There are few ways to eloquently begin a post on loss. This past weekend, my small(ish) town of Snohomish lost a man that had a much larger impact than I could express. Snohomish is a town that loves tradition, high school football (though our record isn't anything to brag about), and farms - we're the go-to when fall comes around. It's no surprise when you see a giant tractor riding down the street or llamas (alpacas?) in your neighbors yard. Our town has a great community and currently, we're all mourning the loss of Tuck Gionet.
It's hard for me, or anyone really, to convey what Mr. Gionet meant to our community. He was a teacher that everyone respected and looked forward to having, an exceptional track coach that pushed his athletes, a world traveler who encouraged immersing yourself in another culture, and the father of our friends. Knowing Mr. Gionet was invigorating - he constantly questioned you and your choices, but not because he doubted them. He wanted you to understand the whys and the hows, not just the dos. My relationship with Mr. Gionet was funny - his family and my best friend's family were extremely close, so I initially met him through them. His son Kyle and I share a birthday and kind of always used that as what bonded us (haha). Three years ago, I was lucky enough to travel 30 days through Europe with him, on a tour he helped lead every other year so students had the opportunity to travel.
His appreciation and understanding of other cultures was admirable. Anytime I considering traveling, I'm reminded of his thoughts and our month overseas. Even though we were miles away from home, he never let us forget that no matter where we were, we needed to "leave it better than we found it." His leadership went beyond his classroom. Like many others this weekend, I've thought a lot about the memories we've shared. After our group first landed in Munich, we walked over 30 miles in our first two days. His energy and enthusiasm for traveling made all that walking so much easier. We took naps in public parks in Prague after eating lunch, hiked up a Swiss mountain (it was painful and I'll never be doing that again) and along Italy's coast (seriously, we took so many hikes), visited old Sienna, went to a lot of museums (which I have grown to really appreciate), learned to ride subways through cities, were taught how to properly hug a tree (an infamous Mr. Gionet joke that all of Snohomish knows), and were told how to react if someone tried pickpocketing us. There was one day that our group (think: 50~ people) went on a hike in Italy and my small group and I got lost. We ended up on the complete other side of a peninsula (I think...) than we were supposed to be. Even though we knew we would be fine, it was scary and stressful and we were tired and frustrated. When we finally reached the other side of the peninsula(?), I felt a huge relief when I saw Mr. Gionet's face, a little concerned, a little bit of trying-not-to-laugh, but mostly also relieved.
Mr. Gionet had a quality about him that made everyone feel important. Hundreds of heartfelt posts sharing condolences, photos, videos, and fond memories flood Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, reminding us all how he made us feel. I wish I could share with you all the posts in his honor and how much love they each have. This post is not at all close to the emotion people are sharing and experiencing. Each one of us have had a connection with him that left us a little better than we were before we knew him. He pushed us to do our best instead of settling. He loved to give me a hard time about being an ASB officer because he knew just a title wasn't going to spread influence and make a different in our school (c'mon, we all knew that). Even though I wasn't super close with him, he's a figure that made an influence in my character and offered me experiences I wouldn't otherwise have had. He believed in actions, being on time, and investing wisely. He's the prime example of doing good and leaving behind a positive legacy that will live on and be celebrated.
Rest in Peace Mr. Gionet. After all the hard work you put into Snohomish, our school, our students, and our world, you deserve it. (Also, here's my favorite photo of you. Thanks for the opportunity to explore the world and teaching us all about where we were.)