WYOMING, Mich. - The community is mourning the loss of a woman who died trying to save her dog.
According to the Wyoming Department of Public Safety, 38-year-old Tracy Cashman was reported missing Saturday night after not returning home from walking her dog.
Cashman's family say she frequently walked her dog at Battjes Park, located at 1601 Blandford Ave SW. Around 9 p.m., Cashman's dog returned home without her, so her family went to the park to search for her. They were unable to find Cashman and called police for help.
Around 12:25 a.m., police say crews discovered Cashman's body in the ice of a pond at the park. Firefighters performed a cold water rescue, but Cashman was already dead.
Investigators believe that Cashman fell through the ice trying to rescue her dog after it fell through the ice during their walk.
Cashman would not have walked on the ice under other circumstances, said her mother, Rhonda Moore.
"If the dog was struggling, she would save that dog," Moore said. "Whether it was her dog, somebody else's dog, a child -- it would be instinct. She would just do it."
Police say an autopsy is scheduled for Monday morning.
Cashman was an employee of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools. Tracy's family and friends say she was well-liked by students and colleagues
"[She was] an all-around caring and loving person," said Melissa Dalman, who grew up with Tracy. "It didn't matter who you were, she was always there for you."
The school district alerted the community of her passing on Sunday morning, stating that school will be let out early on Monday, Dec. 10.
Here is the full statement from the school:
The Godfrey-Lee Public Schools family mourns the passing of district employee, Tracy Cashman. Tracy has worked at the district since 2012, beginning in Food Service before transitioning to the role of Administrative Assistant to the Director of Operations, Transportation, and Food Service. She was a dedicated and loyal employee, who constantly put the needs of students and families at the forefront of her thoughts and actions. She embodied the District’s core values of community, equity, excellence, human centered and relationships.
She is survived by her husband Jerome “Jerry” See, children Scott, Haley and Hanna See. She loved animals, the outdoors and, most of all, her family. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her, including the entire school family of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools.
The District had a half-day of school on Monday, Dec. 10, to support students and staff during this difficult time. Superintendent Kevin Polston stated, “We wanted our students to hear the message about Tracy from a trusted adult in a setting where we could provide resources for them if needed. Students throughout the district utilized Crisis Team support and we are thankful for our Administrators, Counselors, Social Workers, School Psychologist, Kent School Services Network staff and community partners, to comfort students.”
The half-day schedule for students and full day schedule for staff also allowed for dedicated time to provide grief support to staff. Polston further states, “We know for our children to receive the best education possible, our staff needs to be emotionally healthy as well. The dedicated time in the afternoon, facilitated by our community partners that are experts in the field, provided a healthy outlet for our staff to begin to process the grief of losing a friend and colleague.”
Ms. Cashman was a dedicated and loyal employee. She coordinated the transportation for all students in the district in a safe and efficient manner. She also recently passed her certification test to be a bus driver, and was nearly complete with her road hours to earn licensure. This act shows her commitment to the district as finding substitute bus drivers was not always easy.
Another key function of her role was processing meal benefits applications for the 95% of the district’s 1,863 students. The applications allow for students to receive free breakfast and lunch at all Godfrey-Lee Schools. The percentage of eligible students also qualifies the district for approximately $1.4 million in at-risk funding from the State of Michigan. This work is an example of how vital her role was to the district, but also indicative of how most of her work was done out of the spotlight.
She also had a big heart for kids. She was quick to notice a student that needed a smile or an extra hand. Students found her to be a trusted friend at school that they could count on when they needed her.
Funeral services for Tracy will be held on Friday at 11 a.m. The funeral will be held at Lee Street Christian Reformed Church, 1261 Lee Street SW, Wyoming with Pastor Kent Rottman Officiating. Relatives and friends may meet the family at Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf Funeral Home, 4145 Chicago Drive SW, Grandville, on Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m.
The District will be closed on Friday, Dec. 14, to allow staff to attend the funeral service. The District asks for continued thoughts and prayers for the family as they grieve the loss of Tracy.
Those wishing to make financial contributions to support the family with funeral expenses can donate at a Go Fund Me page set up by the family at https://www.gofundme.com/63m4j-tracys-funeral-expenses.
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