The community is mourning the loss of ThunderRidge High School principal Chris Tabeling, who died from cancer at the age of 46 the morning of March 4.
"He was passionate about his families - his family at home and his family at school," interim Superintendent Erin Kane wrote in an email to parents. "There is no doubt in my mind that his two families are why he battled so long and hard against this disease."
Tabeling was born on Aug. 23, 1971 in Champaign, Illinois. He moved to Pueblo in 1978 and graduated from Pueblo South High School. He earned his bachelor's degree and teaching certificate from Colorado State University, where he was an avid football fan. He completed his master's degree in education administration and spent 24 years in the field. He coached sports and taught math before making his way to principal of ThunderRidge.
Tabeling is survived by his wife of more than 16 years, Kristin, his two daughters, Caitlyn, 15, and Jayna, 12, his parents and "many other family and friends he loved unconditionally," his obituary says.
"Chris loved being outdoors, mountain biking, traveling to new destinations, but mostly, Chris loved his family," it says. "His eyes sparkled the most when he was sharing stories of his daughters."
He also loved his job. In a Q&A on the district's website, Tabeling called the ThunderRidge community an "extended family."
"I feel so humble and proud to serve as the principal at ThunderRidge High School," he is quoted saying. "...This is just such a special place. It's the perfect job for me."
Tabeling was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer more than two years ago, according to the school district.
Hours after the announcement, community members used social media to share condolences and honor Tabeling's impact on the high school in Highlands Ranch and its families. He was compassionate, caring, a good man, they said.
"You will be missed and I know our family is grateful for your contributions to our kids, TRHS and our community," one woman wrote.
"A significant loss to our community," another person commented. "May God bless the Tabeling family in these most difficult times."
In her email to parents, Kane said she is devastated by the loss. She enjoyed getting to know Tabeling over the past couple of years.
"His resilience, optimism and strength of character was admired by all," wrote Kane. "Chris was a charismatic leader who deeply cared about every student and every staff member in his building and I know this news will greatly affect the ThunderRidge High School community."
Nikki Ballow, who had been an assistant principal, was named acting principal.
The District Crisis Team will be at the school in the coming days to support staff and students, Ballow wrote in an email to ThunderRidge families. She points to the district's resources on handling crisis, available at www.dcsdk12.org/grief-and-loss-resources.
"Chris was an amazing mentor and a great friend, and he truly believed in TRHS. He will be missed by all," Ballow wrote. "Please remember that the Grizzly family is strong. Together, we will get through this."
A service for Tabeling is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon on March 10 at Shove Memorial, 1010 N Nevada Ave, Colorado Springs. The family encourages people to send stories and memories of Tabeling to ChrisTabelingMemories@gmail.com. In lieu of flowers, consider donating to his daughter's education fund, Chris Tabeling Memorial Fund, account number 792939 at ENT Federal Credit Union, 7250 Campus Drive Colorado Springs, 80920.
"Chris fought cancer with never ending hope and courage," his obituary says. "He never stopped fighting to be with his family and Chris will be remembered for his fierce and unrelenting ability to 'Be The Storm.' "
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