"Even in death, she's still teaching every one of us," said the teacher's cousin.
Some people continue to inspire us even after their death. Tammy Waddell, a Georgia teacher is one such person. Before she died of stomach cancer, Waddell was clear about how she wanted her funeral to be. The school teacher did not want her dear ones to get flowers in her honor; instead, she asked the guests to get school supplies for needy students.
According to Good Morning America, Waddell passed away on June 9, 2018. As she wished, her obituary suggested guests make donations to Project Connect, a local program that provides backpacks to needy students, in her memory.
Honorary pallbearers... Teachers who had taught with her through the years... pic.twitter.com/CyB2pBbBNy— 𝐁𝐫𝐚𝐝 𝐉𝐨𝐡𝐧𝐬𝐨𝐧 (@DrBradJohnson) June 19, 2018
"Tammy had a passion for literacy and believed that every child deserved an opportunity to learn. Though her achievements and accolades are numerous, none are greater than the many lives that she changed over the course of her three decades in education. In lieu of flowers, please bring backpacks filled with school supplies to honor Tammy's passion for children in need or make a donation in memory of Tammy Waddell to Project Connect," stated the obituary.
On the day of the funeral, backpacks lined the church pews instead of bouquets. “That day we received roughly about 130 backpacks filled with school supplies – anything a student would need for at least half of the school year,” said Paul Holbrook, a spokesman for the funeral home.
The heartwarming image of backpacks in the church was tweeted by Waddell's cousin, Brad Johnson. Speaking to CNN, Johnson reminisced the kind of person Waddell was. He stated that she always looked out for her students and did everything in her capacity to make their lives better.
What some of the back packs were filled with... pic.twitter.com/rUWpheecEk— 𝐁𝐫𝐚𝐝 𝐉𝐨𝐡𝐧𝐬𝐨𝐧 (@DrBradJohnson) June 26, 2018
"This was just the kind of teacher she was, and this is a reflection of her heart. She was a teacher first, all the way. She was very inspirational in me achieving all that I have. She was as quick to give a hug as she was quick to give supplies to students who needed it," said Johnson, who is also an educator. "Even in death, she's still teaching every one of us," he added.
"She had about 100 teachers as honorary pallbearers who carried the backpacks out and back to their schools. It was heartwarming," he said in another tweet.
Waddell's son Kevin Waddell also commented on his mother's last gesture. He stated, "Part of what I loved about my mom was the passion she had as a teacher. It's one of the inspirations that led me to the profession," he said. Kevin continued, "She lived life by loving others and she was never worried about attention … she was just focused on the love."
Kevin also stated that his mother was trying to send a strong message through her last wish. He said, "The message she would try and deliver at this point is to donate to your local schools. It doesn't have to be here specifically."
Waddell worked in Forsyth County Schools in Georgia for over 30 years. Additionally, she was named the county elementary school teacher in 2003. After the news of her last gesture went viral, Tes Resources, a non-profit organization that helps teachers around the world approached Johnson. They stated that they wanted to donate school supplies to Forsyth County students in honor of Waddell.
"Tammy was a servant leader that loved children. The generous backpack/supplies donations in her memory is a touching tribute,” said Forsyth schools spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo, according to AJC.
Cover Image: Source | Twitter/Brad Johnson