TERRY STETSON WILSON, 64
LAKELAND - "She was a beacon of truth and a ball of fire to get things done."
Lakeland education advocate and avid angler Terry Stetson Wilson passed away suddenly Monday due to heart failure.
For almost 30 years, Terry worked as a tireless and persistently active advocate for the education of gifted students in Florida. As director of the Florida Gifted Network for 17 years, she connected parents, teachers, district coordinators, and legislators at both district and state levels, helping share resources and acting as an organizer to stop legislation that would defund or damage childhood education in Florida, including the infamous Senate Bill 6 and the Parent Trigger. It has been said that she was never unavailable for urgent action, whether at home, on the road, at the beach, or even while fishing from her sea kayak. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has recognized her twice: in 1995 as Parent of the Year, and in 2008 with their Community Service Award.
"Terry's work moved mountains for gifted kids in this state for years..."
"She was advocating for public education until the very end of her life."
Terry's tenacity and passion for education issues could only be overshadowed by her tenacity and passion on the water. She grew up fishing with her family in Palm Beach and later learned to fish the canals of the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes with her mother. In recent years Terry had turned her attention to coastal fishing in the mangroves and grass flats around Anna Maria Island on the Gulf coast. She was particularly fond of hunting redfish and could often be found stalking the waters of Palma Sola Bay in her sea kayak or Hewes flats boat, and on occasion in the flats of Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas, where she was a master of finding bonefish. More recently she had taken to camping excursions in the Everglades in her new sail kayak. At the time of her passing she had been planning a vacation to Vancouver Island where she expected to practice her flycasting.
"...she always went fishing with the most perfect manicure and pedicure."
"I'm sad for those fish who will now just have to wallow in circles wondering where that speedy kayak went."
Terry was born in Palm Beach in 1949, where she lived in a house designed by her own father, architect John Stetson. She later moved to Winter Haven where she graduated from Winter Haven High School in 1967.
She met her husband, Tom Wilson, at Florida Technological University, now the University of Central Florida, where she graduated in 1972. After a few years in Atlanta while her husband attended dental school at Emory, the two of them took residence in Lakeland where Tom began and now continues to practice dentistry. Tom and Terry celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this past December.
She is survived by her husband, Tom, her two children, Linzy of Gulfport, FL and Christopher of Cambridge, MA, her brother Michael and sister Suzy.
Those connected to her on Facebook know of her breathtaking daily sunset photos taken from her beach house in Anna Maria Island, as well as many many MANY photos taken from her kayak of monster redfish and snook. Her personal pages have been flooded with comments:
"[Terry] assisted teachers and motivated us all to be better people."
"She taught me to love life."
"She sparked passion and action for doing the right thing in so many."
"If you died a hundred years from now, you'd be gone too soon."
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Terry's name to Florida Gifted Network or Coastal Conservation Association Florida. Please donate through their Paypal accounts on their respective web pages: FloridaGiftedNetwork.org
A Celebration of Life will be held on Terry's 65th birthday, Saturday, February 22nd from 3-6pm in Lakeland.