Students, fellow educators recall Lake Stevens teacher

LAKE STEVENS — Students, alumni and staff filled the Lake Stevens High School gym Tuesday night to remember a favorite teacher.

The memorial service was for Jim Talley, who died Thursday after suffering a brain aneurysm. Talley, 61, taught advanced placement classes in U.S. and art history at the school and was the adviser for the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society.

Talley’s sudden death deeply saddened the school, but the memorial was meant to celebrate the teacher’s life, assistant superintendent Ken Collins said.

“None of us were prepared to say goodbye to our friend, our teacher, our mentor and a great Viking,” Collins said. “It’s hard to say goodbye to someone when you aren’t ready to and we weren’t ready to say goodbye to Jim.”

Since 1977, Talley had been a high school teacher in the state, having taught and coached at schools in Stevenson and Yelm before coming to Lake Stevens. He began teaching at Lake Stevens High School in 1992.

Talley cared about his students, said Kelly Bay, a 2001 graduate of Lake Stevens High School. Talley was her U.S. history teacher and a mentor.

“I remember that he was very encouraging of me in terms of being a leader in high school and was just a very positive role model,” she said.

Bay recalled how Talley spent his Saturdays helping his students prepare for advanced placement tests and instilled confidence in her to take the exam and do well. She also worked with Talley on an annual book drive held by the Honor Society to collect books for the most impoverished schools in the country.

“I think that’s just one of the many testaments to his very generous spirit,” she said.

When a student of his, Jo Desrosier, died in 2001, he started a scholarship in her name. Talley wrote a $900 check that was given to the scholarship recipient the first year, said Randy Adams, a 2002 graduate of Lake Stevens High School.

“Mr. Talley wanted a student who had worked hard and faced tough circumstances to have a little bit of help getting through school,” Adams said. “He didn’t want recognition for it. He didn’t even want to present the award. It was just important for him to do the right thing.”

Lake Stevens High School English teacher Bruce Kelly said he was a friend of Talley’s for 36 years.

They met in 1976 while they were both attending the University of Washington and became friends, he said. The two remained close after graduation when they took teaching jobs and eventually became colleagues at Yelm High School and then at Lake Stevens High School.

“He’s probably the greatest teacher I’ve ever seen,” said Kelly, who urged students to take classes from Talley.

Kelly said Talley, who grew up in South Dakota, missed his family’s farm homesteaded by his great grandfather. Talley told Kelly it was an ambition of his to preserve the farm for his nieces and nephews.

“He always spent three weeks to a month every summer at the farm in South Dakota,” he said. “He wasn’t just maintaining the farm, he was maintaining all the relationships that he had with all the people around him… and just making sure that his connections to the place never really severed.”

Members of Talley’s family attended the memorial. His nephew, Leigh Talley, addressed the crowd and thanked them for the outpouring of support.

“Our family is very proud of his work and what he was doing here,” he said. “But I also want to remind you, his greater family and community here, how proud you all should be of yourselves for what you helped make him into: a great educator and a very happy man.”

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491;

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