May we all flirt a little more, read a little more, go adventuring a little more, and put in the work to make the day-to-day special.
Linda Hampton, former administrative assistant to the Upper School principal and a beloved Rowland Hall employee since 1989, passed away December 25 following a sudden diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in August. Though our community continues to reel from Linda’s loss, a January 5 Celebration of Life service in St. Margaret’s Chapel on the McCarthey Campus provided some much-needed comfort and laughter—something Linda, the life of the party, would have wanted us all to have. Here are three sets of remarks from Linda’s family and friends, as read at the service. Lightly edited for style.
Jacob Hampton ’04, Linda’s son
When I started thinking of ways to highlight who mom was as a person, one of the first things I thought of was the day she stood us in the hallway and said, “Today is the day you learn that the words 'mom' and 'maid' are not synonymous.” Being direct was a hallmark of her personality.
She was one of the most genuine people I knew. She told me she once volunteered to discuss dress-code issues with one of the Upper School classes and ended up threatening that she’d start showing her underwear if they kept showing theirs. She was fiercely independent and stubborn when she had to be. Years ago she needed some work done on her sprinklers and balked at a local company’s quote. They explained the price was so high because they’d need to bring in a backhoe to dig a hole large enough to work in. She asked for the size of the hole and then proceeded to spend the day digging it by hand, no doubt throwing her back out in the process. Years ago her washing machine broke. She went to a local home-improvement store and asked one of the employees some questions to try to figure out the problem. He said her husband or one of her sons could probably do it for her. I wasn’t there, so I don’t what her response was, but I do know she worked on that machine until it was up and running again (probably more out of spite than anything).
She used to love singing and dancing in public because it embarrassed us, and now I find myself carrying on the tradition with my wife as my primary victim.
But she wasn’t all gristle and sarcasm. She had such a strong, goofy, fun side to her, and that’s the side we saw most. She took us to Disneyland when I was 12 and my brother was 16. We went two more times after that, always reveling in the chance to act like three-year-olds together. She loved taking long walks with us and would spend the whole time talking about absolutely anything. She never shied away from serious or tough topics, including the eventuality of her death. We spent countless hours watching the Chiefs disappoint us so, so many times. These were our formative moments for the art of cursing. In the final weeks of her life, I always knew she was feeling pretty good if she cursed a few times during a Chiefs game. She used to love singing and dancing in public because it embarrassed us, and now I find myself carrying on the tradition with my wife as my primary victim.
We were together a lot, and we were lucky to be so unconditionally wanted and loved by someone at all times without fail. She gave us a perfect home.
Mom said she wanted today’s memorial to be focused on memories and stories that make us smile or laugh. And I have plenty more I could share. But the most important memory I have of mom isn’t any one specific event or tradition. It was simply the feeling of being home with her. She told us she was so happy we weren’t interested in doing many extracurricular activities growing up because she was selfish and only had 18 years of us in the house. But it wasn’t selfish; it was so good for us to be with her. We were together a lot, and we were lucky to be so unconditionally wanted and loved by someone at all times without fail. She gave us a perfect home.
Before I finish, I need to fulfill a request that my mom desperately wanted me to do for her. She told me to tell everyone who reached out to her during these last few months: Thank you. Thank you for making her feel special and loved. She knew at the end how many people cared for her. And for that I’m so grateful.
Lee Thomsen, former Upper School principal and Linda’s former boss
We all know how much Linda loved books, and writers often articulate better what we mean to say, so I quote from George Saunders’ book Lincoln in the Bardo—a beautiful meditation on sadness and loss.
“His mind was freshly inclined toward sorrow; toward the fact that the world was full of sorrow, that all were suffering; and therefore, one must do what one could to lighten the load of those with whom one came into contact, because, in this state, he could be of no help to anyone and, given that his position in the world situated him to be either of great help, or great harm, it would not do to stay low, if he could help it.”
For those of you who worked in the Upper School with me, particularly in the office, you know that I tried to live by the mantra, “If that’s the biggest problem we have today we’ll take it,” but today is not one of those days, because it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Linda, seemingly was always a part of Rowland Hall and always would be. When I arrived 15 years ago, it seemed like she’d been here forever, and when I left three years ago, I assumed she would be here forever.
Let’s choose to remember those qualities that were so essential to who Linda was—generosity, honesty, hard work, and integrity.
Those of us who adored Linda are devastated today, but we also know she’d be pissed if we moped around too long. So, in service to Saunders’ words let’s choose to remember those qualities that were so essential to who Linda was—generosity, honesty, hard work, and integrity.
