Hundreds gather at Madrona Sunday to remember Edmonds teacher

Those attending listen to Pastor Paul Sundberg of Trinity Lutheran Church, where GayLynne Ullerich was a member. (Photos by Jonathan Assink)

About 300 students, parents, friends and co-workers of Madrona K-8 teacher GayLynne Ullerich lit candles and gathered on the Madrona K-8 playfield Sunday night to remember the vibrant life of the physical education teacher who died in a car crash Saturday morning as she and her family were headed to the mountains for a day of skiing.

Mrs. Ullerich died after the Suburban in which she was riding left the road, slid into a snowbank and rolled over, hitting a tree just after 8 a.m. Saturday. Her husband, Jeff, and the couple’s two teen-age children also were injured. They were treated at Cascade Medical Center and returned home to Edmonds Saturday night, friends of the family said.

Friends write messages of support for the Ullerich family.

“We are gathered here not only because we care about GayLynne and her family, but we care about each other,” said Pastor Paul Sundberg of Trinity Lutheran in Lynnwood, where the Ullerich family

About 300 students, parents and co-workers gathered to honor the memory of Mrs. Ullerich Sunday night.

attends church. “The harsh reality of this moment is, there are no good explanations for why it happened. Tragedy reaches into our lives from time to time and changes everything in an instant.

“We gather  to remember a friend, teacher, partner who was invested in young people, invested in the joys of activities and being outside in the world and who was on her way to indulge in those joys when she died,” Sundberg said. “We have an opportunity to honor her memory by caring for each other in the days ahead.”

It’s important “to keep telling stories of GayLynne,” Sundberg added. “Her love, her compassion, her way of being with us, so that others will know it,  so that we remember it, so that her life will still touch ours.”

As the crowd began walking around the Madrona track, singing “Amazing Grace,” Sundberg described Mrs. Ullerich as someone who enjoyed the outdoors and being active. She was an avid bike rider, often riding her bike to school, and at one point the entire Ullerich family did a bicycle ride across the state of Iowa, Sundberg said. Friends noted that Mrs. Ullerich taught bicycle repair clinics at REI that were specifically aimed at helping women become comfortable working on their bikes.

The evening was organized by Madrona seventh-grader Nicole Roundy, who said she at first wanted to gather a few friends  for a candlelight ceremony to remember a favorite teacher. But as the word began to spread across text messages and Facebook, the crowd grew, with cars filling the Madrona parking for the 5 p.m. event. A large piece of butcher paper was placed on a table for people to sign, and a place near the track was designated for flowers that people brought in honor of Mrs. Ullerich.

Nicole Roundy said she will always remember Mrs. Ullerich for being “really nice” and also for her hairstyle. “She had a really awesome perm. That’s one way that people will remember her — by her perm.”

Counselors will be available on Tuesday for students and staff when they return to Madrona after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and Pastor Sundberg told the group: “Do not be afraid to talk to someone about your grief and the emotions you’re feeling.  Most of us need someone to talk to.”

The following letter was posted to the school’s website by Madrona Principal Lynda Fisher:

Dear Madrona Community,

My heart is breaking as I share the news that our health/fitness/PE teacher GayLynne Ullerich was killed Saturday morning in a car accident. She was with her family as they were driving in the mountains for a day of skiing.  Her husband and children survived the accident and are at home now. This is such a tragedy and I hope you each will join me in holding her precious family in your hearts and prayers.

Our staff have been notified and we will be meeting both informally this weekend and formally on Tuesday morning to support each other and to prepare to support our students. The school district will send in additional counselors to provide support for students as well. It is my hope that most of our families receive this email so that parents may share this sad news with their children prior to hearing it discussed at school.

Though devastating, I know we will get through this together as a Madrona family. I will forever remember GayLynne’s wonderful, healthful energy, caring heart and quick smile and I, like you, will miss her dearly.

With great sadness,


Editor’s note: Many students and parents have been sharing their thoughts and memories about Mrs. Ullerich at the end of the previous story, so we are linking to it here.

