WACO, Texas (KWTX) Children lined as they have for decades Thursday night to take a turn at riding a sheep at the Heart of Texas Fair and Rodeo in Waco, but behind the scenes, this year’s Mutton Bustin’ event was bittersweet for volunteers whose thoughts were on their longtime coworker Jerry Lynch, a longtime Central Texas educator who died in an ATV accident in April.
Jerry Lynch, a longtime educator and Heart of Texas Fair & Rodeo volunteer who died in an ATV accident in April, was honored Thursday night and a banner was unveiled in the arena bearing the words she used to challenge her students, “Go forth and be leaders.” (Photo by Drake Lawson)
“She lived for the rodeo,” close friend Robin Tomchesson said.
“That was her life. She loved those kids,” she says.
Lynch taught in the McGregor ISD where she was also a coach and a driver’s education instructor, and led the school’s Peer Assistance and Leadership or PALs program, challenging her students to “Go forth and be leaders.”
For more than 30 years, she was also a fixture on the fairgrounds, serving for many years on the Rodeo Committee, and on Thursday night HOT Fair & Rodeo officials honored the longtime volunteer with a video tribute.
“Jerry Lynch was family and her legacy will live on forever,” Executive Director Wes Allison said.
A banner was unveiled Thursday night above the Mutton Bustin’ pit that bore the words Lynch used to inspire her students, “Go forth and be leaders.”
It will be hung there every year during the fair and rodeo.
Many in the arena including some of her former students wore T-shirts the displayed the same message.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” volunteer Diane Walters said.
“This year has been really tough,” she said.
“Her not being there by my side has been hard, but I know she’s got a great seat watching us,” says Walters.
Lynch was a Waco native and a Crawford High School graduate who started her teaching career in the Lorena ISD after graduating in 1987 from Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
She taught and coached in Lorena until 1991 when she moved to the McGregor ISD.