BROOKSVILLE — Kandyce "Kandy" Callaghan was a nurse for years before she found her true calling as an educator.
Instead of saving lives, she wanted to change them.
"Nursing was a fulfilling and rewarding career," she told an audience during a 2004 speech, "but it really can't compare with the feeling you get from teaching a child what you've learned yourself."
By all accounts, she did just that.
"They loved her," said Nancy Kramer, a teacher at Nature Coast Technical High School who had known Ms. Callaghan for 11 years.
Ms. Callaghan, 66, died in October after a yearlong illness. She didn't want a public memorial or a funeral service, and she kept her illness largely private. But many still wanted to say goodbye.
On Saturday, former students, colleagues and loved ones will hold a celebration of life service at Nature Coast. The public is welcome to attend the vigil.
A magnolia tree, with a plaque bearing her name, will be planted at a later date in her honor.
For nearly two decades, Ms. Callaghan used her wealth of experience in the nursing profession to teach health science to Hernando County students. In 1994, she opened Central's health science program. She taught there until Nature Coast Technical High School opened in 2003, and she moved to start that program.
"It's her program," Kramer said.
Ms. Callaghan was nominated three times for Hernando County Teacher of the Year.
Before teaching high school students, she taught clinical nursing at Pasco-Hernando Community College, where she was an adjunct professor.
Kramer said Ms. Callaghan had a distinct teaching style: strict, with lots of love.
"She believed in integrity and instilled it in her students," Kramer said.
Ms. Callaghan's son, Andrew Hildebrand, said his mother had a huge impact on her students, with many saying they got their start in the medical field because of her.
"She got them fired up," Hildebrand said.
Outside of school, Ms. Callaghan loved sailing and traveling, and was a voracious reader who would crank through book after book.
Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.