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Teacher was 'hopeful right up to the end'

The woman who was popular with students and co-workers loses her battle with cancer.

Published March 7, 2007


LECANTO - Carolyn Coward never stopped giving.

Even as cancer took its toll and she became weaker, the Lecanto High School teacher was baking cupcakes for her son, Chris, to take to school on the day he turned 4.

She threw a birthday party for her co-worker and friend Julia McHugh at her Inverness home and cooked tons of food.

At school, she helped students with learning disabilities become accomplished readers. After only a year, she was named the school's teacher of the year.

But the cancer finally caught up to her benevolence.

Mrs. Coward died of complications from her illness Thursday March 1, 2007. The last two weeks before her death, she was at home surrounded and cared for by family. She was 36.

"She was very, very hopeful right up to the end," said Gail Miller, her mother-in-law. "She was brave and strong and had fought hard."

Mrs. Coward, who was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time in 2005, was taking part in an experimental treatment and was optimistic that she would beat it.

She and her husband, Kevin, a music teacher in Tampa, had moved to Citrus in 2003 to raise a family. She had previously taught in Pinellas schools.

But after teaching at Lecanto and then working as a teacher on special assignment in the district office, she became too ill and retired in November.

Despite her short tenure, she was a popular teacher who earned praise for her work with special-needs students who struggled with reading.

"She really has had a powerful impact on everyone," said Nancy Haynes, the district's coordinator of special education. "She was passionate about education. She was extremely well-organized and highly professional."

In December, after learning of her battle with cancer, Lecanto High students raised more than $1,000 by paying to wear hats to school and gave the money to Mrs. Coward and her family - a gesture that brought the teacher to tears.

Now the school has plans to start a scholarship fund in her name. The scholarship would help a graduating senior each year.

The daughter of Argentinean parents who were immigrants from Italy, Mrs. Coward was known for her Italian cooking and outgoing personality.

Friends and family say she always had a big smile, and her enthusiasm was contagious. She loved to croon to Gloria Estefan and Ricky Martin tunes and dance while her husband played their living room piano.

Her lavish parties were always a hit with friends because she cooked mountains of food.

Before her funeral Monday, her friends poured into her home and cooked a big supper for everyone - just as she would have done, they said.

They set out linen tablecloths, flowers and candles and played music.

Eddy Ramirez can be reached at or 860-7305.

[Last modified March 7, 2007, 06:39:48]

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