ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Tri-Cities community gathered tonight to remember the life and a beloved elementary school principal who inspired thousands to choose “faith over fear.”
Former East Side Elementary School principal Dr. Josh Wandell died Saturday, seven years after being diagnosed with ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease’, also known as ALS.
Despite the diagnosis, friends, family and colleagues credit Dr. Wandell for showing them how to truly live and love life.
“Just the bravest strongest person I ever knew,” Kelly Geagley said.
Kelly Geagley is Dr. Wandell’s uncle. He said it was his approach at fighting ALS that inspired the Elizabethton community.
“When he was diagnosed with ALS, there’s stages you go to get medical equipment. He just waited until the last minute. He’s such a fighter,” Geagley said.
Dr. Wandell’s body grew weaker but his faith grew stronger.
“…his faith. That’s the one thing I think more than anything, was the faith he had for seven years,” Geagley added.
Aside from his faith, his uncle, Kelly Geagley said Wandell’s illness did not deter him from holding on to the two things he loved most: teaching and racing.
“He’s just a great guy to be with. If he wasn’t just my nephew, he’d be my buddy, my friend. He cared about people. You go to him to him and lift him up and go, ‘Oh Josh has got ALS and he makes you feel better,” Geagley recalled.
Even on his worst days, Geagley said his nephew managed to cultivate a positive attitude and captured the hearts of many, in the process.
“Josh would never want this to be about him. He’d want it to be to lead people with the Lord and for people to have faith,” Geagley said.
Geagley said he is grateful for the community’s support for not just today, but for the last seven years.
Dr. Wandell’s family received family and friends for visitation at Elizabethton High School’s gymnasium, which is his Alma mater. A celebration of life service began immediately after.