Teresa Ryan’s coworkers say she left her mark all over the office.
The Pierce County District Court employees said sarcastic witticisms and surprises on their desks were the norm around the courthouse, with Ryan at the center of it all.
“You didn’t know what to expect when you came into work,” said Jeff Standley, Ryan’s friend and colleague for more than three years.
The vibrant 46-year-old woman known for her quick wit and relentless charm was fatally shot Monday outside her South Hill home.
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Austin Nelson, the 19-year-old ex-boyfriend to Ryan’s 16-year-old daughter, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder and other charges related to the killing.
“Teresa was so much more than a victim of this completely unnecessary crime,” said Angie Putnam, one of many coworkers who reached out to The News Tribune to gush about their friend.
When he heard about the shooting, Standley said he thought it was a cruel joke; he wished it was once reality struck.
Now, Standley and the rest of Ryan’s colleagues cherish the remnants of their friend’s pranks, which are scattered around the office:
The Tinkerbell and smiley face stickers on computer monitors, remaining specks of glitter left over from the heap that once engulfed an entire desk. A figurine of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers — “the best quarterback in the league,” Ryan would say as a unapologetic Packers fan.
Standley, a fan of the rival Chicago Bears, fondly remembers the duo’s chummy wagers for every Packers-Bears football game.
The one time Ryan lost, Standley recalled, she brought his winnings in change, wrapped in an elaborate ball of masking tape.
“I could go on forever,” he said of Ryan’s persistent pranks. “Her footprint is all over the place. People are really happy to have that presence there.”
Her footprint is all over the place. People are really happy to have that presence there.
Jeff Standley, friend and colleague of shooting victim Teresa Ryan
Chris Lundquist knew Ryan for about as long as Standley. He said she was a true friend with a free spirit.
When Lundquist started working with Ryan, she was instantly warm.
“When I joined the District Court, she was one of the first people to welcome me aboard,” he said.
He wasn’t immune to Ryan’s pranks. A hater of seafood, Lundquist once came to work to find his desk covered in paper fish (Ryan’s 5-year-old daughter helped her cut them out, Lundquist said, laughing).
Jamie Childs knew Ryan for eight years. The two carpooled together a while back.
Childs said her friend was loving, accepting, beautiful inside and out, and loyal — the person who could quip about your bad day and make you smile, she said.
“I feel bad for the people who didn’t know her,” Childs said, “because they really missed out.”
I feel bad for the people who didn’t know her, because they really missed out.
Jamie Childs, Ryan’s friend and colleague
Outside work, those close to her say Ryan’s life was her family.
“She loved her girls more than anything,” Childs said of the mother of two. “She was a proud mom, and she was a proud wife.”
Linnea Sager, a family friend for more than 20 years, said Ryan’s house was “Super Bowl central.” Sitting around a campfire in Ocean Shores or Cle Elum was a favorite pastime for both their families, she said.
“We had so much fun camping,” Sager said. “We would just laugh a lot.”
Lundquist said Ryan would drop anything to help her kids — something she had to do last week after she learned her daughter’s car had been vandalized. Police believe Austin, the suspect in Ryan’s shooting, was responsible for that vandalism.
“She loved her kids,” Lundquist said. “She’d do anything for them.”
Childs said Ryan’s loyalty extended beyond her family.
“On your worse day that you could ever imagine,” she said, “you knew she was in your corner.”
Grant Cogswell, who worked at the front desk alongside Ryan, said she was a creature of habit who never “sugar-coated” the truth and always backed him up when needed.
“If someone was being rude to me at the counter,” Cogswell said, “Teresa never hesitated to come over and stand behind my chair and make sure they knew she was there to have my back.”
Childs said everyone grew familiar with Ryan’s cheerful morning greetings when she arrived to work.
Choking back tears, she said it’s difficult to think that they won’t hear that cheerful voice again.
But Ryan’s presence — the glitter, stickers, paper fish and all — aren’t going anywhere.
“She was someone that we were lucky to know,” Childs said.
A memorial fund was started in honor of Teresa Ryan, the South Hill mother who was fatally shot Monday. More than $6,000 of the $10,000 crowd-funding goal was raised in one day. Visit bit.ly/1P7fqNu to donate.