Florence Esther Jacobson Diffenderfer Wills died at home in her apartment in Tallahassee on Monday, July 7, 2014. She was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 11, 1926, to Irene Levin and Edward Jacobson, the second of 2 children. While in high school she worked in various jobs in the defense industry during WWII including the Elgin Watch Factory.She attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, majoring in agriculture.After marrying William Charles Diffenderfer in 1946, a native of Pensacola, Florida, whom she met at the Chicago Institute of Design, they moved to Florida in 1950, and to Miami in 1951 where she resided for 50 years. She worked part time for U.S. Census Bureau from 1961 to 1964 as in interviewer for the Labor Survey.
Always politically active and with a strong belief in social justice, she served on the Democratic Executive Committee of Dade County from 1958-1960.While on the committee, she founded the West Dade Democratic Committee and ran the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign headquarters in West Dade County. She ran unsuccessfully for the Florida Legislature in 1967 and for the Dade County Commission in 1988. She was also active in the League of Women Voters, the March of Dimes, recording for the blind, the Biltmore Women's Golf Association, and participated in many political campaigns.
At the suggestion of her father, she became active and served on the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and subsequently became its Executive Director from 1964 to 1977.During those 12 years the Florida ACLU's "The Torch" was first published and the Gainesville, Broward, Orlando, Sarasota, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee chapters were established. In addition, she was proud that it became possible for women to become jockeys, men to become flight attendants, students to wear long hair, boats to drop anchor in Key West, interracial couples to rent apartments, and for Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee to stay alive and eventually to be freed.
Florence remained married to William Diffenderfer, with whom she had 3 children, for 22 years.In 1969 she married Thomas Aurelius Wills a professor of law at the University of Miami, to whom she had been introduced by Sandy D'Alemberte. They had been married for 32 years at the time of Tom's death in 2002.
In 2001, she moved to Tallahassee and was active in the Tallahassee chapters of the ACLU and the League of Women Voters.Always physically active and health conscious, she was known for her lengthy early morning walks in the Country Club area and healthful main-meal lunches at New Leaf Market, of which she was a member. She read widely, watched C-Span, and remained a devotee of Edward Bellamy and Jane Austin. In December of 2012 she moved to the Allegro Senior Living Community in Tallahassee.
She was proceeded in death by her beloved older sister Shirley Glicker, and is survived by her 3 children: daughter Meta Calder of Tallahassee, daughter Troy Singleton of Denver, Colorado, and son, Edn of Louisville, Kentucky; 7 grandchildren, including Summer and Autumn Calder Tallahasse, Chrystal Edn of New York City, Heather Dinon of Cooper City, and Linsey Edn of Louisville; and 7 great-grandchildren.
The date, time, and place of a memorial service will be announced in the Tallahassee Democrat at a later date. Donations may be made in Florence's honor to the League of Women Voters of Tallahassee (P.O. Box 10212, Tallahassee, FL, 32301-2216).
Published in Tallahassee Democrat on July 11, 2014