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'She was everywhere I went' | Family mourns the loss of 12-year-old drowning victim

"The 12 years we spent with her, were some of the best 12 years of my life," Thomas Gary said of his late granddaughter, Stori.

CHERAW, S.C. — A white wreath hangs on a house on ACL avenue in Cheraw, South Carolina, just up the road from the Lanely Landing on the Great Pee Dee River.

There are other new floral arrangements in the front yard and a sign from a local funeral home.

“We are dealing with this the best we can,” Thomas Gary said about the sudden death of his 12-year-old granddaughter Stori Gary.

“Everywhere I went, she went,” he said about his youngest grandchild who drowned last week in the river.

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Gary said  “Muffin,” as she was known to the family, loved basketball, TikTok and SpongeBob SquarePants. 

"The 12 years we spent with her, were some of the best 12 years of my life," he said. "But it's not going to relieve the pain or anything."

In an interview with WCNC Charlotte's Richard DeVayne, Gary reflected on his morning routine with his late granddaughter.

"In the mornings, I wake up. Take a shower. And I'd take her to McDonald's. While she's eating breakfast, I'd drive her down to Walmart. And then I'd take her to school," he explained.

Gary said whenever his grandaughter encountered a friendly race, she'd run up to them and hug them.

"I would tell my wife, 'The whole world should be that way,'" Gary recalled. 

Credit: Family photo

Last week, Gary said Stori told her mother she was going to a friend’s house.

“Her mother told her she would be by to pick her up at six," he recalled. "But by six, we got the call."

RELATED: Crews recover body of 12-year-old girl after drowning in the Great Pee Dee River

Police did not release much information about what happened. Officials have said the two girls were walking near the river and fell in. One child managed to escape the water. Police said the drowning is still under investigation.

“It will provide some closure, but we know it still won’t bring her back,” Gary said.

 Contact Richard DeVayne at rdevayne@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

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