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Epilogue | Rosalind Ratliff Jeffrey

After varied careers, Roz Jeffrey found her niche: charities

ST. PETERSBURG — Roz Jeffrey was on the Howard Frankland Bridge when the dark sedan turned on its blue flashing lights directly behind her Toyota.

An hour later, agents from the U.S. Treasury Department were grilling Mrs. Jeffrey, clad in an elf's green-and-white hat and loop-toed shoes. The marketing whiz was on her way to a shopping center promotion.

The agents were more concerned about a different promotion — her realistic-looking "Santa dollars" for charity, real $1 bills with an image of Santa Claus replacing that of George Washington. The agents asked Mrs. Jeffrey if she knew that defacing currency could get her five years and a $50,000 fine.

The former model replied that the time in prison would be a welcome break from raising three children and working. The comment charmed the agents, who sent her away with a thick manual explaining regulations on counterfeiting.

Mrs. Jeffrey, a striking woman who was never without a quip, even as she created gimmicks that raised millions of dollars for charities, died Thursday of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. She was 66.

Since moving to the Tampa Bay area in the mid 1960s, Mrs. Jeffrey scored with moxie and charisma. Her promotions trucked in elephants, miniature horses, hot-air balloons and snow.

Her Santa dollars, $1 bills that sold for $2.50, caught on with national retail chains and made millions for charities.

Rosalind Ratliff grew up in Sanford and worked in unusual jobs from an early age. She was a Weeki Wachee mermaid, a Ford model and an actor (her television show, The Beachcomber, lasted a year).

She married young, then married wrong. Her third try — with high school boyfriend Beau Jeffrey — was the charm. They married in 2004.

Her nervy style attracted at least as much notice as her accomplishments. For example, she once pulled over a Florida Highway Patrol trooper because he was speeding.

"He was probably smitten," said daughter Shelly Reale.

In 2008, after she had just sailed the Grecian islands with her husband, Mrs. Jeffrey began to have trouble speaking. Doctors diagnosed her with ALS, a degenerative and fatal illness.

She zipped around a fabric store last fall in a motorized wheelchair, typing into a device to communicate with her daughter.

Pausing before a drapery pattern she liked, Mrs. Jeffrey typed out, "What do you think?"

"I said, 'It's beautiful, but it's really trendy. It'll go out of style,' " said Reale, 45.

"She said, 'You know what? All it has to do is stay in style for one more year.' The poor woman at the counter didn't know whether to laugh or cry."

Thanks to Reale's efforts, the ALS Association's Florida chapter held a 100K bicycle ride on Nov. 7, Mrs. Jeffrey's birthday. The event raised $53,000 in its first year. This year's Ride to Defeat ALS is scheduled for Dec. 10.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

. BIOGRAPHY

Rosalind "Roz" Ratliff Jeffrey

Born: Nov. 7, 1943.

Died: May 20, 2010.

Survivors: Husband Cordell "Beau" Jeffrey; daughters Shelly Reale and her husband Nick, and Holly Hunter and her husband Alan; son Richard Steck III and his wife Ruth; stepdaughter Michele Renick; sister Jeanette Cara; brother Earl Ratliff and his wife Jo; eight grandchildren; several nieces and nephews

Service: 4 p.m. Thursday; Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, 2201 Dr. M.L. King Jr. St. N.

After varied careers, Roz Jeffrey found her niche: charities 05/21/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 21, 2010 10:23pm]
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