News and Tribune

December 4, 2013

Wish Book: Generations of love

Grandmother raises child of slain mother


NEW ALBANY — Tonya McAnelly returned from her job interview and was hopeful that it might lead to a new opportunity.

The changes in her life over the past 18 months have been heartbreaking and cruel, yet she has persevered driven by the one ray of light that shone through following the murder of her daughter, Amanda McAnelly, in July of 2012.

Ivan Chambers admitted to killing Amanda, his girlfriend and the mother of their child, Tiana, in their New Albany apartment last year. Tiana, who was just two years old at the time, was inside the apartment when the shooting took place.

Tonya McAnelly is now raising her grandchild, struggling with the pain of losing her daughter and with the emotional and financial responsibility of caring for a child.

But when it seems like too much to bare, McAnelly remembers the selflessness her daughter showed during her 23 years on earth.

“I saw her give her last penny to someone when she had nothing to spare,” McAnelly said.

Tiana was the passion of Amanda’s life, and though she may be too young to realize it, she’s now her grandmother’s inspiration.

“She’s my world,” McAnelly said as she watched Tiana play with her favorite teddy bear inside their living room.

“I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

There are little reactions, statements and looks that Tiana gives from time to time that remind McAnelly of her daughter.

The precious moments in the progression of a toddler are cherished by McAnelly, but at times that’s even hard to take.

“I feel guilty sometimes because I feel like my daughter should be doing what I’m doing,” she said.

But McAnelly is a great caregiver who meets every challenge and is open to advice said Nicole O’Keefe, a social worker with New Hope Services in Jeffersonville.

Each year the News and Tribune selects families for the Wish Book program as a way to garner items, services and money for those with the greatest needs in the community.

“Tonya is one of those clients that really deserves this program,” O’Keefe said, as she added McAnelly has had to adjust to accepting help from others.

“She’s used to providing for other families during this time.”

McAnelly puts Tiana’s needs ahead of her own every day, O’Keefe continued.

Most pressing among her needs, McAnelly’s house could use some electrical work especially in the kitchen. She’s also in need of a computer to assist her in filing job applications, and a new mattress.

McAnelly is skilled in administrative and secretarial work and is looking for a job.

As for her greatest want, nothing can replace her daughter. Tiana is approaching school age and nothing meant more to her mother than for her to be a successful student, McAnelly said.

During her time of tragedy, McAnelly found time to note that she’s been blessed by the amount of support she’s already received from the community.

“It’s just been amazing,” she said.