Salt Fork to paint gym pink in honor of aide who lost battle to breast cancer

Salt Fork to paint gym pink in honor of aide who lost battle to breast cancer

CATLIN — Cuba Poulson served as a personal aide to Salt Fork High School special needs students, but colleagues said she had "a huge heart" for all students.

"When they were having a rough day, she would talk to them, and they always left feeling better," said Cindy Decker, the district's human resources/finance officer. "And if they were doing something they weren't supposed to be doing, she would set them straight in a nice way."

"She was always mothering not just students, but also some of the younger staff," added high school Principal Darin Chambliss, who found himself on the receiving end of her nurturing years ago when he started as a coach at Catlin.

The beloved aide passed away on Jan. 10 from complications from breast cancer.

District students and staff will honor her at today's 6 p.m. boys' basketball home game against Milford during a Paint the Gym Pink fundraising event.

Organizers presold pink T-shirts that say "Hope" on the front and "Cuba's Crew" on the back.

"If you don't have a T-shirt, we're asking that you wear pink," said guidance counselor Darcy Shepherd.

She said collection cans will be placed at the ticket booth. All donations and proceeds from the concession stand will be given to Mrs. Poulson's husband, Monty, to help offset her medical expenses.

'The most positive person'

Mrs. Poulson, who lived in Oakwood, worked for the school district for 25 years. In addition to making a "great" impact on her students, colleagues said she was known for her bubbly personality, positive attitude and generosity.

"She was so much fun," food service/transportation director Robin Johnson said, adding "Cubie" had a way of making everyone around her laugh.

Johnson and Decker recalled how Mrs. Poulson not only gave them a Christmas present every year, but also surprised them with other gifts she would pick up for them while shopping.

"One day, I said I liked a pair of shoes she was wearing," Decker said. "She went out and bought me the same pair. Same thing happened with a Cardinals shirt. I said I loved her shirt, and she went out and bought me the same shirt, so we would match."

The two recalled that Mrs. Poulson was an excellent baker.

"She would always bake us birthday cakes," Johnson said.

"She was one of my best buddies," Decker said, her voice choked with emotion, adding Mrs. Poulson extended the same support and encouragement she gave to her students to her colleagues. "Anytime she and I were going through something, 'she would say, 'It's OK. God is always good.' And she would give me a big hug."

Shepherd first knew Mrs. Poulson as the teacher's aide in her high school P.E. class. She was delighted when the two became co-workers nine years ago.

"She was just the most positive person," Shepherd said, adding Mrs. Poulson would stop by her office every day to chat. "She was always the bright spot in my day."

Outside of work, Mrs. Poulson loved to spend time with her five granddaughters.

"She was very hands-on with them," Decker said.

'She was always there'

Shepherd recalled Mrs. Poulson was diagnosed with breast cancer in February.

"It was originally misdiagnosed. I remember her coming in to say they called her at work and said they were sorry. It was cancer," Shepherd recalled. "I said, 'Oh, Cuba! Go home and take some time for yourself.' She didn't skip a beat.

"She worked every day she possibly could," Shepherd continued, adding the aide underwent chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and then radiation and never complained. "And she looked like a million bucks every day."

Shepherd said Mrs. Poulson finished her last round of radiation in mid-December and was back at work the last week before Christmas break.

But she ended up being taken by ambulance to the hospital. Tests showed she had three tumors on her brain. Not long afterward, it spread to her spinal fluid.

"It progressed so quickly," Chambliss said, who called Mrs. Poulson's death "a big loss to our school and community."

Shepherd said Mrs. Poulson had planned to attend the Paint the Gym Pink event in her honor. Instead, she said, people will celebrate her life and impact on students.

Decker said Mrs. Poulson will continue having an impact in death. That's because her husband, son Levi Poulson and daughter Lacey Zaayer established the Cuba's Caring Heart Fund with the donations they received at Mrs. Poulson's memorial service.

Decker said the fund will be used to help students in need.

It's fitting "because she was always there for the kids," she said.