Middle Creek boys and girls tennis coach Rhonda Blanchard passed away unexpectedly Saturday evening. It was a shock to those who knew her.
She was 50.
Less than 24 hours before her passing, she had tweeted from the teams’ tennis account (@MCHS_tennis) about getting ready for the first day of boys’ tennis tryouts on Monday.
“It was very overwhelming and shocking,” said Jere Morton IV, a longtime friend of Blanchard, and her husband, Joe. “I didn’t believe it.”
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Rhonda Blanchard, who taught special education, leaves behind her husband of 21 years, Joe, who is an assistant principal at the school.
Her friends, colleagues, students and players knew her for her witticisms, down-to-earth charm and passion for those she loved – her students, players and family.
“She was always that go-to person that I needed. And I know it wasn’t just me. She touched lives of people her age, people older than her, people my age and people in high school,” Morton said.
Fellow tennis coaches knew how much Blanchard cared for her players.
“The things you can lose in an individual sport like tennis, she really promoted like team unity,” said former Green Hope girls’ tennis coach Beth Hedgepeth.
Morton added: “She treated her tennis players like they were the football team, like they were the most popular kids in the school. ... She was always very supportive and proud of her guys. She really tried to put them in the spotlight.”
Morton said Rhonda, a big N.C. State fan, had recently arranged for her special needs students to meet Wolfpack basketball player Ralston Turner. When she found out some of them were Hurricanes’ fans, she set up a trip for the class.
“She called them ‘Blanchard’s Boys.’ She was very proud of them. She would take them to field trips like Hurricanes games or N.C. State games,” Morton said. “She was always going the extra mile to make someone feel good.”
Blanchard graduated from Cary High School in 1982 and N.C. State in 2010, according to her obituary. She was working on her master’s degree. She worked 17 years with the Town of Cary coaching traveling softball and basketball with the Parks and Recreation department, according to her obituary.
The family will receive friends Tuesday evening from 6-8 p.m. at the Brown-Wynne Funeral Home on SE Maynard Road in Cary. The funeral will be Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Ephesus Baptist Church on Hillsborough Street, Raleigh. Burial will follow at Raleigh Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in her memory to the Wake County Chapter of the Autism Society at www.wakecountyautismsociety.org.