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Beloved Guilford Co. school volunteer Thurman Haynes dead at 97

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Thurman Haynes, the Jamestown man beloved by so many for his volunteer work at the Haynes-Inman Education Center for children with disabilities, passed away this morning. He was 97.

Haynes volunteered at Haynes-Inman Education Center every day since the school opened in 2010. He was affectionately called "grandfather" by many of the students.

The school sits on property Haynes himself sold to Guilford County Schools. Haynes originally didn't want to sell the property, but changed his mind as soon as he found out the school was going to be for children with special needs.

The school is named in part for Hayne’s only granddaughter, Meredith, who had mental and physical disabilities. She passed away at the age of 21. The full name of the school is Meredith Leigh Haynes-Bennie Lee Inman Education Center.

This past April, Haynes was named the national winner of the Salute to Senior Service contest. Haynes was selected from thousands of nominees and 50 state-level winners.

“Thurman Haynes reminds us all how important it is to celebrate life on a daily basis,” Kevin Carr, principal of Haynes-Inman Education Center, said in April. “You can’t buy what Thurman brings to Haynes-Inman. His dedication and the respect and love he gives others is amazing.”

Earlier this year prior to his 97th birthday on Sunday, Jan. 12, Haynes celebrated on Friday, Jan. 10, with the students and staff who cherished him so much at Haynes-Inman.

"I love these kids," Haynes told FOX8 during his birthday celebration. Keeping in mind he was a volunteer, he added, "I tell people the pay is good."

VIDEO: Thurman Haynes' 97th birthday celebration in January 2014