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Student's death overwhelms military schoolmates

The death of a student with an indomitable spirit pains many she touched at Admiral Farragut.

By RODNEY PAGE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 3, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- It was hard to be a student at Admiral Farragut Academy and not know Tiffany Doctor.

She played on the softball, basketball and football teams and participated in track and field. She organized student trips to handicapped or underprivileged children's homes. She spent hours after class in study halls or the library.

Doctor was everywhere, it seemed, which is why her death last weekend in an auto accident in Hollywood, Fla., has overwhelmed the close-knit military school.

"She lived her life to the fullest," Admiral Farragut football coach Mike Jalazo said. "A lot of us don't live our lives to the fullest. Tiffany did. There is nothing that Tiffany didn't try. There was nothing Tiffany didn't go after, and you have to admire her for that."

Doctor, 18, was at her home on the Seminole Indian Reservation in Hollywood. She had been expelled from Farragut on Feb. 20 for what school officials and her mother, Colleen Osceola, described as "disciplinary reasons." Osceola enrolled her daughter at Hollywood Hills High School, where Doctor would have been a second-semester senior.

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Doctor and her stepsisters, Mandy Wesley, 20, and Paige Osceola, 17, were traveling on a remote road on the Miccosukee Indian Reservation early Feb. 24 when their 1994 Toyota Camry veered into a canal. A Miccosukee police officer noticed the overturned vehicle about 7:30 a.m. All but the tires were submerged.

The three women were dead in the car. Doctor was the front passenger, Wesley was the driver and Paige Osceola was in a back seat. As of Thursday, how the women died remained undetermined.

Farragut students were assembled and told about the accident Sunday night. Posters since have been spread throughout the campus with Doctor's picture and a caption: "We will never forget."

At a memorial service on campus Thursday, students and faculty remembered Doctor as a respected student/athlete. A 3-foot-tall photograph of Doctor in the center of the chapel is to be framed and hung in the school's gymnasium.

"I've never known another female who suited up in football pads and told a 6-foot-5, 250-pound boy: "You're going down,' " fellow student Cherelee Hall said. "Tiffany was the most outgoing, courageous woman I knew, and that's what made her so attractive."

Doctor was the school's first female football player, or at least the first to last the entire season. Last fall, Doctor was an offensive and defensive lineman and played in parts of three games.

"She had a certain energy about her," Jalazo said. "She always wanted to do the best she could and make everybody else better players. Some players I've had think they're great and don't work hard. Tiffany never thought she was great, but she always worked hard and always wanted to improve."

Doctor's best sport was basketball. She was accepted at Finley College in Ohio to play hoops. She also planned to study veterinary medicine. Aside from traditional sports, Doctor also spent her summers boxing and riding bulls.

"I felt like I'd been hit with a sledgehammer, shot in the chest and stabbed in the heart all at once," former adviser, dorm supervisor and track coach Thomas Xenakis said. "My sense of loss was tremendous. She was very special to me. I often described her as the sweetest girl who could beat me up."

Osceola, Doctor's mother, and stepfather Dan Osceola, traveled from Hollywood to attend the memorial service. Tiffany was the third of Colleen Osceola's four children.

"She was always different," Colleen Osceola said. "She was always willing to try everything. From the beginning I knew she'd be special."

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