It was about 6 a.m. when Terry Cavender typically left for work during his eight years as athletic director for the Puyallup School District. And his wife said that it was usually 10 p.m. when he got home.
“He would go to all the events — girls, boys, whatever — every season, even on weekends,” Phyllis Cavender said. And even after Terry retired in 2004, “he never considered himself retired,” she said.
So the state Hall of Fame athletic director worked as director of operations for the Puyallup School District the past two years, supervising all the district’s custodians.
Terry Cavender died suddenly at his desk Thursday afternoon when his heart stopped. He was 66.
Terry Cavender is survived by his wife; daughters Keeley, 37, and Brynn, 32; and granddaughters Nevaya, 9, and Adelyn, 6. A memorial service is in the planning stages, tentatively set for March 7 at Rogers High School.
Cavender was inducted into the Washington Secondary School Athletic Administrators’ Association Hall of Fame in 2005 and was named WSSAA athletic director of the year for the 2002-03 school year as well as West Central District III athletic director of the year for 1998-99.
His influence spread to every corner of the state. He started east of the mountains in Spokane, graduating from Lewis and Clark High School before attending Whitworth University, where he and Phyllis began dating after attending Bible studies together.
Cavender then headed southwest and became head football coach at Ridgefield, before moving north to Bellingham to coach at Sehome.
He got his first job as an athletic director while at Tahoma High in Maple Valley. He also coached football and taught English at Tahoma.
Cavender accepted the district athletic director job in Puyallup in 1996.
“Looking back to high school, he made a real positive difference for so many young people, including me,” wrote Chris Thomas in an email to Phyllis Cavender. Thomas played football for Terry Cavender at Tahoma and is now the principal at Glacier Park Elementary School in Maple Valley.
“He will always have a place in my heart.”
After Cavender’s retirement, he served as the assistant executive director for the WIAA, then athletic director at Camas High School. He and his wife continued to live in Puyallup, forcing him to make the more than four-hour round-trip daily commute to Camas. Cavender took the job as AD at Franklin Pierce for a year before taking his most recent job back with the Puyallup School District.
“Terry loved kids and people like I’ve never known,” Phyllis said. “He stayed with you until you made it.”