PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Services for long-time Ponte Vedra High School principal Craig Speziale were held Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at San Juan Del Rio Catholic Church.
In lieu of flowers, Speziale's family is asking mourners to please make donations to the Craig Speziale Memorial Scholarship Fund, Ponte Vedra High School, 460 Davis Park Rd, Ponte Vedra, Florida 32081.
Speziale died Saturday morning after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Speziale was 52-years-old.
"He was an inspirational leader for teachers and students. The school has lost someone very special. He embodied the professionalism and dedication to not only open Ponte Vedra High School in 2007, but he encouraged students and staff to believe they could accomplish anything," said Christina Langston, Director of Community Relations for the St. Johns County School District.
Langston said the crisis team, which consists of counselors and district staff, will be at the school Monday morning and for as long as needed to support students, staff and administration.
It's too early to tell who will take new lead for the high school, Langston said.
Langston said the superintendent sent an alert to school families and staff that went out to the school.
"The mood is very sad," Langston said. "He was a very dear member of the district family. Had an awesome sense of family. He had a great sense of humor."
Speziale is the only principal in PVHS's brief history. The school opened in 2007. Speziale came to Ponte Vedra after serving as a principal in Miami-Dade county.
St. Johns County has posted grief resources for students and parents on the Ponte Vedra High School website.
"It was really heartbreaking, because he invested in every student," said 18-year-old Ponte Vedra High School student, Sean O'Linn. He knew Speziale well. "I'd walk in and some mornings, he'd grab me and pull me into his office to talk about track and field and how everything was in the classroom."
"I'm sunken, because I loved him to death. He was like another dad to me," said former student 19-year-old, James Wilkinson.
Mckenzie Frye is a 17-year-old senior at the school. "He did love this school. He put his heart into it. He wanted to do the best that he could, even under the circumstances," she said.
St. John's County school board member, Beverly Slough, said Speziale was a dependable man who was affectionately known as "Spez." She said he came to school even while enduring chemotherapy and began coming to the school part-time what she thinks is less than a month ago.
He led the school since its establishment.
If you walk into his office, and look on a stack of papers, you''ll see something. His glasses laying atop the stack as if to say "I'll be back."
"That's exactly what his heart was and exactly what he meant to do. Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be," Slough said.
A Nease High School student, reached via Twitter under the handle TurnerStreet, said he said he met Speziale before the school opened, via the Ponte Vedra Beach rotary club.
"Mr. Speziale was always very nice and outgoing, always remembered my name, even though I didn't see him that often. He always had on a smile," TurnerStreet said. "I was really shocked to see him go."
PVHS senior who uses the Twitter handle, Sam Jabbour, told FCN via Twitter, "...his life was dedicated to our education. He truly loved and cared for our school so much."
Students, former and current, took to Twitter to express their condolences: