Fernanda D’Andrea Darrow, a popular Spanish teacher at Cheverus High School in Portland, died Wednesday after suffering a brain aneurysm last week. She was 57.

Mrs. Darrow was remembered Thursday as a loving mother and dedicated teacher who inspired students to rise above adversity and live with passion and purpose.

Mrs. Darrow, of Portland, was known for her infectious laugh and generous spirit. She joined the Cheverus faculty in 2002 and served a few years as a tennis coach.

John Moran, principal at Cheverus, said she was a beloved teacher who wanted every student to succeed and love the Spanish language. Moran spoke Friday about her passion for social justice and the lengths she went to help underserved students around the world. Mrs. Darrow organized an annual karaoke night and Christmas tree drive to raise money for schools in Latin America, including in Argentina, Chile and Guatemala.

“She had a very vibrant personality,” Moran said. “She would be the first one on stage at karaoke night and get all of her students to sing songs in Spanish and have choreographed dance moves.”

On Sept. 7, Mrs. Darrow suffered a brain aneurysm and was admitted to the intensive care unit at Maine Medical Center in Portland. A week later, she suffered another aneurysm and did not recover.

Since then, the Rev. Robert J. Pecoraro has met with students to offer prayers and counseling. A crisis management counseling team is also in place to help students struggling with her death.

There is a board in Mrs. Darrow’s classroom filled with cards and letters of gratitude from students and alumni.

“She was passionate about her students, her faith, and her culture,” Pecoraro said in a letter to the Cheverus community. “She was dedicated to issues of justice. Her life impacted the lives of thousands and we have been blessed to have known her joyful presence in our community.”

Mrs. Darrow was the loving mother of three children: Mattias, 28; Maria, 25; and Cassandra, 22. The siblings each shared stories Friday about their mother’s passion for life and her ability to rise above adversity and make the best of every situation.

Cassandra Darrow, of New Haven, Connecticut, said her mother was strong and fiercely protective of them. She talked about the days she came home from school after a bad day. Her mother would take her to the European Bakery to celebrate.

“She could make anything better,” her daughter said. “She had a glitter about her, a warmth. She was really good at inviting people to be themselves. She was really good at seeing other people and accepting them and loving them. She was a champion of misfits and underdogs in that way. She loved so hard.”

Maria Darrow, of Conway, Massachusetts, said her mother was intensely empathetic.

“I’ll miss her eyes,” her daughter said. “I’ll miss the way she looked at us, like we were perfect. She believed we were no matter what.”

Mattias Darrow, of Chicago, said he will miss his mother’s laugh.

“She had this sheer joy and appreciation for life,” he said. “It’s unbelievable how much joy she took from even the worst situations. So much of what I heard about persevering, I have learned from her. Even if something wasn’t ideal, she could find a way to make it good for us.”

Mrs. Darrow loved spending time with her sisters, and had a passion for playing tennis. Her youngest daughter said she played almost every day.

“She was a rock star,” Cassandra Darrow said. “Sometimes we played together. She beat me every time,” she said, laughing.

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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