Coon Rapids Assistant Principal Tyrone Kindle, 53, died June 19 after a long battle with cancer.
Many Anoka-Hennepin students and staff members joined Kindle’s family and friends at Faith Lutheran Church in Coon Rapids June 26 to celebrate his life.
The funeral fell on Kindle and wife Kathryn’s 21st wedding anniversary.
For Kathryn, it seemed fitting to celebrate her husband’s life and their love all at once, she said. The soloist who sang at the couple’s wedding provided music for Kindle’s funeral, too, performing the very same song: Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable.”
Kindle leaves behind three children: sons Zarkari, 30, and Nehemiah, 14, and daughter Takina, 18.
Unsure if Kindle would make it to Takina’s high school graduation and Nehemiah’s eighth-grade graduation from the Breck School this spring, the school hosted a special ceremony for the family in May before Kindle began receiving hospice care.
But, Kindle kept fighting and made it to the kids’ actual graduations in June. It was the last time he left the house.
“He was an amazingly strong person,” said Champlin Park Principal Mike George, Kindle’s close friend and colleague.
Initially diagnosed with cancer in 2008 when doctors discovered a tumor on his kidney, Kindle beat the disease and received a clean bill of health.
In 2011, Kindle received word that cancer was back, this time in his small intestine. It had already metastasized to his liver.
Though they didn’t tell the family until later, doctors thought Kindle would live for less than a year, Kathryn said. He didn’t stop fighting for three-and-a-half.
George, one of two to eulogize Kindle at the funeral, summed up Kindle’s legacy with words Kindle had shared with colleagues from his hospital bed: “‘My only wish is that people have a heart for kids. Believe in kids that no one else will believe in. Everyone needs someone to believe in them.’”
Kindle came to CRHS in 2006 after working in a variety of other fields. He was an officer in the Army Reserve, serving in Bosnia, and worked as an assistant director for WCCO before he became a teacher.
Kindle taught in alternative schools in north Minneapolis and rose to leadership as a dean of students at Plymouth Christian Youth Center. He returned to school at the University of Minnesota to obtain his administrative license, accepting an internship, then a full-time position, at CRHS.
While working as principal of CRHS, Jeff McGonigal, now associate superintendent for high schools in Anoka-Hennepin, hired Kindle.
“His ability went beyond what I would call ‘normal,’” McGonigal said, describing almost a sixth sense that Kindle possessed. He was able to detect when students were concerned or frustrated, even if they weren’t saying so, he said.
“Students just gravitated towards him when they were hurting,” McGonigal said. “He helped so many of them – sometimes in small ways and sometimes in pretty significant ways.”
George, who worked as an assistant principal alongside Kindle at CRHS before becoming Champlin Park’s principal, saw how well Kindle related to students.
“He never spoke at kids; he always spoke with them, on their level,” George said.
Kindle’s loss creates “a huge void for our students, our staff and the Coon Rapids community,” current CRHS Principal Annette Ziegler said. “He approached every single person, especially students, with intense care and compassion.”
Kindle continued working throughout his illness, with periodic time off for treatment.
His last day at the high school was in April, but even after that time, he communicated with colleagues about his students and their careers.
One of his last significant conversations was encouraging a colleague who was recently hired as a principal at another school, Kathryn recalls.
So many colleagues and students reached out to the Kindle family. “Everybody wanted to come and say goodbye,” Kathryn said, but on top of that, she also thinks that everyone wanted to take a little something from Kindle, too – inspiration, hope, wisdom.
Olivia Koester is at [email protected]