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Teen was known for loving way

By CHANDRA BROADWATER
Published February 3, 2007


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SPRING HILL - If someone told her, "I love you," she said it right back.

No matter what, without hesitation, even if it were to a stranger. Even when cancer invaded her brain.

Jenna Cucciniello, 14, died Friday at her Spring Hill home. The Fox Chapel Middle School student had been living with inoperable brain tumors since her diagnosis in 2005.

"They're doing the best they can," said John Sweeney, a family friend and Hernando County school board member, of Jenna's family. "Right now they're busy with family coming in from all over the place."

The bubbly teenager leaves behind her parents, John and Nikki, and 12-year-old brother, Nicholas. She is also survived by grandparents Agnes Cucciniello and Nicholas Musto, who also live in Spring Hill.

The Cucciniellos moved to Spring Hill from New York three years ago. Sweeney, who also owns the Wine Toad on Powell Road, became fast friends with the family.

He coached Little League and soccer with Jenna's dad. His 10-year-old son is good friends with Jenna's little brother.

In November, Sweeney held a wine-tasting fundraiser for Jenna at his store. Though the chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments were free at St. Jude Children's Hospital in Tennessee, all the traveling put a strain on the family's finances.

"Having taught for so many years and coming into contact with thousands of kids over my career, I can definitely say that Jenna was one in a million," Sweeney said. "She was so soft and giving."

In fact, the only way he could describe the girl was as one of the most giving people he's ever met.

"I've never met anyone able to communicate like her," Sweeney said. "Everyone knew how loving she was in just a short period of time. Even if you only spent a few minutes with her, you knew she was really special."

An obituary posted online by the Merritt Funeral Home described the 14-year-old as "a special young lady who never complained and always looked to help the other kids at St. Jude's."

Visitation at the Spring Hill Chapel of the funeral home will be today and Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m., and from 6 to 8 p.m. A rosary service will be held Sunday at 7 p.m., also at the chapel.

A funeral mass will be held Monday at St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Church at 9:30 a.m. Entombment will follow at the Florida Hills Memorial Gardens.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or 352 848-1432.

[Last modified February 2, 2007, 20:48:10]


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