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Students gather to remember Zippy Leonard

Students write cards and letters to the family of Tobiah
Students write cards and letters to the family of Tobiah 'Zippy' Leonard who died after a tragic accident Dec. 25.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — There, front and center in Pam Muncey’s classroom, was Tobiah “Zippy” Leonard’s empty desk.

On the desktop stood her framed school picture, a lit candle and a vase of lilies, white daisies and green button flowers.

Zippy, a fourth-grader at South Whidbey Elementary School, died Sunday afternoon when a tree fell on her family’s Ford Explorer.

On Tuesday, her classmates and their families gathered together in grief in Room 208 at the school.

Behind her desk, three pictures were on display of Zippy hard at work in Muncey’s class. Christmas, holiday and New Year’s greetings scrawled in red, yellow and blue chalk covered the chalk board: “2012,” “Merry Christmas” and “school’s out.”

Eighteen of Zippy’s 27 classmates and their parents gathered in Muncey’s room to talk about their classmate. Three of the district’s counselors, including two employed by SWES, were there to help students and parents work through the loss.

Dayle Gray, one of the elementary school counselors, led the session. She told students about the tragic accident, and said it was OK for them to experience a range of emotions; anger, depression, acceptance.

One classmate and Zippy’s best friend, Annika LeWarne, wrote a eulogy that she brought to the school, but didn’t read aloud, titled, “Things I love about Zippy and learned from her.”

“Zippy taught me that matching your clothes was boring. Anyone can do that — it’s way more fun to clash and stand out. We liked wearing clothes with bright colors that were mismatched.”

That lesson was well-learned by Annika. On Tuesday night, she wore black and bright pink, and a leopard-print scarf and hat.

“Zippy and I have a friendaversary on the first day (of) the Island County Fair each year. That is the day we became best friends. That was the night of our first sleepover together — the summer after kindergarten. We go to the fair together every year on that day.”

Afterward, parents were led to the gym to hear from the school’s principal, Jamie Boyd, and the district superintendent, Jo Moccia. There with them were two counselors, Rachelle Bennett and Charlene Ray.

Muncey, Gray and the 9- and 10-year-olds sat in a circle on the floor. There they shared some of the feelings they were experiencing. Muncey opened the round-robin discussion.

“I’m sad, and it’s a big sad,” she said.

Once each student had a chance to speak, the students began writing and decorating cards to Zippy and her family.

A private memorial service for Zippy has been set for Saturday, Jan. 7 in Langley.

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