Patricia Stoops worked at Glick Middle School in Modesto, where she co-founded a program that plans service trips for students

By Jason Duaine Hahn
June 18, 2019 04:44 PM
Jamey Olney

A beloved middle school educator from California died earlier this month when something went “horribly wrong” while she was climbing in Yosemite National Park.

Patricia Stoops, 57, was visiting Yosemite with a team of climbers on June 8 when she attempted to lead the group from the Central Pillar of Frenzy, a favorite spot for rock-climbing lines at the park, just before sunset, KTLA reported.

But according to her brother, Michael Stoops, Patricia died in an accident as she rappeled from the area.

“All I know thus far is that it was indeed a rappelling accident. She had taken the lead to get the team down before dark and something, what exactly still isn’t clear, went horribly wrong,” Michael wrote on the Climbing Project, an online forum for climbers, the Modesto Bee noted.

“She did not survive the fall, unfortunately. No one else was injured,” he continued. “I’ve spoken to her boyfriend who was present at the time. He’s still not sure just what happened.”

Stoops was a teacher’s aide at Glick Middle School in Modesto and worked with English language development teacher Jamey Olney, who fondly remembers her friend’s warmth and humor.

“I had the honor and great privilege of working alongside Trish at Glick Middle School the past three years,” Olney wrote in a statement to PEOPLE. “She was brave, brash, funny, smart, and loved everyone she came in contact with. She gave the BEST hugs. She was a living, breathing example of a life lived abundantly and joyfully.”

Together, the duo started the HOPE Project (Helping Other People Everywhere) that planned extracurricular service trips for students. This summer, they were planning to take a group of the school’s students to Mexico to build a home for an underprivileged family.

“She is one of the few people who gets what it means to serve the ‘least of these’ on a deep, deep level,” Olney said, adding that Stoops was inclined to help others even if it meant some personal sacrifice. “In fact, she walked away from a lucrative career as an architect to build houses for others all over the world with Habitat for Humanity for many years while living very simply herself.”

Olney says she still plans to take the group of students to Mexico to build the home. She is still raising money for the trip through its GoFundMe page.

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“I have stood in awe of Trish’s ability to bring people from all walks of life from all corners of the globe to accomplish great things,” Olney said. “Some people collect stamps or cars; Trish collected people. She is a testament to the ‘power of one.’ ”

So far, HOPE has raised $2,100 of their $8,000 goal to pay for the home-building trip to Mexico.

“We are going to see this project to completion,” Olney said, “and honor the life and legacy of an angel here on earth.”