Among those things she loved: The Chiefs, books—especially dark mysteries (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Silence of the Lambs, the darker the better). This because, of course, she had studied criminal justice in college.
She loved pie; guys with big, burly forearms; a well-cooked French fry; musicals; dance and choir concerts at Rowland Hall; Kansas City barbecue; and of course, DOGS. And sometimes those loves overlapped.
I knew Linda mostly during the Diesel era. I’ll never forget one weekend when the Upper School was running one of the musicals. Because both my girls were in it, Linda knew I would see it at least two if not all three nights. So, Friday morning, she asked me how the show had gone the night before, and she ended asking, “Did Alan go last night by any chance?” to which I answered, “Yes.” She said, “Good! Because I really want to see the show, but I can’t leave Diesel alone from 7 am to 10 at night. I’ll run home and smuggle him into the show. Alan would kill me if he caught me doing that.” Sure enough, come show time, there was Linda in the first row of the balcony of the Larimer Center, with Diesel tucked inside her jacket. But then she left at intermission. When I asked why she said, “Diesel started singing along with the big group number right at the end of the first act, so I couldn’t risk staying.”
Linda was a no-BS person. She disliked meanness and untruth. One day when someone was rude to Angela at the front desk, Linda was ready to go out there and rip that person a new one.
She HATED when a parent would call and excuse their child from a test or something else when she suspected they weren’t really sick. And forget about anyone saying Doug Wortham’s class was “too hard.”
The other night Abby reminded me that when she graduated from Rowland Hall, Linda said, “I have a graduation present for you that I want to bring by.” And, of course, what would you think Linda would give a student going off to college? A book, right? But no, the gift was a can of pepper spray, because Linda told her, “The world can be a very hard place.”
She ADORED our children—she watched with parental pride as kids came, grew into themselves, graduated, and moved on.
She ADORED our children—she watched with parental pride as kids came, grew into themselves, graduated, and moved on. The Bynum boys, Micha Hori, Jamie Pierce, Sofia Diehl, just to name a few—she had a soft spot for the singers and dancers and admired their talent and grace.
For faculty and staff kids, she was their “school mom.” Frequently taking the afternoon shift for our kids who took the shuttle from the other campus, clamoring into the office to grab a piece of candy. She’d get a special sparkle in her eyes when she got a hug from Hazel, Meg, my two, or the Tschabrun girls. I’m sure she carried on the same for Ingrid and Dave and the next generation.
And she loved all things Rowland Hall. Yes, she would occasionally complain that too many of us would gather in the office and talk and laugh making it impossible for her to talk on the phone or get any work done, but she kept that candy dish filled knowing that we’d keep coming back, and she kept real half-and-half in the faculty-room fridge so we didn’t have to use that powdered gunk.
And…she loved her boys. Zach and Jake—she was so proud of everything you two accomplished, and she loved her travels with you. The generosity you gave by spending her last days at home with her was a reflection of her generosity to others that she instilled in you. When I visited with her, the only time she cried was at the thought of leaving you behind. All of us appreciate how you kept us connected to her through Caring Bridge these last several months and how you took care of your mom.
Finally, to close, back to George Saunders who reminds us to keep the happy memories in our hearts.
“What I mean to say is, we had been considerable. Had been loved. Our departures caused pain. Those who had loved us sat upon their beds, heads in hand... We had been loved, I say, and remembering us, even many years later, people would smile, briefly gladdened at the memory.”
Director of Ethical of Education Ryan Hoglund and Upper School psychology teacher Diane Guido
We’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Linda for 20 and 25 years. We want to first express gratitude to this community for taking care of its own through this difficult and poignant process. Thank you to Jeremy, Ann and operations, Linda’s family—Jacob, Emily, and Zach—and all of you in this community who have rallied to provide support, labor, and financial assistance, all to preserve Linda’s memory, dignity, comfort, and final peace. Tough love was Linda’s spirit and you have honored her well.
Linda was always easy to love, would talk your damn ear off, and was as generous as one could be.
In addition to being Salt Lake’s most notorious zucchini square dealer, Linda was a mentor and friend we could all count on. Her Lutheran tradition believes salvation comes through grace, but we all in this space know she would achieve peace through works as well. Linda was always easy to love, would talk your damn ear off, and was as generous as one could be.
The blessing of our friendship, as it was with many of you here, was the magic in the mundane, day-to-day routines with Linda. Schools are labor-intensive places and behind the scenes are cycles, a hamster wheel of yearly to-do lists, tasks, checklists, and grind. Linda humanized the process. Annual events such as back to school and graduation would have happened without Linda, but she always gave them her touch—she knew those days were important to students and families. She made the mundane special. In fact, she insisted on it.
