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Schools mourn death of Carolyn Fabal


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2000

As assistant principal at Hudson Middle School, Dr. Carolyn Fabal was known for focusing on the positive. During her tenure as an administrator, she worked hard to put the spotlight on student and teacher achievement rather than failure.

When it came to battling breast cancer, she chose to put her best face forward, working through her ordeal even when she felt poorly.

The news of her death on Monday from cancer complications at 52 came as a shock to many, even those who knew of her struggle.

"She carried herself so well I don't think many people knew she had such a hard time with the cancer," said Pasco County School Superintendent John Long. "We're all kind of in shock. This is such a tragic loss."

Guidance counselors at Hudson Middle School set aside time on Tuesday to provide counseling for students who had worked closely with Dr. Fabal, said principal Larry Albano.

"It's very quiet around here today," he said.

"She was always so cheerful -- you'd never know (about her illness)," Albano said. "I used to kid her when she'd take time off for her treatments, I'd say, "I think you're just taking off the afternoon to play golf and not taking chemotherapy because you always look so good.' "

Still, life these past two years had been rough, said Randy Fabal, Carolyn's high school sweetheart and husband of 30 years.

"But she loved her work. She worked right up until January," he said. "Her focus was always on the students and doing what was best for them, getting them the recognition and providing them with opportunities to improve themselves and develop leadership skills."

Dr. Fabal was so dedicated that she insisted on working even though she was too weak to drive from her home in Dade City to Hudson. So her husband said he took a job as a math teacher at Hudson High just so he could bring her back and forth to work and be there for her if she needed him.

Carolyn Fabal earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at the University of Florida. She began her career as an educator in her hometown of Key West. There she taught English at her alma mater, Key West High School, before becoming a principal at Chiefland Elementary School. She came to Pasco County in 1988 and served as an assistant principal at Land O'Lakes High School, transferring to Hudson Middle in 1998.

Throughout the years she had been a dedicated mother, grandmother, teacher and administrator, said her husband, recalling how she set up a writing program in Key West with the local authors.

"She even got Pulitzer Prize writers like John Hersey (Hiroshima) to come in and work with the students," Randy said. "She sponsored cheerleading and coached softball -- not that she knew anything about softball. But they needed a program and somebody needed to do it, and she did it."

At Hudson Middle School, she developed recognition programs for staff and students. As an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida and Saint Leo University, one of her joys was to work with prospective teachers, Albano said.

"We're all going to miss her," said Long. "We're going to miss her talents, her skills, just her as a person. She was one of our stars in the school system."

In addition to her husband, Carolyn Fabal is survived by a daughter, Vanessa Reeves, Aurora, Colo.; a son, Stephen Fabal, Dade City; her parents, Harry and Mary Osterhoudt, Lake City; two brothers, Harry Jr. and David Osterhoudt, both of Lake City; and a granddaughter, Elizabeth Reeves, Aurora.

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