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Woodstock High School mourns loss of beloved teacher

Published: Monday, June 17, 2013 12:52 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 12:04 a.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – Woodstock High School longtime teacher Mary Landa died Saturday after experiencing sudden, unknown health complications.

She was vacationing alone on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, in good health, when a sudden complication tragically took her life.

“There is not a single staff member who is not devastated over the loss of Mary,” said Corey Tafoya, principal at Woodstock High School. “Mary was full of enthusiasm about life and full of warmth.”

Landa, 51, was a physical education, driver’s education and health teacher at Woodstock High School for 25 years. She also was the swim coach and assistant division chairman in the physical education department.

“Mary always made whoever she was around have a better, more positive day,” Tafoya said. “She was truly a loved faculty member on all accounts. As principal, I always relied on Mary for her opinion on everything. I treasured her honesty and her accuracy.”

Although Tafoya has not spoken with the students about Landa’s death, as they are on summer vacation, he is sure they will have a similar disbelief and sadness as the faculty has.

“Her classes were never boring,” Tafoya said. “She used very personal stories and was always energetic when she taught. All of the students loved Mary.”

“It is hard to believe that someone with that much enthusiasm and life inside of them is no longer living,” Tafoya added. “Mary was always in the front row of everything. She was so excited about life and took a youthful approach to all things she was involved in.”

Landa lost her husband to cancer three years ago.

“Mary was just beginning to get past her loss, and then this tragedy happened to her. It is really unbelievable,” Tafoya said. “This whole event was so sudden and unexpected, which makes losing such a wonderful person all the more difficult.

“It is particularly hard for me because I am actually on vacation right now, and her death is such a tragedy to me and so many others. However; everyone I’ve spoken with explained that me being on vacation is just what Mary would want. She loved when people had fun and were happy.”

Landa has a son, Blake Landa, who is a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Tafoya was unsure of the details of the medical complications Landa faced.

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