Jackie Brown wanted to break through the secrecy that often surrounded breast cancer in the African-American community, so she started a support group and named it Sistahs Surviving Breast Cancer. Women from St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Largo and Tampa came.
Ms. Brown, a paralegal at the Pinellas County Attorney's Office, died Monday at age 50. Family and friends described her as intrepid in her fight against the cancer that claimed her life. "Her motto was that she would cry about it and then get up and do something about it," her sister, Doris Robinson, said.
Jane Morse-Swett, patient advocate at Gulfcoast Oncology Associates, recalled the day Ms. Brown learned the cancer had spread. "She was devastated, so I took her into a private office and we just sat and cried together and she was just saying, 'I can't believe this.' But, in typical Jackie fashion, she was like, 'I'm going to whip this. I'm going to fight this,' " Morse-Swett said.
Born in St. Petersburg, Ms. Brown graduated from Dixie Hollins High and Florida Metropolitan University. She could read the newspaper when she was 3 years old and instilled her love of learning in her children, Robinson said.
Ms. Brown developed uterine cancer at 29 and had a hysterectomy. In 2004, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. She blamed her cancer on 17 years at a now-closed Pinellas nuclear weapons plant and was one of hundreds of former employees seeking compensation for illnesses.
Divorced, she met Ananais Pittman, her partner of six years, on the Internet. Also divorced, he proposed a few days before she died.
"She said, yes, and she smiled," said Pittman, a home delivery field manager for the St. Petersburg Times.
Close friend Shirley Terrell recalled Ms. Brown's work on behalf of others. In March, she was named Community Service Woman of the Year by the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
Breast cancer survivor Addie Wells said Ms. Brown started the Sistahs group in 2006 with some women at Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church. It's grown to more than 40. For her birthday, they gave Ms. Brown, always a stylish dresser, a Stein Mart gift card.
"Stein Mart is going to miss Jackie, too," Wells said.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2283