TENNERTON – Less than a week before Christmas, Buckhannon-Upshur High School vice principal Randall Roy had been chatting with longtime teacher and mentor Tappan Squires.
He made a simple remark, expressing his frustration with students who hadn’t been removing their baseball hats upon entering the building.
“I said something about the boys wearing their hats in the building, and she said, ‘I’m not being a very good example,’” Roy recalled Thursday morning at Buckhannon-Upshur High School. “And I said, ‘No, what you’re being is an inspiration.’ And she was.”
Squires, 60, passed away Dec. 31, 2018 following a courageous battle with breast cancer. In her exchange with Roy, she’d been referring to that fact in recent months, she, too, had been wearing a baseball hat after losing her hair from chemotherapy treatments.
Like so many other people who admired and loved Squires, Roy struggled to hold back tears as he remembered and shared one of the last interactions he’d had with Squires, as well as her warmness, her friendliness and her charisma.
That’s what Thursday morning’s assembly at the high school was for: taking time to remember the impact Squires had had on students, staff and teachers throughout the B-UHS community.
The Rev. Ed McDaniels addressed a packed gymnasium that included Squires’ husband, Duwane; daughter, Katie; sons, Tim, Will and Sammy; siblings; and other family members seated in the balcony area. The balcony area was where Squires watched B-UHS athletic events, attending as many as she possibly could, McDaniels reminded everyone.
“You don’t move through these kinds of things by forgetting,” McDaniels said. “You move through them by remembering.”
The reverend encouraged students and staff to jot down a memory of the role Squires had played in their lives and share it with her family.
What popped into McDaniels’ mind was Tappan’s smile.
“She was unique – I can see her smile today,” he said. “She could light up a room with just her smile. I can see her compassionate heart because she was filled with compassion. Her unselfishness of her giving of her time and of her talent and her determination was amazing. She was a light in a dark room that would give you the ray of hope when there was no hope.”
“When you met her, your life got better, and if you were under her influence, you got better at living your life,” he added.
B-UHS physical education teacher Mike Gitzen spent the last four years teaching alongside Squires and was instrumental in organizing a fundraiser for the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at WVU Hospitals in Morgantown in Squires’ honor that ultimately garnered $16,000 – the most a single school had ever raised for the center, according to Upshur County Schools superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus.
“There was never a better woman,” Gitzen said following Thursday morning’s assembly. “When I think about her, I just think about how selfless she was and how much she cared about everybody she ever knew.”
B-UHS teacher and coach Mike Donato said he’d shared morning duty with Squires for the past six years.
“She taught me a lot about what it really takes to be a teacher and friend,” he said. “She taught me how to approach things with a smile and an outgoing personality. She gave me a lot of confidence in my craft at teaching. Being able to shadow and work with her over the past six years, it just has been everything to me.”
McDaniels highlighted a few trademarks of Tappan’s, saying teaching had been a true joy to her; that she believed in being part of solutions, not problems; that she was always working diligently behind the scenes on a number of extracurricular endeavors, including Homecoming decorations and student council initiatives; and that she attended as many B-UHS athletic events as possible. She was emotionally involved in every moment of every athletic event she came to watch, he said.
Addressing Squires’ family, McDaniels thanked them for allowing Tappan to share her gifts.
“Duwane, thank you, for sharing your wife with us here at Buckhannon-Upshur High School,” McDaniels said. “I want to say to her daughter, Katie, I want to thank you for sharing your mom. Will, Tim and Sammy, our lives are better because you unselfishly let your mom to be here at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.”
McDaniels noted that many students weren’t even aware Squires was ill until she lost her hair and began to wear that baseball cap.
“I think the only days that she ever missed in this sickness were the days that she would call and say, ‘Hey Ed, can you sub for me today? I’ve got another chemotherapy appointment,’” McDaniels recalled. “Some of you did not even know that she was sick until she started to lose her hair, started to wear a ball cap, and then you became aware that this sickness was tough.”
“But if you’d ask her how she was doing, she would say, ‘It is what it is, and I’ve got to deal with it,’” he continued. “So, I’m asking you here today as her friend and as her colleague, that you would keep the spirit of what Tappan Squires is all about here at Buckhannon-Upshur High School. Her spirit was ‘Do something – do something good for someone.’ Her spirit was, ‘I’m going to be an encourager, not a discourager. Her spirit was, ‘I’m going to take pride in this Buckhannon-Upshur High School.’ Her spirit was, ‘Be a solution to the problem.’
“Our world is better today because our God allowed Tappan Squires to be here on this Earth for 60 years,” he concluded. “Our school, our lives, our community is better because of a lady by the name of Tappan Squires.”
Squires’ funeral service is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church.
Anyone wishing to make a donation in Tappan’s honor to the Catherine “Splash” Williams Scholarship Fund should make checks out to B-UHS Athletics c/o Rick Reynolds, B-UHS athletic director and mailed to 270 B-U Drive, Buckhannon, WV 26201.