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Always Adventuring: Tamaqua senior’s journey tragically cut short just as it was beginning

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    McKayla Wall enjoyed her time with the Tamaqua Raider Marching Band. She worked at Heisler’s and recently started working at Leiby’s. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published February 09. 2018 11:49AM

McKayla Wall was unfailingly positive, a compassionate listener, and could brighten up a friend’s day with just a smile.

She also loved adventure, whether it was driving in her yellow VW Beetle, or traveling to Europe.

Friends and classmates of the Tamaqua Area High School senior are in mourning after her sudden, unexpected passing last week. Her death was due to a pulmonary embolism, according to her obituary.

“She was an outstanding person, very sweet, very kind, every day I saw her … I would just be happy because she was walking around with a smile, saying hi to everyone,” Shelly Valentine, a Tamaqua junior, said.

McKayla would lend an ear any time a friend needed one. If someone needed a ride, she was there. Her yellow beetle’s bright, friendly appearance matched her demeanor.

“She was just a very bright person, she always had a smile on her face, no matter how she was feeling,” said Zoe Snyder, a 2017 Tamaqua graduate.

McKayla had been accepted to several colleges and aspired to a career in communications.

Music and arts

McKayla was a lover of the arts — she sang in the chorus, played trombone in the band, and performed in the drama club. Some of Snyder’s fondest memories of McKayla were the times they spent talking before chorus, and just goofing off, like high schoolers do, before drama club.

Her drama club adviser, Adriane Drum, called McKayla one of the most enthusiastic and kind people she’s ever met. McKayla had a large role in their most recent production, “Radium Girls,” and was set to take part in the next play, “Mary Poppins,” this spring.

While moving forward without her will be difficult, Drum said that’s what the drama club plans to do, because it’s what McKayla would have wanted. She was the one who was lifting up her friends in times of need.

“She always had an encouraging word to say to somebody if they were down, she always knew the right thing to say to make you smile,” Drum said.

She loved her job at Heisler’s Dairy Bar, so much that she took senior pictures there, her friend Jaci Ohl recalled. At Heisler’s, she was known for brightening up a long shift, even when the temperatures were unbearable and the hours grew long.

“Even on the hot days when we were all sweaty and tired, she would still be cracking jokes and making us laugh,” Ohl said.

Sense of adventure

Despite her young age, McKayla had already developed a love for travel. When they came up with wristbands and car magnets to remember her, they chose the slogan “always adventuring,” because it captured her spirit.

With Girl Scouts she traveled to Savannah, Boston and Europe. That was one of two European trips she would take, the other with classmates and teachers.

Ohl, a sophomore who was on the Girl Scouts trip, recalled how McKayla arranged to meet with relatives in Germany, and made quick friends with the tour guides on the trip.

Drum said she will always remember being with McKayla on the school trip.

“Those were some of my fondest memories with her, getting to experience Europe together, London, Paris and Madrid,” Drum said.

McKayla gave back as a Girl Scout, where she achieved the gold and silver awards, and a volunteer who was well-known in the community.

One event she never missed was the American Cancer Society Chinese Auction, where she first started helping as a kindergarten. She would run prizes from the auction block to the person who won them.

But as event coordinator Maryann Dulaney recalled, she wanted a chance to take the microphone, which is usually reserved for the caller. When she got her chance as a young elementary schooler, McKayla bellowed into the microphone, to the delight of the crowd.

“With the Chinese auction, you get the same following of people. Everybody knows McKayla. She was the girl who grew up there,” Dulaney said.

Remembering McKayla

Dulaney said this year, it will be impossible not to think of McKayla as they go through the auction.

Her presence will be missed among all of her friends and peers as the year comes to an end.

The band will use the compartment where she stored her trombone as a memorial. When they play their concert this spring, McKayla’s chair will be left unoccupied as a tribute, and she’ll be listed in the program as both a member of the band and chorus. The band is a tight-knit group where kids as young as 12 and as old as 18 have to work together. McKayla embraced that, welcoming kids of all ages.

“This is one of those things where as a group we’ll have to be together, and be one,” said band director Mark Beltz.

Her friends will be reminded of her when they return to the things they loved doing together.

Ohl and Valentine said performing will be tough. She and Zoe Snyder had bought tickets to go see one of her favorite singers, Harry Styles, this summer. Snyder recalled a chilling memory where McKayla said that her friend had to attend the concert no matter what, even if McKayla died. Snyder says there’s no chance she’ll miss the concert, but McKayla purchased the tickets herself, so she is trying to work with the box office to make sure she can get the tickets.

“Right now, I don’t think it has quite set in for me, but I’m going to think about her every day,” Zoe Snyder said.

Members of the band gathered to go to the funeral home Thursday night. The services were scheduled for today.

The Wall family is setting up a scholarship in her name. Donations may be made to Mrs. Lauren Wall, in care of E. Franklin Griffiths Funeral Home, 655 E. Broad St., Tamaqua, PA, 18252 or given to the funeral home.

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