TONASKET – Patti Middleton is no stranger to parades.
But she’s never gotten to ride in one. As the longtime music teacher in the Tonasket School District, she’s marched in countless parades, including many editions of the Founders Day variety, always as part of the Tonasket Marching Band.
“I’ve never ridden in a parade,” Middleton said. “I’ve walked a lot of miles in them with the band, but never got to ride in one.”
Middleton, her husband Randy and five grandchildren (all under the age of five) will ensconce themselves in a sheep wagon provided by her brother, Mike Buchert, as she rides the parade as this year’s Tonasket Founders Day Parade Grand Marshal.
As usually happens with the grand marshal, Middleton was shocked to hear her name called at the Tonasket Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet in February.
“My first hint was when (Tonasket Mayor) Pat (Plumb) said something about rhythm,” she said. “I was like, ‘What the heck is he talking about?’
“But that was fun because he was one of my students.”
And there are a lot of her former students in the Tonasket area. Middleton retired from a long stint as the school’s music teacher last year. And unlike most classroom teachers, she had a lot of those students for many years, giving her a chance to see a lot of them grow up.
“The best part of teaching was the kids I got to know,” she said. “A lot of them are friends now that they’re adults.
“That’s wonderful, and one of the great things about teaching, and especially about music because you get them year after year.”
Middleton, born and raised in Tonasket, was deeply influenced by former music teacher Wally Moore.
“He had such a big impact on me and many, many other students,” she said. “The things that Wally believed in – like work ethic, always doing your best and trying your hardest – I hope, as far as musicality, that I taught that.
“What was really fun was giving the kids an opportunity to showcase themselves. They really do rise to the occasion in music, athletics or anything else. They really want that.”
Since retiring she’s been busy running her business, Buena Vista Quilting and Lodging, and working with Randy with their other business, AdvoCare.
“I spend a lot more time at church, and I don’t feel like I’m rushed and tired,” she said. “The best part is not having any bells going off (as at school).
“I miss the instructional part, and being a part of the band. But you do move onto other things.”
Middleton said she had plenty of happy memories from her teaching years.
“I absolutely feel blessed,” she said. “Tonasket has many, many wonderful people who live here. I always felt like the community was very supportive of the music department and people always appreciated what the kids did.
“It was the hometown band, hometown choir, and a lot of people came to the concerts. It made the kids feel wonderful.”