• 59°

Community remembers a beloved teacher, family member

Positive presence

Zach Thompson

SALISBURY — Zach Thompson, a South Rowan High School teacher and a father of three, died from brain cancer Monday.

Thompson was diagnosed with glioblastoma on the first day of school in 2016, according to South Rowan Principal Kelly Withers.

Withers said Thompson had been teaching at South Rowan only since March 2016 but that she felt “odd” saying that he had been there for such a short time.

“The impact he had was monumental in the time he was there,” Withers said. “And part of that was just his consistent positive presence.”

Withers said Thompson was still teaching until Wednesday of last week. He went to the doctor Thursday and was hospitalized Friday morning.

“He worked right up until he absolutely could not anymore,” Withers said.

She said he had three main focuses: his faith, his family and his students.

Thompson was married to Cassie Safrit Thompson. The couple had three children — Ruby, who is almost 1, and Brooks and Parker, who are 3.

Thompson had a large extended family on Cassie’s side, with about 20 cousins who are close-knit.

Many of them spoke about how quickly Thompson became part of the family.

“It was kind of like we gained a cousin, but I gained a brother,” said cousin-in-law Adam Petrea. “We kind of grew together. We coached T-ball together. We went to the beach together.”

Another cousin-in-law, Corey Stiller, said his favorite memory of Thompson is from a night at DJ’s when a man kept giving Stiller “mean looks.”

“The guy explains (that) I looked at him funny. Zach assured him there was no issue and, within minutes, we’re all sharing a beer together,” Stiller said. “His willingness to stand up for anyone and make the best of any situation was what really made him a great friend.”

Les-Lee Peeler Ihme, the eldest of Cassie’s cousins, said she always tried to look out for Cassie when it came to dating. Then, Cassie met Zach.

“The first time I met him, I knew she had met the one,” Ihme said. “He was truly one of the best people you could hope to meet. You were proud to call him family.”

In March, as part of the Love Thy Neighbor benefit series, Concordia Lutheran Church and Trinity Lutheran Church planned a community breakfast and two races to help raise money for the Thompson family.

At that time, Thompson was part of a clinical trial at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University Medical Center. He told the Post in March that his MRIs showed that his tumor was not growing.

Petrea said Thompson was the kind of person who didn’t want people to worry about him. Because of that, he didn’t really notice Thompson getting worse over the past several weeks.

“You could see little subtleties. He wasn’t the Zach I remember the last month. But he was still there,” Petrea said.

Petrea said that in addition to teaching at South Rowan until two days before being hospitalized, Thompson also taught Sunday school at his church, Stallings Baptist, earlier that week.

Withers said a memorial service will be held for Thompson in the South Rowan High School auditorium at 4 p.m. Sunday.

She said that since Thompson was an instructor with the school’s Communications Academy, some of his students will make a video to honor him.

The memorial will be open to the public.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

Comments

Ask Us

Ask Us: What programs exist for litter cleanup?

Business

County begins accepting restaurant grant applications

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man charged with nine more felony sex offenses

Nation/World

Biden team readies wider economic package after virus relief

Nation/World

Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new solar wings

Nation/World

Cuomo sorry for remarks aide ‘misinterpreted’ as harassment

Nation/World

Trump calls for GOP unity, repeats lies about election loss

Education

Rowan County administers 700 vaccines, with majority going to local educators

Crime

Shoplifting at Walmart presents challenge for Salisbury police

Local

Commissioners will hear details about changes to solar energy policies

Business

After overcoming obstacles, local barber Daniel King earns registered status

Lifestyle

39th annual K12 student exhibitions go virtual

Business

Biz Roundup: Chamber of Commerce to host ‘Salute to Agri-Business’ at March Power in Partnership

Local

Local legislators back bills ranging from new restrictions on sex offenders to Holocaust education

News

After surviving COVID-19 scare, Lois Willard set to celebrate 100th birthday

High School

Carson rolls over South 41-0 as about 600 allowed in to see season opener for both

Education

East Spencer after-school program looks toward opening, nonprofit status

Lifestyle

Frank Ramsey inducted into the NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame

College

Livingstone’s Stoutamire inducted into 2021 CIAA Hall of Fame

Nation/World

J&J’s 1-dose shot cleared, giving US 3rd COVID-19 vaccine

Coronavirus

13 deaths reported in Rowan, county stresses need to receive second dose

Coronavirus

10% of Rowan residents receive first dose; eight COVID-19 deaths reported this week

News

North Carolina State Highway Patrol commander to retire

Education

UNC School of the Arts may go for online learning due to COVID-19 spread