ROY — Naomi Parrish stood in the cold, a candle in her hand and a hymn on her lips, as she looked up at her former teacher on the last night of her life.
Unbeknownst to the about 70 people who gathered outside Nancy Anderson’s home for a candlelight vigil Tuesday night, she would die Wednesday morning after her almost yearlong and third battle with cancer.
She knew the dozens of people outside her home through work, church and the community. In particular, her former students adored their math teacher, their inspiration and friend.
"She had a personal relationship with all of her students," Parrish said. "She came to my wedding, she came to my baby shower."
Anderson taught at Christian Heritage School from 1995, when the private K-12 campus opened in Riverdale, until it closed last school year.
She taught Parrish from eighth grade through 12th and made such a strong impression on her that the pupil, in turn, became a math teacher.
Parrish recalled Anderson’s upbeat attitude toward math and the excitement and fun she brought to the subject, something she emulates in her own teaching at Snowcrest Junior High.
Amy Lovewell also found her inspiration to become a math teacher in Anderson’s passion for the subject.
"She had an ability to explain things 50 different ways, so everyone could understand. She cared for everyone. She made them feel special," she said.
Lovewell eventually became a teacher at Christian Heritage as well.
Josh Nakaoka, a graduate student at the University of Utah, chose his math-heavy engineering profession because of Anderson.
Up until his senior year in high school, he didn’t know what he wanted to do after graduation. Then he took advanced placement math and physics classes from Anderson.
"(She) made math fun, made physics fun. I realized that I could make a career of that," he said.
Anderson spoke at a chapel service about her cancer and how blessed by God she felt that after two bouts she was still able to teach and have an impact on young people’s lives, Nakaoka said.
Though the school closed last year and its students scattered, their love for their teacher brought them back together Tuesday night.
Heidi Mumbower, who was a secretary at the school, helped organize the vigil. She had everyone meet up at Alpine Church at its West Haven location, where coordinators handed out directions, candles and worship song lyrics.
From there they carpooled to the Andersons’ home on the 4100 block of Westlake Drive in Roy for the 8 p.m. vigil on her lawn.
Anderson’s husband, Ross, knew ahead of time that they were coming. After a pastor knocked on the front door to let him know they were ready, Ross Anderson brought his wife to their front window to see the candle-lit faces of the lives she touched.
She knew little about the vigil beforehand and was "blown away" to see so many people outside their home, Ross Anderson said.
The crowd sang Christian worship songs, such as "How Great Is Our God" and "Always Faithful," with the accompaniment of two young men on guitars.
"It’s hard to imagine a more moving, heartfelt expression of love for her," Ross Anderson said.
After they closed on "Give Thanks," they waved their hands and candles to their teacher, who waved back. They said a prayer and left.
When Ross Anderson awoke in the morning, he found his wife had died.
"We knew we were short on time, but none of us" knew just how short, Mumbower said.
The people who came to the vigil had also left a large basket of letters and cards at her house. The Andersons read a few, then went to sleep.
Bill Schorr, the pastor who knocked on the door, admired Nancy Anderson’s matter-of-fact approach to her condition. She had told him she was simply done with this Earth.
On Tuesday night, he said he was "sure she’s grieving … but there’s a peace knowing where you’re going (after death)."