ST. PETERSBURG — Nancye Barrett knew this day would come. In 1973, she sent the St. Petersburg Times a list of achievements for use in her obituary.
The list offered six pages of awards and affiliations. And that was 35 years ago. By the subject line she wrote in a neat script: "for Obit File, whenever?"
Whenever came last week for Mrs. Barrett, a former teacher and public relations representative who volunteered for dozens of causes.
She died May 6 at the age of 91.
"To call her a forceful personality is putting it lightly," said retired Circuit Judge Gerard O'Brien, who met Mrs. Barrett in the mid 1960s while she was campaigning for Skip Bafalis in the Republican gubernatorial primary against Claude Kirk, the eventual winner. "Even Claude Kirk, I believe, had enormous respect for her."
Mrs. Barrett moved to St. Petersburg in 1920, when her father bought 10 acres of orange groves between 18th and 22nd avenues S. There was no electricity in the area, and windmills pumped water out of the ground.
Her mother, a teacher, drilled young Nancye so successfully in preschool years that she started elementary school in the third grade. She graduated from Auburn University with a journalism degree and savored the memory of interviewing Eleanor Roosevelt for the school newspaper.
She stayed at Auburn for a master's degree in science and literature, then met and married Air Force man Merton Barrett, who would go on to work as a sales manager for Mercury Motor Express.
While bringing up three sons, Mrs. Barrett had interests ranging from the American Association of University Women to the Needlework Guild, Museum of Fine Arts and Friends of the Library.
A member of the St. Petersburg Little Theater since the 1940s, she was a former publicity director who appeared in dozens of roles on the theater's stage.
Mrs. Barrett played a leadership role in the early 1970s on the biracial advisory committee, which advised the School Board during the volatile early years of school desegregation.
"It is difficult to recall a time when I was not crusading — or battling against great odds — for whatever I believed was worthwhile," she wrote in 1974, in one of many "My View" guest columns for the Times.
Over the years she received awards from the Suncoast Opera Guild, the Florida Arts Council and the Florida Orchestra Guild for her volunteer work.
"It makes a hell of a carrot to reach for us to possibly try to outdo her," said her son, Steve Barrett. Her sons — Steve, an accountant; Allen, a lawyer, and Mark, a computer expert — credit their mother for instilling in them a belief in themselves.
"She challenged us," said Allen Barrett, 55. "She would always ask you for more than you could give."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.