HUDSON — They called themselves "the F-O-F" — the Friends of Flo.
It was an exclusive fan club of travel companions, fellow teachers and current and former students devoted to one woman: Florence "Flo" Massaro, the Fivay High School teacher with a big reputation and an even bigger voice.
A teacher and coach for more than a decade, Ms. Massaro had watched thousands of students and athletes grow up under her guidance. Former students would often pop in her classroom, and at least one had become a teacher, crediting Ms. Massaro as her inspiration.
Friday morning, as a former student visited her home to pick up school books, Ms. Massaro collapsed in the bathroom.
Paramedics rushed her to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, said nephew Eddie Garton, where doctors found that her body was essentially shutting down.
There was little they could do. She died in the hospital Tuesday morning. She was 40 years old.
The devastatingly sudden death shocked students and faculty across the county, and crisis counselors dispatched to Fivay to hear from hurt students. William Askew, a close friend of Ms. Massaro's who retired last month as Fivay's guidance counselor, came back to the campus after spending the weekend at the hospital.
"I've worked with thousands of teachers, but she is really one of those five or 10 that just stands out," Askew said. "Once she was your friend she was your friend forever."
The second youngest of six sisters, Ms. Massaro grew up in Yardley, Pa., a one-stoplight town on the Delaware River. She moved to Florida to help her sister raise her two boys, Garton said, and in the '90s, studied social science education at the University of Central Florida.
She began teaching at River Ridge High School and, in 2000, was as one of the first teachers of a new high school called J.W. Mitchell. In August, after a stint at Hudson High, she did the same thing as an inaugural teacher at Fivay High School, the county's newest campus off State Road 52.
By then she had become a veritable expert of extracurriculars, coaching golf, tennis and girls' basketball. As an amateur announcer, she became the voice of the Mitchell Mustangs' baseball games. Though she would end up working for hours after the last bell, she seemed to adore mentoring students both inside and outside the classroom. On her Facebook page she kept a single quote: "What you focus on grows."
She didn't slow down after joining Fivay's faculty. She taught government and economics to struggling seniors who needed help graduating. She taught Advanced Placement and honors world history, illustrating the classes with her own travel slide shows.
She sponsored the student council, ran the clock for the boys' basketball team and played as quarterback for the faculty's powder puff football team. In the next few weeks, she was set to help plan the school's first prom.
She never married and never had kids. The F-O-F would sometimes joke that even if she did, she wouldn't have the time.
Just a few months into the school year, Fivay students were already beginning to join the ranks of the F-O-F.
And what did she give these people to command such a following? Mostly attitude.
Ms. Massaro was infamously loud, abrupt and emotional. In the classroom, she would argue until the lesson stuck, and she was known to rouse skipping students in the morning with phone calls, yelling, "You're not going to throw away your senior year."
"The kids would hate her in the beginning ... and then, after a while, they would do anything for her," said Brian Borruso, a Fivay special education teacher, Tuesday. "Everyone has a Flo story."
Over Christmas break, she and several students flew overseas to tour Egypt, visiting Cairo, the Nile River and the Pyramids, Borrosu said. An avid traveler, she had wanted to visit since she was a young girl. She called it her "dream trip."
"She had a real love for life, for adventure, for travel," Fivay principal Angie Stone said. "Not only did she bring just a vast knowledge ... she instilled in them (her students) the need to live."
Monday, after her collapse and a long weekend in the hospital, word began to circulate that the family was planning that night for Flo's final good byes.
Beginning at 8 and lasting until midnight, a line formed out the door and through the waiting room. Fivay students. Teachers and friends. Her former students, long graduated, including one who had flown in from out of state. By the end of the night, the family had counted nearly 400 people. The F-O-F had come out in force.
Tuesday, as her friends mourned, doctors shared with the family some news. Ms. Marssaro was an organ donor, and recipients needing kidneys, a liver and a heart had been found as perfect matches.
Flo's final gift was herself.
Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 869-6244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.