After a beloved teacher passed away, her last request proved that even in death she was always thinking about her students above all else.
For 30 years, Tammy Waddell, from Forsyth County, Georgia, worked as a paraprofessional and elementary school teacher in the county school district.
Sadly, on June 8, Waddell lost her battle with cancer at age 58. She died peacefully, surrounded by her family.
Waddell left a legacy of an enthusiasm for teaching—and a compassion for her students.
“She had a passion for literacy and believed that every child deserved an opportunity to learn,” her obituary reads, adding that her colleagues “recognized Tammy by her generosity, selflessness and unconditional love.”
“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.”
But Waddell ensured that she would keep changing lives—even after her death.
A few weeks before she passed away, the teacher knew she wasn’t going to last much longer, so she made a special request for her funeral:
In lieu of flowers, she asked mourners to donate backpacks filled with school supplies!
According to her obituary, people willing to pay their respects could also make a donation in her name to Project Connect, but hundreds of people donated backpacks and supplies, as seen in this beautiful photo:
The photo was taken by Waddell’s cousin, Dr. Brad Johnson, who shared the photo on Twitter where the heartwarming story has gone viral.
“She thought they needed backpacks more than she needed flowers,” Dr. Johnson told WAGA. “Serving others to the end.”
It was a stunning final act of thoughtfulness that will make a big difference in the lives of numerous young kids—and many of her fellow teachers came out to pay their respects in an amazing way:
About 100 teachers collected the backpacks as “honorary pallbearers.”
According to FOX 5, her story has gone far beyond her own friends and family, and has inspired people all over the world to donate backpacks themselves.
Waddell leaves behind a husband of over 40 years, two sons and four grandchildren. And it looks like teaching runs in the family: one of her sons is also a teacher, as well as both of her daughters-in-law.
She’ll be remembered not just by her family, but by her colleagues and the countless students whose lives she made a difference in—including those going to school with new backpacks next year thanks to her heartwarming final request.