Despite the day’s sunshine, thick clouds crept in and wrapped a cold embrace around hundreds who’d gathered to mourn the loss of beloved Vail Ranch Middle School administrator Shelly Graesser Sunday night.
It was a fitting backdrop for a somber moment that had many holding candles against the breeze as tears welled and hearts swelled with emotion.
“The way (you all) have come out here tonight shows just how supportive this community is. It shows how many hearts (Mrs. Graesser) has touched,” said teacher Colby Stromberg.
Graesser died late Friday in a freak accident while riding a tractor on a local farm.
Science teacher James Evans said to the crowd of students and staff: “Everyone knew her on different levels. One thing you can’t deny is her love for her students.”
Dozens of students, teachers and friends took turns entering the circle of mourners — each telling his own story and promising not to forget Graesser’s smile, warmth and commitment to her job.
Students who had long since graduated and moved on to high school and college returned to the Vail Ranch Middle School campus, bringing with them flowers and fond memories.
Despite the tears and supportive hugs from friends, moments of levity would occasionally spark a laugh as Graesser’s friends and colleagues shared a fun, quirky side to the administrator that involved a love of magic, jazz hands and practical jokes.
According to Vail Ranch Middle School Principal Kevin Groepper, grief counselors will be on campus for staff and students on Monday morning.
Graesser left behind a husband and two young children.
Kerri S. Mabee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @kerrimabee.