Students at Highlands Elementary School in Naperville described their principal, Susan Stuckey, as someone who wasn't just a principal, but a great friend to every student.
Every time you'd walk past her, she had a smile on her face.
Simply, she was "happiness in a bottle."
Those are some of the reflections students shared in an April 2012 YouTube video about Susan, who lost a 3 1/2 year battle with breast cancer on Wednesday at the age of 50.
She was principal at Highlands for 13 years, and colleagues say she was instrumental in helping the school achieve the Blue Ribbon award, a national recognition for top performing schools.
"That was a perfect job for Susan," said her husband Jeff Stuckey. "She loved that job and was good at it. The students loved her and she loved her students."
Even after she was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, she remained "fully engaged" as principal, and it wasn't until last school year that she began taking time off and the school's assistant principal took on more duties, according to Susan Rice, a spokeswoman for Naperville Unit District 203.
"There was never a time she didn't have a smile on her face," Rice said. "Even in the worst of moments in battling cancer, Susan had a smile. She is the epitome of what educators should be. Her personal motto was 'all for the kids,' and everything you should do is for the sake of kids and what's in their best interest. She's such a good role model to follow."
Susan came to District 203 in 1996 as principal of Ranch View Elementary. She taught second grade for two years in Bloomington before becoming principal at Spring Hills Elementary in Roselle.
In 2012, she and her husband led the inaugural "Walk for Whale Wishes," a 1.5-mile walk that raises funds for the "Future Educator" scholarship fund the Stuckeys established. It benefits graduates of Naperville North and Central high schools who pursue a degree in education.
The first two scholarship recipients were awarded last year, Jeff Stuckey said.
Rice said there will likely be a "big celebration" of Susan's life this spring at the next Walk for Whale Wishes.
A wake is scheduled from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 44 S. Mill St. in Naperville. The funeral is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1310 Shepherd Drive in Naperville.