For example, while cleaning out student folders one summer, she came across sets of pre-digital school portraits that showed kids growing up year to year. Instead of seeing it as the detritus of student record-keeping, Linda insisted we mail them to each family. So we spent two days in the summer mailing these photos back to each family. As a parent now, I understand how powerful that gesture was.
Linda was the personification of tough love. Manners, hard work, and refinement were the bars she set for teens and adults alike.
No dog or baby that came into the community made it past Linda’s caring heart. This is evident by the cross-stitch birth announcements hanging in many of our children’s rooms, and the coloring wall outside her cubicle.
When my daughter Meg was born, Linda was a sweet hand—just as enthusiastic as I was with Meg’s arrival—and offered sound advice to a nervous and joyous parent. Mostly ways to make sure she feared for her life.
While Linda loved the Chiefs and dachshunds, those loves pale in comparison to the love she has for her two sons, Rowland Hall alums Zach and Jacob. Their travels to Ireland, Disneyland, and Disney World—and their road trips through the Black Hills and the Badlands—were epic.
While Linda loved the Kansas City Chiefs and dachshunds, those loves pale in comparison to the love she has for her two sons, Zach and Jacob, who graduated from Rowland Hall. Their travels to Ireland, Disneyland, and Disney World—and their road trips through the Black Hills and the Badlands—were epic. Linda always spoke about that drive through Spearfish Canyon as one of her favorite memories with you two boys. How beautiful that canyon was. She said it was her idea of heaven.
When you all went to the Star Trek convention (in, I think, Las Vegas), Linda was shocked you spent three days there without leaving the convention center. “A real testament to their upbringing,” she joked. I didn’t have the heart to explain to Linda the decadence that is cosplay culture. Your secrets are safe there.
When Zach got certified to do SCUBA, Linda wanted to as well. She joined me and students at the crater in Heber once, and talked about one day returning to dive with Zach. Linda loved the water.
When we honored Linda for 30 years of service to the school this past fall, I asked Jacob what it was like to have his mother on campus. He said: “For a lot of teenagers entering a new school, having their mother in the main office would be some combination of embarrassing and terrifying. For me it was a blessing, as it gave me the chance to spend more time with the person most responsible for making me who I am. I'm extremely proud of what she's done.”
Zach mentioned: “I remember the sailing interim trip where I was the only guy on a boat full of women, including my mom! It wasn't bad though. I had a great time. I too am grateful for the opportunity to spend time with mom at Rowland Hall and even fondly recall going into the office during the summers to hang out or help with the bookstore.”
As much as Linda could be a fun-slayer for teenagers, she was a fun-starter for adults.
As much as Linda could be a fun-slayer for teenagers, she was a fun-starter for adults. At her and Diane’s 50th birthday party, I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a great picture of their anatomically correct birthday cake. Diane is petrified in the picture, and Linda looks like she’s in it to win it. Linda was naughty, and never missed the opportunity to point out a double-entendre that would make all of us blush.
Linda spoke fondly of her childhood in Missouri—from what a role model her father had been growing up (Linda inherited her love of home improvement and her fix-it attitude from him), to her antic-filled tales of college, where she studied criminal justice. She had a voracious appetite for true-crime fiction. She and Diane would game the holiday book-exchange to pick each other and each secure a stack of the-gorier-the-better books.
Diane and I were blessed to see her awe in Sorrento, Italy—the way she giggled through seeing the David, her silence as we walked Pompeii (well, except for the low-level swooning over our hot male Italian tour guide).
My favorite ritual we shared was the occasional beer on the porch with she and Diane on a lazy summer day or impromptu afternoon, joking, debating, or just catching up. We could sit for hours with the conversation easy...and one-sided mostly. Near the end of her life, Diane and I sat one afternoon with Linda. Linda was no-nonsense that she was going to die and was as sweetly resolved and brave as you would expect her to be.
Linda was a superhero, and I’m glad I got to see her save the day more than once.
We mere mortals joked that Linda was superwoman. We even had her wear a cape when we honored her for 30 years of service to the school. But Linda was a superhero, and I’m glad I got to see her save the day more than once.
What makes death so difficult are dreams and plans unfulfilled. In Linda’s honor I hope all of us flirt a little more, read for pleasure more often, share a drink with friends on the porch, take the time and put in the work to make the day-to-day special, and take a selfish adventure—a crazy adventure—that you have been putting off for responsible reasons.