A teacher asked people to give school supplies instead of flowers at her funeral — And her mourners delivered

Twitter | DrBradJohnson

To Tammy Waddell, her students meant the world. The elementary school teacher from Forsyth, Georgia, always made sure they had everything they needed.

In fact, she cared about her students so much that, two weeks before her death on June 9, Waddell asked people to donate school supplies instead of give flowers at her funeral — and her mourners delivered.

“A Teacher To The End”

Waddell’s cousin, Dr. Brad Johnson, posted a now-viral photo to Twitter showing church pews lined with dozens of supply-stuffed backpacks donated by loved ones, friends and fellow teachers. In his tweet, he described Waddell as “a teacher to the end.”

“This was just the kind of teacher she was, and this is a reflection of her heart,” Johnson told CNN. “She was a teacher first, all the way.”

Donations Pouring In

Waddell’s funeral service took place on June 13 at McDonald and Son Funeral Home and Crematory in Cumming, Georgia. Paul Holbrook, a spokesperson for McDonald and Son, told CNN that the venue has received about 130 backpacks filled with “anything a student would need for at least half of the school year.”

And the donations kept coming in, he added.

About 100 of Waddell’s colleagues served as honorary pallbearers. Johnson told CNN that the teachers carried the backpacks out of the funeral home and back to their schools. He posted another photo to Twitter showing a line of teachers with backpacks at their feet, ready to be delivered to students in need.

An Inspiring Final Lesson

Waddell was 58 years old when she died from colon cancer earlier this month. She had beat the disease once before, but doctors confirmed in August that it had returned. This time, though, Waddell didn’t have long to live, so she retired from Forsyth County School District after teaching for 25 years.

In addition to her beloved students past and present, Waddell is survived by her husband of four decades, Mike, her children BJ and Kevin, and four grandchildren.

“She inspired in her teaching,” Johnson told BuzzFeed, “and her final lesson has literally inspired the world.”


Moved by Waddell’s story? You can also make a donation to Project Connect, which will help distribute the backpacks to students in need, in her memory.

An Unforgettable Donation

Since sharing the photos, Johnson was contacted by Tes Resources, a non-profit organization that helps teachers around the world. The nonprofit said they wanted to honor Waddell with a donation of thousands of school supplies for Forsyth County students, Johnson said — adding to, perhaps, the legacy Waddell had always hoped she would leave behind.

RELATED: Teacher Left $1 Million To Former Students In Her Will

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About the Author
Annamarya Scaccia
Annamarya Scaccia is an award-winning freelance journalist who reports on public health, lifestyle, parenting and politics. Like any native New Yorker, Annamarya drinks too much coffee and has strong opinions about the Yankees.

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