Saturday, January 20, 2018
Education

Beloved Hernando teacher and coach Vicki Weaver battled cancer to the end

BROOKSVILLE — Vicki Weaver was lying in her Brooksville Regional Hospital bed about two weeks ago during the final days of her two-year fight with cancer.

On medication, the beloved Central High School teacher had dozed off, remembered friend Bethann Brooks.

Then she awoke. She grabbed Brooks' hand. She had something on her mind: Homecoming.

"We need to do fans," she told Brooks, dreaming up a theme for next year's event — Asian or rattan.

"She was already planning," Brooks said. "That's what she did."

Mrs. Weaver, 55, died Sunday, the victim of breast cancer that had spread to her liver and brain. Deeply religious, she died at home with loved ones by her side. On her own terms.

"Cancer did not beat her," said Stacy Jarrell, a longtime friend and Central's front-desk secretary. "She decided that she was finished with cancer.

"Vicki didn't do anything unless it was Vicki's idea," Jarrell added. "Vicki was the strongest-willed woman I know."

Mrs. Weaver taught and coached at Central for nearly two decades — making her one of the longest-tenured teachers at the school. For many of those years, her husband, Mark, was teaching science in a nearby classroom. Both of her children, Nikki and Curtis, graduated from the school.

Mrs. Weaver's list of accomplishments during her tenure at the school was long and diverse.

She taught health, physical education, anatomy and physiology. She coached golf and volleyball. She was involved in the ROTC program. She was the freshman class sponsor. She trained new coaches.

She also attended many of the school's athletic events. She went to student government meetings. She arrived at school before she needed to and stayed well past the final bell.

"You always somehow saw her at least once in your day," said Terrance Hudson, 17, a Central senior and student government co-president.

Breanna Koenig, 16, a sophomore and student government vice president, said Weaver inspired many with her dedication.

"She was passionate about teaching," Koenig said. "She just wanted to be involved in everything — anything to help the students or help the teachers."

And she showed it through the very end.

Mrs. Weaver joined all of the Homecoming week activities leading up to the dance on Oct. 18. She then went to the dance, sporting a stylish black and gold mask to go with her dress for the Mardi Gras-themed soiree.

"She was weak and in pain, but that's the kind of person Vicki was," said Jarrell. "She was absolutely not going to give in or give up."

"She didn't let anything stop her," Brooks said.

Her last day teaching was Oct. 21.

During her battle with cancer, Mrs. Weaver used her illness as a teaching tool.

She talked about preventive measures and how she got it, despite going for annual mammograms. She talked about the different stages. She explained the treatments.

The cancer, to many, didn't appear to slow her down.

An avid biker and lover of the outdoors, she stayed active. She missed only a handful of days of school in the two years after her diagnosis, Jarrell said.

"She was only out if her body would absolutely not allow her to go," she said.

It didn't stop Mrs. Weaver from traveling, either.

In July, she and her husband traveled to Alaska. They took a cruise. Fished for halibut. Celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary.

The school has come together in support of Mrs. Weaver — and breast cancer awareness.

On Oct. 4, Central students held a "pink out" in support of breast cancer research during a football game. They have sold about 350 pink T-shirts in honor of Mrs. Weaver, and many students want to wear pink every Wednesday for the rest of the school year. They'll soon begin selling wristbands in her honor. There will be a candlelight service Friday evening.

The family will host a celebration of life for Mrs. Weaver at 6 p.m. today at the Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 200 Mount Fair Ave., Brooksville.

Contact Danny Valentine at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

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