One former Tahoma High School teacher and veteran Bill Pringle was set to be buried alone at the Tahoma National Cemetery. That all changed thanks to former students.
Mr. Pringle taught at Tahoma High School for 25 years and served as an army captain. He died on May 31 at the age of 78, just short of his 79th birthday in September.
Once one of his former students, Tricia Flintoft, heard about Mr. Pringle’s passing, she knew she had to do something so that he wasn’t buried alone, as there are no known immediate family members of his in the area.
She contacted the Tahoma School District and shortly after it all took off from there.
Current Tahoma teacher and Vice President of the Greater Maple Valley Veterans Memorial Foundation Cary Collins played a huge part in organizing a memorial service for Mr. Pringle that took place at the Tahoma National Cemetery on June 25.
Collins said it was important to organize this event for two reason.
“It’s very important to me that one, we honor our veterans and not have them buried alone. And two, that one of our educators from our own community — (with a) national cemetery right next to the school that he taught at for 25 years — that he would not be buried alone. That his Tahoma family, his Maple Valley family would be here,” Collins said.
At the memorial service, it was estimated that around 100 people attended. From former students to friends, they were all there to make sure Mr. Pringle was buried with honor.
Collins said in an email that the Branch Honor Guard rendered “Full Military Honors” for Mr. Pringle.
During the ceremony for a veteran, it is tradition to present the American flag in a folded fashion to a loved one of the deceased.
Flintoft was originally supposed to receive the flag, according to Collins, but then something unexpected happened. A family member of Mr. Pringle’s showed up and was presented the flag.
“It was last second, because none of us knew that a family member was coming. It must of been a cousin or something. I didn’t get a name. No one knew,” said Marc Perez of the Patriot Guard Riders and Puyallup Veterans of Foreign Wars.
After the memorial at the cemetery, Collins hosted a reception at Maple View Middle School, i.e the former Tahoma High School.
Once they entered, former students were ecstatic to be back at their old stomping grounds and let the memories flood in.
“He was a great teacher. He had an infatuation with Mary Tyler Moore and that was something he talked about on a regular basis,” said Lisa Lamb-Hanson, a former student of Mr. Pringle’s. “We were just talking about another classmate that actually brought in huge picture of Mary Tyler Moore for him that just absolutely loved. But he was a wonderful teacher, he was.”
Another former student, Dee Cheshier, said her favorite memory of Mr. Pringle is at the end of January, he would wear a kilt and pass out shortbread cookies to his students in honor of “Bobby Burns Day,” a day that celebrates the life of Robert burns, a Scotish poet.
While everyone mingled, sharing their memories of Mr. Pringle, Perez said he never had the honor of meeting him, but just by being at the service and reception, he could tell Mr. Pringle made an impact.
“What I see here is — and even before I knew anything — is this man, his life was teaching. His life was kids that he taught and that became his family. That was his family. He devoted his life,” Perez said. “The students just love him. I mean who in a drop of a hat has a 100 people show up at a funeral service when there’s no family. Except one, that comes from out of state by surprise. I mean, that’s the impact he made.”
He said he spoke with a gentleman at the service who said there were only two teachers who made a real impact on him and one of them was Mr. Pringle.
Collins said he hadn’t heard one bad word said about Mr.Pringle and that everyone there was very positive. He also said the way he was described was very professional.
“That’s what everybody says, ‘very professional.’ One person said that he reminded him of Robin Williams in ‘Dead Poets Society.’ That’s a pretty good compliment,” Collins said laughing.
As a fellow teacher, Collins said something like this memorial service is the biggest tribute for a teacher because one of the things about teaching is when students leave, teachers don’t know how they’ve impacted students’ lives.
“Bill probably never imagined that he would have a room full of former students honoring him. So to me, it’s just awesome to see,” he said.
Perez concluded with, “It’s about leaving a part of this world a better place than what you found. What he’s done is all these people around us, plus the rest of the ones we don’t see that were at the ceremony and other students who weren’t there, those are a lot of households, a lot of families that have benefited from his influence.”