For nearly 25 years, former students and fellow teachers said Margaret Jane Wall had a presence like no other at Puyallup High School. Wall, 61, died Dec. 25 after a two-year battle with cancer. She had taught business and marketing at Puyallup High School since September 1989 and was the lead adviser of the business-focused DECA club.
“Maggie was a character,” said Kim Root, also a DECA adviser at Puyallup High. “You knew when she entered a room. She definitely wasn’t shy and could be outspoken; she told it like she saw it.”
Root taught with Wall for 22 years in the same department.
“Maggie leaves a huge hole in the business and marketing department at Puyallup High School,” Root said. “She has been a fixture in our program for more than 24 years, one that will be difficult to replace. Maggie has worked with over 1,000 students and has inspired many to pursue education and careers in business and marketing.”
One is Carly Olson, a 2006 Puyallup High graduate. Wall encouraged Olson to major in business, and she chose to attend the University of Southern California.
After college, Olson landed a consulting job at Bain and Company. Now, she’s starting her own company that creates solutions to better support working mothers.
“If I were to tell Mrs. Wall what I’m doing now, she would make me feel like I am capable of doing this and would be very supportive,” Olson said. “She was very good at inspiring her students to make bold moves.”
Wall was diagnosed with tongue cancer in September 2011 while she cared for her husband, who had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in his esophagus. When Wall learned about her cancer, she put off treatment in order to help Rocky, her husband of 17 years.
When Rocky died, Wall’s daughter, Celeste Lykken, said her mother “hung her hat on being a teacher.”
“It was the one thing she could achieve, if she could just get rid of the cancer,” Lykken said. “It was her life passion to take care of those kids.”
Wall had radiation treatment during winter 2011. Doctors thought they treated it, but the cancer returned September 2012.
Wall had surgery to remove a portion of her tongue. It was removed and rebuilt, but it resulted in difficulty speaking, Lykken said.
“She was very concerned she wouldn’t be able to return to school to teach,” Lykken said. “She went through speech therapy.”
Between October 2012 and last summer, Lykken said her mother had two additional surgeries that resulted in even more difficult speech and an inability to eat through her mouth.
Lykken said Wall was the kind of mother every child dreams of having.
“She was beautiful, funny and smart,” Lykken said. “I’m proud of my mom. I always wanted to show her off, even as an adult.”
Lykken also entered into business, as did her brother, Matthew Walker. Walker is in finance; Lykken is a marketer at Microsoft.
Before she became a teacher, Wall spent 10 years as a clothes buyer for Bon Marche and Mariposa.
Lauren Adler, a 2007 Puyallup High graduate, said most of the stories she remembers from school happened in Wall’s classroom.
“I can’t tell you how many funny and crazy stories in high school there were, and they were all in business and marketing class,” Adler said. “She was so genuine. She made our class a family, and she built good relationships with students.”Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at andrew.fickes@ puyallupherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.