Notes from Newcastle: A tribute to Katie

May 2, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Katie Tinnea

Katie Tinnea

Wearing the color purple will never mean the same to me again.

When I throw on a purple sweater or a lavender scarf, I will know from this day forward that this color is special.

Purple is the color of royalty. It is the color of courage. It is the color of a fighter. Purple is Katie Tinnea’s color.

Never was that more evident than April 21, when friends, family, students and staff gathered to celebrate the life of the beloved Newcastle Elementary School teacher.

Tinnea, a first-grade teacher at the school, passed away April 4 after she was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2011.

The Bellevue church was awash in a sea of purple, as nearly every attendee heeded the call to honor Tinnea by displaying his or her “purple power,” instead of wearing black.

Friends and colleagues remembered Tinnea for her strength, humor and genuine, inherent kindness. They told stories of her bravery in the face of a difficult diagnosis and recalled the signature laugh that resulted in a reprimand from nurses as she sat through her chemotherapy appointments.

“Katie taught me how to laugh,” one of her colleagues said at the memorial.

That’s not a surprise to those who knew her. Tinnea was literally born to teach, following in the footsteps of her mother. Even as a child, she knew she was destined to become an educator.

Tinnea was described as a calm, positive presence in the classroom who cared deeply about her students. Her diagnosis could not keep her from the school, and she remained in the classroom, passionately teaching her pupils.

The Newcastle Elementary School community came out in force to celebrate Tinnea, with dozens of her students in attendance, and several elaborate poster displays filled with letters to Tinnea’s young daughter from a mourning school.

In those posters, fittingly decorated in purple, was the perfect juxtaposition of two of Tinnea’s main passions — teaching and family.

Tinnea was also known as an avid Seahawks fan, a superb gift-giver, and an inspirational advocate of early detection and finding a cure for colon cancer.

One of the many letters Newcastle students wrote may have summed up the popular teacher best, saying to her daughter Kennedy, “Your mom was a fighter.”

At just 30 years old, Tinnea was taken from us far too soon, but her passion for life and her valor is something we can all learn from.

Next time you wear the color purple, take a moment to think of the courageous teacher who meant so much to the Newcastle community, and honor her through your daily actions. I know that I will.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Katie’s name can be made to the Colon Cancer Coalition.

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