As a student, Darlinda Bogart was co-valedictorian of her 1985 Citrus High School graduating class. As a teacher, she returned to her high school and earned the respect of other teachers and her students.
On Wednesday, those who knew the 24-year-old math teacher mourned the woman whose high school classmates had voted her the most likely to succeed.
Miss Bogart was killed early Wednesday when her pickup struck a tree on State Road 44 east of Inverness, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.
Miss Bogart, who lived at 8630 E. Devonshire Road on Gospel Island, was westbound on State Road 44 east of the city limits about 12:45 a.m., a patrol spokeswoman said.
Her 1989 Dodge pickup veered onto the north shoulder; Miss Bogart turned back onto the road but apparently over-corrected and ran off the south shoulder.
She then steered back onto the road a second time and wound up on the north shoulder, where the truck hit a tree, the patrol reported.
Miss Bogart, who was the only passenger in the car, was not wearing a seat belt, the spokeswoman said. The Medical Examiner's Office in Leesburg was scheduled to conduct an autopsy Wednesday.
Many of Miss Bogart's co-workers at Citrus High learned of the crash during a staff meeting before students arrived on Wednesday. During their first period classes, the teachers told their students.
The school system also made its crisis team of counselors available for students or faculty members, Principal Ed Staten said.
"We had great pride that she came back to (Citrus High School) after being valedictorian here and being successful at a major university," said Walter Golway, Citrus High social studies teacher.
"I'll always remember (Miss Bogart) for her great smile and her dedication not only to her job but to her students as well," social studies teacher JoAnn Andrews said.
Staten said he remembered Miss Bogart as a top student in her class and he credited her with being a teacher who was well-liked by her co-workers and her students.
"She really has been growing as a teacher and she was very close to the faculty because she was one of ours," Staten said. "She was a very caring teacher and put in much time after school working with students."
A native of Brooklyn, she had lived in Citrus County for 23 years. Miss Bogart graduated from Saint Leo College in 1988 and came back to work as a teacher at Citrus High School later that year.
She was a member of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church and is survived by her parents Robert and Francine Bogart; five brothers Ryan, Grady, Derrick, Damon and Nathan; her maternal grandmother Grace Grueneberger; and an uncle Anthony LiPetri, all of Inverness.
Visitation will be from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. on Friday at the Charles E. Davis Funeral Home and a Mass is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Fatima. Burial will follow at Memorial Gardens of Beverly Hills.
Memorials in Miss Bogart's memory are being accepted by the Citrus High School Athletic Booster Club.
_ Citrus High School intern Matt Garrett contributed to this report.