Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Nidia Herrera Tirabassi

Spanish teacher Nidia Tirabassi left lasting imprint on her students

GULFPORT — By the time young students of SunFlower School gathered Monday in the room where Nidia Tirabassi taught Spanish, most of them already knew.

For what it was worth, knowing cushioned the shock. But absorbing the death of a woman nearly all of them had known since kindergarten would take more than the weekend e-mail their parents received and more than this meeting.

Mrs. Tirabassi, who taught at SunFlower school since the late 1980s and authored its Spanish curriculum, died Saturday at St. Anthony's Hospital. She was 61 and had myelodysplasia, a blood disorder.

A group of Florida Presbyterian (now Eckerd) College students founded the private school in the early 1970s around the belief that "learning is more important than testing." Mrs. Tirabassi, a product of Catholic schools in her native Chile (CHEE-lay, her students learned to say), taught kindergarten through fifth grade.

"She was, of all of us, perhaps the most traditional in a certain kind of way," the school's director, Marie Breslin, said in an interview Monday. As she sat in a child-chair in a room overflowing with supplies, an adopted stray cat named Gigi dozed at a nearby table.

Watching Mrs. Tirabassi blend Spanish with other subjects, such as geography and social studies, was "like watching someone make a bouquet," Breslin said. She demonstrated the same care in her appearance, favoring comfortable cottons and just the right scarf.

Nidia Herrera was born in Puerto Montt, Chile, and immigrated to the United States at 19. She met Fred Tirabassi in 1973 at a Miami yoga center. Outside of school hours, Mrs. Tirabassi served as financial manager for the restaurant owned by her husband, the Kopper Kitchen on Central Avenue.

"Whenever I needed her, bam, she was there," said Fred Tirabassi.

Children remembered her Monday morning for "little things," Breslin said, such as the way she made a fuss in Spanish over a student who had gotten new glasses.

They created cards for her, including this one that referenced a hamster at the school that had died recently.

Dear Nidia,

I wish that you hadn't died. That only makes two. First Gabby, then you. Love, from Grant.

Breslin told students it was okay to feel angry or to laugh if they needed to. Some of the students cried or leaned against parents who had accompanied them to the meeting. Two counselors also made themselves available.

Kayda, a 9-year-old, wrote this letter to her teacher:

Dear Nidia,

Hope you have a wounderful time in heaven. I love the way you would smile and your laugh was so cheerful. I think your heart was like a dimond.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

.Biography

Nidia Herrera Tirabassi

Born: April 7, 1949.

Died: Nov. 6, 2010.

Survivors: Husband Fred; daughters Shila, Audri and Abigail; brother Boris Herrera; sister Irene Herrera.

Spanish teacher Nidia Tirabassi left lasting imprint on her students 11/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 8:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Video shows massive sinkhole that swallowed Apopka home and may grow larger

    Public Safety

    APOPKA — A home near Orlando was partially swallowed by a massive sinkhole Tuesday morning that may grow even larger, officials said.

    A home at 222 West Kelly Park Road in Apopka, Fla., is being swallowed by a sinkhole on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Orange County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Kat Kennedy says crews responded Tuesday morning, shortly after the Apopka house began sinking. [Stephen M. Dowell | Orlando Sentinel via AP]
  2. Daniel Ruth: Public money built Bucs' stadium, so let public sell tickets

    Columns

    Who knew the Tampa Bay Bucs were actually the Daisies of Dale Mabry?

    Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, wants to do what it takes to ensure that those sitting in the lower bowl of Raymond James Stadium are wearing his team's colors. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]

  3. America's opioid problem is so bad it's cutting into U.S. life expectancy

    Public Safety

    Prosecutors in New York announced this week that an August drug raid yielded 140 pounds of fentanyl, the most in the city's history and enough to kill 32 million people, they told New York 4.

    The average American life expectancy grew overall from 2000 to 2015, but that the astounding rise in opioid-related deaths shaved 2.5 months off this improvement, according to a study. [Associated Press]
  4. After Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay officers headed south to help out

    Public Safety

    When Hurricane Irma was forecast to pummel the Tampa Bay region, Tampa police Cpl. Whitney McCormick was ready for the worst — to lose her home and all of her possessions.

    Tampa International Airport Police Department Sgt. Eric Diaz (left) stands next to Tampa Police Department Cpl. Whitney McCormick at the Collier County Command Post in the days after Hurricane Irma. More than 100 local law enforcement officers traveled from Tampa Bay to help out the county. (Courtesy of Whitney McCormick)
  5. Forecast: Sunny skies, mainly dry conditions continue across Tampa Bay

    Weather

    For Tampa Bay residents, Wednesday is expected to bring lots of sunshine, lower humidity and little to no storm chances.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]