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Harpeth Hall Pays Respects

Maggie Tattersfield, Staff Writer

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On Friday, February 23, 2018, Upper School students gathered in lines by grade on Souby Lawn, clad in freshly pressed white Oxford shirts and Campbell plaid. We were to be transported to St. George’s Episcopal Church for the funeral service of our beloved Dr. Stephanie Balmer, Head of School.

It was announced at 5:00 pm on Thursday, February 15, 2018 that Dr. Balmer had been admitted into the hospital with onset liver failure due to a recurrence of breast cancer in the liver, and we lost her just two days later. On Thursday, February 22, alumni, parents, former faculty, and other members of our community were welcomed to the Athletic and Wellness building to celebrate the life of Dr. Balmer. The funeral service was held the following afternoon.

In stark contrast to the formal black funeral attire, I sat with the members of the Upper School in a sea of white shirts. An estimated 1,200 people were in attendance. Hymns were sung, tears were shed, and Mrs. Emily Cate Tidwell, Mr. Michael Miller, and Rev. R. Leigh Spruill all spoke about Dr. Balmer’s life and impact.

Mrs. Tidwell spoke of Dr. Balmer’s impact on the students and faculty of Harpeth Hall. Mrs. Tidwell’s speech allowed us all to reflect on our own experiences with Dr. Balmer: she was a star. Mr. Miller, however, gave us all an insight into Dr. Balmer’s life that was unfamiliar to the Harpeth Hall students. He spoke of her childhood and youth, as well as her life with Mr. Lauren Balmer and the welcoming of their daughter, Isabel Balmer (class of 2020), in 2002. In the homily, Rev. R. Leigh Spruill reflected on the overwhelming impact Dr. Balmer had on Nashville and the continuation of her legacy. These addresses all illuminated three different perspectives that shared the same conclusion: Dr. Balmer impacted everything she touched.

As the service ended, in a moment of reflection, I turned to the back of the church. I recognized familiar faces: recent graduates, not-so-recent graduates, and parents. I saw the faces of my fellow students. I saw people that I considered total strangers, but this is Dr. Balmer’s impact: they didn’t feel like strangers. We were all there for her.

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