The mood was somber at Brandon High School on Nov. 14, as a school community learned of the death of mathematics teacher and cheerleading coach Heather Bates Hall, 28, who lost her years-long battle with cancer the night before.
Comments on Facebook give testament to the impact Hall had on her students, her colleagues and the Greater Brandon community.
Wrote teacher Courtney Kyle:
“Today is a somber day in the halls of Brandon High but I have to thank my students for being respectful of the heartache of many of their fellow students and their teachers. I didn’t know Heather Hall all that well but she welcomed me with open arms into a new school during pre-planning and offered to help me anyway she could. I know she was a great influence and friend to many of the teachers I work with. She will be missed and I am honored to have even known her.”
Football parent Bobby Whitehead, a member of the Brandon High School Athletic Booster Club, gave high praise to Hall's work as a teacher:
". . . she wasn't just a teacher, she was that teacher [who] always went out of her way to make sure all the students at [Brandon High School] were taken care of . . ."
It was, indeed, "a sad day" for Brandon High School, noted booster parent Cheryl Cabbage-Stanbro, who added:
"Heart is with coach Heather Hall's husband, family and friends today. She will be forever young and forever beautiful and in the hearts and minds of all the young lives she touched during her short stay here on earth. She was wonderful to my son and I know he will never forget her. She was able to reach him, when I [could] not. I will always be grateful that she cared enough to try."
Scheduled for Brandon High on Friday, Nov. 16 is "Mrs. Hall Day," as noted on the Mrs. Hall Memorial Page on Facebook. Each person is asked to wear black, in recognition of "the cancer she was fighting all her life," and "to draw a diamond on your wrist," to "represent a piece of Mrs. Hall, a symbol that stays with her, no matter where she goes."
Hall's husband, Jarrett, a deputy with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, gave details in a Facebook post about Hall's visitation and worship service at the First Baptist Church of Plant City, 503 North Palmer St., on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Well folks, today is a day to rejoice. Heather Hall was met by a heavenly host and is experiencing something we believers are envious of.
I am so grateful for all of you who love my wife and I truly appreciate all of the kind words and gestures. The 5K [run] is still in full swing to celebrate and honor Heather's life, so sign up and come join us.
This week will conclude with a joyous visitation on Friday at 6-8PM. The following day, we will have a worship service honoring God and remembering Heather at 11AM. Both events will be held at Plant City First Baptist.
Again I am so appreciative for all the support.
Hall was diagnosed with melanoma, for the second time, at age 27, according to a Brandon Patch announcement for the pancake fundraiser held in March 2011 at the Beef 'O' Brady's on Kings Avenue.
Hall's battle against cancer was chronicled at Heroes for Heather online at GiveForward.com. The site notes that "in February of 2010, doctors found masses in Heather’s abdomen, which they began treating with an experimental medication." Further, that "the cancer progressed, and spots were discovered in Heather’s brain in November of 2011."
Hall reportedly was first diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma in 1999, at the age of 15.
In a 2011 Brandon Patch article, Hall, a former cheerleader, talked about her Brandon squad's devotion, at the Federal Division Nine-Way Cheer Competition.
"We practice five days a week and we've been working really, really hard," Hall said, at the January competition at Brandon High, featuring about 200 high school cheerleaders from Hillsborough County schools. "We look at it as a sport. We really don't care as much about football games as we do to work hard to do our best in competition."
At this year's homecoming game, Oct. 26 at Brandon's McLane stadium, the cheerleaders wore pink bows, socks and ribbons and carried pink pom-poms in recognition of October Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
"We wear pink every year for the month of October, just to show our support," Devin Lowery, co-captain of the Brandon High School varsity cheerleading squad, said at the game. "We have a lot of cancer survivors at our school, including our principal and our coach. We take it really seriously. It's really personal to us."
From the sidelines, Brandon High principal Carl Green noted that Hall had been at the game earlier, to watch for as long as she could her squad's work from the sidelines as the Eagles battled on the field her alma mater Plant City Raiders.
As a cancer survivor for six years, Green said he was heartened to see the school community's support for raising awareness for the battle to both prevent and find a cure for the disease.
He knows, too, the struggle it takes to survive.
"I see a lot of other people [with cancer] still fighting, like Mrs. Hall, and my heart goes out to her," Green said at the homecoming game. "I believe in her. I believe that she's a fighter and we pray for her all the time. She's an inspiration to us all."
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- Brandon Sports Pink at McLane Stadium for Breast Cancer Awareness Month