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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 and CCAFlorida.org.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Terry's 65th birthday, Saturday, February 22nd from 3-6pm in Lakeland.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Ledger from Feb. 21 to Feb. 22, 2014.
Memories & Condolences
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24 entries
February 15, 2020
Terry we think of you often as we enjoy each sunset from our home in Chokoloskee Island . Miss you so much . I will try to outfish those Jersey boys next month . Already got my fishing shirts ironed = d-
Terry we think of you often as we enjoy each sunset from our home in Chokoloskee Island . Miss you so much . I will try to outfish those Jersey boys next month . Already got my fishing shirts ironed
Marie Graves
February 15, 2020
We miss you Terry...
Keith Wellman
February 15, 2019
We miss you Terry.
February 26, 2014
My condolences. How sad to lose such a wonderful woman. It reminds me to live each day to it's fullest potential as she seemed to do. There is not always a tomorrow.
Matt Miller
February 26, 2014
Terry on her first sailing camp trip
Terry, we knew you for far too short a time. We had so many plans for camping trips in your new sailing kayak. We will all miss you, your happy voice and person. We will miss you deeply.

Keith and Nancy Wellman
Keith Wellman
February 25, 2014
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tom and the family. What a terrible loss.
Jim & Dianne Lanier
February 24, 2014
Sorry for your loss
Susan Wiegert
February 22, 2014
My heart goes out to all of those touched by this wonderful person. My sincere thoughts & prayers to Dr. Tom Wilson & his family. May heaven rejoice with the arrival of a great angel :)
Sharon Moran, RDH
February 22, 2014
My beautiful sister - your smile and gracious heart will forever burn in my heart - you left my life way too soon but I will FISH on in your loving memory ! Thank you for so many years of love and friendship - I will love you always - Theresa Jo
February 21, 2014
Jere Annis Leadership Award Recipients
Beth Miller
February 21, 2014
Terry was a wonderful friend and a true leader...she received the Dr. Jere Annis leadership award from the Leadership Lakeland Alumnae Association...everyone whose life came in contact with Terry was better for having known her...will keep you all in my prayers...blessings, beth miller
Beth Miller
February 21, 2014
Terry's engaging personality made her a natural advocate. She spoke intimately and intensely and didn't let up when a point needed making. She stayed well-informed and well-connected. She didn't mind a good (political) argument or a good search for truth. She cared deeply, for her family, her animals, her fishing life, her beliefs. She could put a joyous spin on the toughest topic and “suck you in” to helping with the cause. Whether fighting for gifted kids in Tallahassee or establishing the local PAGE (parent) group or meeting over a frosted mug, her presence was felt and she energized the group. I'll miss her FB posts & photos (and rum cake!) Blessings to the family.
Dana Kelly
February 21, 2014
Wow,it is hard to fathom losing such a wonderful friend at such a young age. Met Terry while we were kayak fishing at Flamingo NP and she camped with all of us rowdies with her manicured nails, etc. She always had time and a ready smile for everyone and was a super dedicated fisherman! She will be missed.
Bernie Kerr
February 21, 2014
Chokoloskee FL
February 21, 2014
As I stand here ironing my fishing shirt for this weekend's outing (laugh- she would have) I am remembering the many beautiful pieces of water we shared over the past 12 years. From the NASA security helicopters in Mosquito Lagoon, crocodiles at Flamingo, sharks in Key Largo, MUD at Pine Island, Derelicts at the Hacienda.... life was always an adventure with you. We will raise a birthday toast at Chokoloskee - yes, I WILL pack the REAL champagne glass. I believe this is the ultimate fish story of the One That Got Away. We lost a keeper.
Marie Rocheleau Graves
February 21, 2014
Linzy and family, so sorry to hear of this tragic loss of your Mother. I remember the day I took possession of the house, meeting her and remembering the happy and wonderful smile she greeted me with. My prayers go out to you and your family.
Johnny F Cannoy Sr
February 21, 2014
Although we never met Terry, we have talked on the phone and emails as we are the new renters of your wonderful beach home on AMI. We were totally shocked upon hearing the news. Our sincere condolences and prayers to the entire family. We have a card that was left on the beach bench with some flowers and will makes sure it, and any future ones find their way to you.
Steve and Sharry Ehlers
February 21, 2014
What a great Gal. I just can't believe she's gone. 67th st. beach sunsets will never be th same. We'll miss you terribly, Terry.
Roger Cappello
February 21, 2014
Our hearts are filled with so much sorrow for you and your family. Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.
Kevin & Nancy McNamara
February 21, 2014
February 21, 2014
Terry was the finest examples of humankind I have ever had the privilege of knowing. She was involved in helping people of all kinds. I have known her for almost a half century. I never could how she was able to serve all the things she was passionate about. I do not have the capability of listing them here...too numerous. There are literally thousands of people who were helped or touched by this wonderful person. She was somehow able to find time for anyone, any worthwhile endeavor. Terry will always bring a tear to anyone who knew her when they see a sunset, a cool cloud formation, a mangrove, a kayak, a fish , a fisherman, a kid who was able to find out they were gifted a lost animal. Terry I will miss your daily Facebook comments, sage advice and your uncompromising integrity. We will miss you deeply my friend..ride steady into that beautiful sunset.
John Pack
February 21, 2014
Wilson, you will be missed eternaly by this humble friend.
I promise I will be in Vancouver the last two weeks of July fly fishing in your honor.
Harold Guetzlaff
February 21, 2014
To Terry's family, may you all find comfort and strength in the warmth and caring of friends and family. Thank you for supporting Terry in her advocacy efforts, especially FGN, and for letting us get to know her and work with her. We have big shoes to fill in keeping her work going; I hope we can do her justice. I miss her.
Jennifer Martin
February 21, 2014
I have known Terry for over 50 years. They say her heart gave out but in my opinion she just gave all her heart out. We all benefitted from her gift for decades. As for life Terry was "all in, all the time."
Jack Connor
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