Legacy of courage
- Stover E Harger III
- The Times - News
Washington County Corporal Toby Candilora kept his spirits high while battling ALS
One thing seems to be clear.
No matter what life threw at him, Washington County Sheriff's Office Corporal Toby Candilora was strong - in his heart and in his mind.
After optimistically dealing with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, for just over a year, the respected law enforcement officer died Oct. 7 - just five days after officially retiring from his duties.
At Saturday's memorial for Candilora, 35, who worked in various capacities in the Sheriff's Office for seven years, hundreds prayed, wept and laughed together at Cedar Mill Bible Church as they remembered the life of Candilora and his dedication to law enforcement and his family.
'He always said, 'This disease may take my muscles, but it will never take my heart,'' said Sheriff's Chaplain Bryan McKelvey. 'And he was right.'
Many at the memorial said that being diagnosed with ALS, which is usually fatal within five years, was difficult for Candilora. But at the same time, the condition was able to show Candilora the beauty of life and let him connect even deeper with his wife April, and two daughters, Taylore Marie and Samantha Mae.
'At first he thought getting ALS was a curse,' said close friend and supervising officer, Commander Willie Bose. 'But over time he saw it was a blessing.'
Each day, as his body shut down and he became more immobile, Candilora faced many challenges, but dealt with them with an undefeatable attitude and personality, Bose said. He remembers visiting Candilora a few weeks before he died. Bose decided he wasn't going to stay long so he wouldn't tire his friend out.
But then when he began talking to Candilora, Bose realized his friend was in high spirits. After two hours they were still chatting away.
'I could see his body was failing him,' Bose said. 'But his spirit was as sharp as ever.'
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Because motor neurons move through the spinal cord, the degeneration eventually leads to paralyzation and then death.
One by one, friends, coworkers and family shared their memories of Candilora in the church Saturday. They remembered how kids in the neighborhood would lovingly refer to him as 'Candyman.' They remembered how he would hand out cards with special quotes on them. They remembered how he would always have a grin on his face. He too made them all smile.
Candilora was raised in Utah and attended the police academy there at Weber State University. Since graduating in 1995, he dedicated himself to law enforcement, rising through the ranks in his early career as an undercover narcotics officer in Alaska and then later in Washington County. He was recently promoted to corporal and, according to his coworkers, there seemed to be no end in sight for how high he would rise.
Candilora worked for the hostage negotiations team, but after being diagnosed with ALS, began working in the services division, handling background investigations and performing hiring interviews until he just couldn't physically work anymore, said Sgt. Erroll McCrea, who worked closely with Candilora for years.
'I think Toby knew he was born to do law enforcement, and he was good at it,' McCrea said.
Since his diagnosis, Candilora worked to increase awareness about his disease and to raise money for the ALS Association to help others who are afflicted. Whether he was on the job or organizing fundraisers for ALS, those close to him say Candilora spent his time caring about others.
'He never whined or complained about, 'Why me? Why this?,'' McCrea said. 'He took it as a learning experience.'