and they stopped at J.C. Penney at the mall a little before noon. Davis told her to go in without her, she said.
Wells estimated she was in the store about 15 minutes, and when she returned to the car she found Davis bleeding and unresponsive. She noticed her mother’s purse was missing as she spoke with an emergency dispatcher on the phone.
Tell your mother that you love her. Tell her that you appreciate everything that she’s ever done for you.
Shelly Wells, daughter of Frances “Mae” Davis
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has offered a reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who killed Davis. The family has agreed to match the reward.
Lt. Raul Denis of the Horry County Police Department said there have been no developments in the case and no suspects have been named.
Police are asking anyone with information to call 843-915-8477. Tips can be anonymous.
“I just need whoever did it to get caught,” Gagne said, “because it’s hard to get closure without knowing the why, not that we’re ever going to get the why.”
“I just want that person off the street,” Wells added. “They did that to our mother in broad daylight – over a purse” that, she guessed, may have had $12 in it.
Wells and Gagne sent out 5,000 mailers after the memorial, encouraging anyone with information to come forward. Last week they put more than 20,000 fliers in Valupak envelopes heading to homes across the Grand Strand and Horry County.
“I’m working hard to keep her case open, to keep everybody’s attention on it,” Gagne said.
Signs on each of their cars also spread the word about Davis’ case.
“We’re just trying to keep it in everybody’s face in case somebody knows something,” Gagne said.
The two are pleading for anyone with information to come forward.
“Anything you hear, even if you think it is the silliest or the dumbest … don’t assume. Call it in,” Wells said. “That insignificant little thing that you might think is nothing could be just a little spark to go to the next thing that goes to the next thing to … get closer to finding this person.”
Gagne’s husband created a memorial garden for Davis in their backyard. The garden is planted with flowers and greenery that Davis loved. Her “naughty chair,” nicknamed for the times Davis would sit outside and rest from work, sits in the garden.
The room Davis had in the Gagne’s home hasn’t changed. Her uniform she wore to work at a grocery store – unwashed and still carrying the scent of Davis’ perfume – hangs on the back of her door.
Gagne says she can’t change anything. But life for her and her sister has changed.
Once not afraid to go out at night, be around strangers or sit alone in a car, the two are now learning how to cope with crippling anxiety that keeps them mostly homebound. When they are out they become hyper alert to their surroundings, they say.
“You get tired of crying but yet you don’t know what to do because it just makes you sad and you feel angry,” Wells said. “I’m still overwhelmed with guilt, you know? I’m the one that stopped there. And everybody tells me it’s not your fault, you didn’t know, but I’m the one that stopped there. What if I had just kept on going? If I would’ve went straight instead of turning to go to the mall, what was so friggin’ important that I had to stop?”
Your mother is your rock, your friend. She’s going to have your back no matter what.
Michele Gagne, daughter of Frances “Mae” Davis
Wells and Gagne have found some comfort in counseling and grief therapy. An outpouring of support from the community has also been a comfort.
Another blessing came from country music star Alan Jackson. Davis was a big fan. Gagne’s uncle wrote Jackson about Davis’ passing and the Grammy award-winning star sent a letter of sympathy and an autographed photo. He was wearing a purple shirt – Davis’ favorite color.
Gagne and Wells are encouraging everyone to hold their mothers tight this weekend and to tell them that you love them while you still have them.
“Your mother is your rock, your friend. She’s going to have your back no matter what,” Gagne said.
“Tell your mother that you love her. Tell her that you appreciate everything that she’s ever done for you, everything. It’s the little things I think that mom always did, I mean she’s always been there for us forever,” Wells said.
She and her sister would always celebrate Mother’s Day by taking their mom out to dinner. This year, they plan to go out to dinner in memory of their mother.