Sarah Foose remembered for love of kids, zest for life

Shawn Hardy news@echo-pilot.com
Sarah Foose

"Sarah had fun! Her students had fun! Those around her had fun!" Those are thoughts Dr. Robert Crider, chief educational officer, shared with Greencastle-Antrim School District faculty Monday as they took time during an in-service day to remember and honor their colleague and friend Sarah Foose.

Foose, 38, who died Sunday in Johns Hopkins Hospital, loved teaching and leaves behind treasured lessons and memories.

"She had a positive view when going through things that would have broken most people," said friend Mallory Pohl, who taught in the third-grade classroom next to Foose for many years.

Foose didn't let bad times stop her and she brought humor to tough situations, Pohl said.

"She also taught Greencastle about cystic fibrosis and organ donation," Pohl said.

The daughter of Bev and Gordie Foose of Waynesboro, spouse of Erin Kramer and mother of 10-year-old Alexis, Foose was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 5.

Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and progressively limits the ability to breathe.

“Plug your nose and then take a breath through a straw. Now trying walking around the room while doing it. That is how we feel all the time,” Foose explained in 2016 while awaiting a double lung transplant. “Having cystic fibrosis has never stopped me. It is a part of me, and it has shaped who I am and the experiences I’ve had. But, I am so much more.”

The 1999 Waynesboro Area Senior High School graduate played softball, ran hurdles, lifeguarded and taught swimming at the Waynesboro Area YMCA.

"I'm Sarah and I have cystic fibrosis," she announced when she first met roommate Karlee Brown at Shippensburg University. Brown, who now works in communications and public relations for WellSpan Health, said, "She was one of my best friends from the day I met her.

"She had a sense of life and lived life to the fullest," said Brown, noting Foose nicknamed the chest compression vest she had to use daily "Thumper."

"She taught me to be courageous and live your life without regrets. She lived and loved the same way with no regrets and all her heart," Brown continued.

"The years I loved school and learned the most were the years I had a teacher that connected with me," Foose wrote in a bio provided before her first lung transplant. "So, after graduating from Shippensburg University it was my goal to connect with students and make learning fun ... However, I knew teaching put me in the firing line of germs and I knew this was going to be risky. However, if I wasn't going to be happy in my heart and mind, I would never be healthy."

She joined the G-A School District as a third-grade teacher in December 2003, dubbing her students "Fooselets." After 12 years, she transferred to instructional support teacher for grades K-5 then took on the responsibilities of coordinating gifted education planning for K-8 before retiring in July 2018.

Foose was OK during her childhood and young adulthood and was first hospitalized in her 20s. She experienced more and more problems as she got older, was put on a transplant list in 2015 and received a new set of lungs 11 months later, her mother recalled.

"To sum up my life to this point, I can only think of one word, 'blessed,'" Foose wrote before that first transplant. "God never gives you anything you can't handle. Alone, this would be difficult, but it takes a village to take care of Sarah and I have a pretty full village!"

Although she suffered a stroke during the transplant, "she did great," her mother said. Foose fulfilled one of her dreams to take Alexis to Disney World.

Foose then overcame lymphoma with chemotherapy and was training for a triathlon in spring 2018 when she experienced shortness of breath the day after a 10-mile bike ride. She kept getting worse, possibly from a fungus, Bev Foose explained.

She was OK'd for a second transplant, but "it did not go well from the start ... it was one issue after another," including stomach problems that left her unable to eat, her mother said.

In and out of the hospital for months, she was last admitted Dec. 2 and never spent a moment alone as her parents, spouse and brother Ty Miller rotated their time at Johns Hopkins.

"Sarah was such an advocate for organ donation," her mother said. "Don't take them with you, they won't do anyone any good.

"I've always said she is the best person I ever knew," said Bev Foose, who explained her daughter loved kids and adopting Alexis fulfilled her dream of being a mother.

Bev Foose said the extra three years provided by the transplant will really allow Alexis to remember her mother.

Many others are remembering her, including G-A Elementary School Principal Chad Stover.

"She was a dynamic and dedicated educator who was passionate about making a positive impact on the lives of her students," Stover said.

"She had a way of connecting with students ... they were willing to work very hard for her because she loved them and they loved her," Pohl said.

At the elementary school, the third-grade team is planning to plant a tree in Foose's honor at the environmental center and new sportsmanship trophies have been ordered for fifth-grade floor hockey, renaming them the Sarah Foose Sportsmanship Award.  Every building is taking up a collection to be donated to Foose family, and the K-5 faculty is organizing various committees to plan and carry out a celebration of Foose's life following services, which are planned for late next week. Specific arrangements have not yet been announced by Grove-Bowersox Funeral Home, Waynesboro.

"I was also fortunate enough to call Sarah a friend and she will be dearly missed. She had the ability to see the positives in the most trying situations. Be it a pat of the back or a witty comment, Sarah had a way of making everyone she encountered feel special," Stover said. "I will personally miss the days when I would look up from my desk, well after the school day had ended, to see Sarah standing in the doorway anxious to tell me a joke or a funny story about her day!"

Crider, who conducted Foose's first interview with the district and will speak at her memorial service, shared these thoughts:

"I remember many late afternoon discussions well beyond the work day about her next steps in education, and in life. I felt honored to be part of her journey, always amazed by her fighting spirit. Many of you were connected to that journey as well – we know that Sarah would want us to remember the good times. She would want us to pick ourselves up, Lord knows she did that so many times. Learn from what we’ve been through and be better because of it. Make the most of every moment! Take time to be your best. Have a positive impact on those around you. Remember the 'small moments' that Sarah spoke with us about, those small moments each of us have every day! Those little things that help to pick someone up, that help to make them feel special. Those small moments add up over time. Sarah gave everyone millions of small moments — those moments will last with each of us forever."