The last time Moffat County High School Principal Thom Schnellinger saw his secretary, Tanya Bohrer, all he got was a wave from her hospital room: A simple acknowledgement from a friend, co-worker and caring mentor.
But, the Bohrer that he and the school’s faculty and students will remember wasn’t the one waving from the hospital bed.
Bohrer died Monday afternoon after battling malignant melanoma of the liver for more than a year.
She was 38.
At the school, her memory lives on in the licorice sticks she kept on her desk.
It still lingers in the high school’s front office in photographs of vacations to Las Vegas and in the form of ongoing jokes.
It still smiles from the corner in the form of a 5-foot papier-mâché version of Gumby, which Bohrer used to talk to as if it were a person.
After hearing the news of her death Tuesday morning, a few students passed through the front office between periods to grasp the hands of her fellow secretaries and share stories of Bohrer’s jokes and smiles while thoughtfully chewing on morsels of licorice.
Senior Tasha Romney spends fourth hour each day as a student aide in the front office. Her favorite part, she said, was the ladies who worked there.
“They’re the funnest,” she said. “Just seeing Tanya every day… she was really funny and always joking. I guess I learned to live every day to the fullest. I’ll always remember how funny and strong she was.”
Schnellinger said one of the most powerful aspects of Bohrer’s legacy was her effect on the student aides who worked in the office.
“She loved them,” he said. “She liked working real positively with kids. She took it as her place to engage students.”
Carroll Moore, an MCHS counselor, had to laugh through tears as she recalled Bohrer’s wry sense of humor, uplifting smile and warm spirit.
Bohrer loved to travel and was a source of many laughs and memories on a summer trip to Las Vegas with five other secretaries and counselors.
She always dreamed of going to Australia and was planning a vacation there for spring break.
When she heard Moore had a cottage on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, she excitedly suggested that that be the destination of the 2010 “girls trip.”
Now, Moore said she and her friends will still go but take only the memory of Bohrer’s energy with them.
“I think she taught me that you can keep going past whatever people think you can do,” she said. “I think they gave her four to six months to live when she was first diagnosed. She didn’t let her cancer rule her life. She was amazing. When she was in pain, she didn’t show it. I’ll miss her spirit. She was such a good person, and she was so happy despite all she had been through.”
In the front office, sitting 5 feet away from Bohrer’s now empty desk, Anna Nitschke recalled Bohrer’s strength as her defining attribute.
“She had this cancer, and it was like nothing to her,” Nitschke said. “But I know she suffered. She had good and bad days. But the memories I have of her are just about how she was so strong.”
Nitschke remembered when Bohrer was battling thyroid cancer three years ago.
She left a hospital in Denver with tubes coming out of her and her neck wrapped in gauze, but got right into a cab to go to a Tim McGraw concert.
“She said the concert was great, but she slept for three days,” Nitschke said. “I think he was the love of her life.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Schnellinger made an announcement over the loudspeaker regarding Bohrer’s memorial service. It will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday at Craig Christian Church, 966 W. Victory Way.
He then stood in the doorway of his office sharing memories with the staff he said is like a close family.
Although Bohrer’s smile and humor will be missed, he said faculty and students alike had a message to take away from Bohrer.
“Just enjoy each other,” he said. “Live life, and enjoy one another. One month ago we had her, and she was alive and full of life. Take nothing for granted.”
Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793, or firstname.lastname@example.org.