One after another, Candace Tift's husband, parents, siblings and friends bent and kissed her flower-dressed coffin outside a Huntington Beach church last week.
Tift, a young mother and teacher at Eastbluff Elementary, died Aug. 24 after she was hit by a car while riding her bike on West Coast Highway.
She was 31 and the mother of a 15-month-old son, Owen.
Family, friends and former and current students gathered at Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church, the church where Tift was baptized, to remember the woman who reached out to many of the hundreds gathered together.
The pews were filled with parents and children — many clutching hands — who knew Candace Tift as a caring fourth- and fifth-grade teacher. Young mothers and their babies — members of a "mommy and me" group that Candace Tift and Owen belonged to — sat near the family in the front row.
Candace Tift grew up in Huntington Beach and attended school at Sts. Simon and Jude for several years.
In her 20s, Candace Tift was a "thrilling" friend who laughed often and had a penchant for mischief, said Joanna Lauer, who was friends with her for 12 years.
"Candace was the type of person we need on this earth," Lauer said.
Candace Tift's husband, Wade Tift, spoke calmly as he shared memories of his wife.
"I was lucky enough to find, early in my life, a wonderful woman," Wade Tift said.
Mary Logan, Candace Tift's mother, said if Candace was in the church that day she would want to thank everyone for taking time out of their day to remember her.
She would have wanted to thank others, as well.
"Candace would say thank you to Wade and Owen for making all of her dreams come true," Logan said.
For the fourth and fifth-grade teacher at Eastbluff, educating was a life-long dream. Candace Tift wanted to be a teacher since she was a little girl, Logan said earlier. Wade Tift recalled the many nighttime conversations he had with his wife, discussing how she could better reach her students.
"From the beginning, she wanted to make a difference," Wade Tift said.
Candace Tift was biking blocks from her Costa Mesa home on a sidewalk along West Coast Highway with her cocker spaniel, Dudley, when a driver veered onto the curb and hit her.
Police say the driver who hit her was under the influence of prescription drugs. Irvine resident Janene Johns, 52, was arrested at the scene. Charges have not yet been filed.