  1. I can’t believe this tragic news. Gaylynne Lantis Ullerich has such a special place in so many of our hearts. She was such a loving, kind, sensitive, strong and funny person. She meant a lot to me and I extend my sympathies to Jeff, Josh, Emily and all of her family and many friends.

  2. News of this tragedy has reached us in Montana. We were privileged to be acquainted with Gaylynne when she was growing up in Terry, MT. She was a talented, energetic kid and young woman. She made a positive impact on our small community with her award winning smile and pleasant personality. Her willingness to help out in any situation, particularly if older folks were involved, made her a true stand out.

  3. Gaylynne was a few years behind me in the Terry MT public schools where we grew up. I remember Gaylynne’s seemingly boundless energy and determination to make the best of any situation. She was a very talented athlete and in those years she challenged other female athletes to work just a little harder and be more competitive through her exuberance. She touched many lives with her smile and laughter yet left lasting impressions with her mentors and teachers. Both of my parents were educators and each held her in high regard, commenting about her resolve to succeed. She and my mother formed a special bond, and Gaylynne’s character and spirit brought her particular joy.

  4. GayLynne was my soul sister and best friend. She always gave 110% in everything she was involved in and with everybody whom she became acquainted. Her willingness for fun, laughter, adventure and travel will be greatly missed. Together, we always had fun and the memories of our road trips are legendary in several states. We would run out of gas money but never out of laughs or opportunities to meet new people during the adventure.

    She was a fantastic friend who would give you a shove we needed, call you to help feed Sally Struthers’ kids who needed financial support, laugh with you during your challenges and hug you when needed it. GayLynne adopted me into her family and circle of friends when my mother passed away. She leaves a tremendous hole in my heart as I miss her terribly.

    Even though her mother passed away at an early age also, she was a great Mom and partner. We would laugh about gravy boats and kitchen accessories to the point that each Christmas we would try to out do each other in finding the best unknown “needed” gadget. My pickle fork and velvetta cheese box are still favorites at my home.

    Her genuine hospitality, love for teaching, tenacity for causes and spirit will live on in her students, colleagues, friends, family and children.

    What a blessing to have been her friend ~ she will always remain in the hearts of all she touched.. I know I am a better person for knowing her and having her character rub off on me, even though I provided the fashion sense of our relationship! 🙂

  5. Gaylynne what a gal! I was blessed to have met Gaylynne in Keflavik, Iceland where we both taught for the Dept. of Defense Dependent Schools. She was so much fun! Never a dull moment! One school snow day in Iceland we made snow angels outside our building while others watched & laughed. She will always be my best snow angel. My deepest sympathies to Jeff, Josh, & Emily.

  6. Gaylynne taught 2nd grade at Tulalip Elementary when I was there in the early 90’s. She was a strong teacher and cared greatly for her students. I was a single young woman at the time and one day Gaylynne showed up at my house to visit. She told me I needed to get out more and extended the hand of friendship. What a lovely person. The world is a better place because of the way she lived her life. My prayers are with you all.

  7. I just heard of GayLynne’s passing today. A friend and teammate, Rachel Klosterman, sent me this wesite. It’s with tears in my eyes that I write this. I was GayLynne’s basketball coach at NDSCS. She was our MVP, our friend, our cheerleader, our leader, our baby sitter (kids loved her)..she was everything. During her senior year at Terry, she and her parent made the trip to Wahpeton, ND, some 450+ miles, to take a look at the college and basketball proram. I too, had a look at her. After watching her play ball again our players I knew the Wildcat had to have GayLynne. Upon completion of 2 years at NDSCS GayLynne was ranked in the Wildcat All Time….3rd in scoring, 6th in rebounds, 4th in assists, and 4th in steals…..very IMPRESSIVE. My whole hearted sympathy goes to her family, students, peers, and friend….Max Reinke

  8. I also just heard of GayLynne’s passing today from Rachel. How very sad. I was her teammate at NDSSS on the basketball and track teams. She was such a happy, fun person and always gave her best. She will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends. Lisa

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