DADE CITY — Delia Carter grew up in a family of eight kids, doted on by her oldest brother.
As an adult, she stayed in her hometown and made a career with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, first as a dispatcher and later as a deputy. She was among the agency's first African-American female officers.
She served as a bailiff in the Dade City courthouse before her retirement in 2006. Heart problems had begun to plague her.
Ms. Carter, who was 59, died Sunday. Despite her health troubles, her death surprised friends and family members.
"She had seemed to have been okay the last little while," said her sister, ReJoyce Carter.
She remembered her sister as the sibling who was "always everybody's baby."
"When I was growing up, I thought Delia was my baby," said Luther Cason, her oldest brother. "All my sisters and brothers say that I spoiled Delia because anything she needed, I did it for her."
Now Cason, who owns funeral homes in Brooksville and Inverness, is planning his sister's service.
"She was very outgoing," Cason said. "She loved life. She was always cheerful. You could always get a joke out of her."
Jim Dome, a bailiff in Dade City, said Ms. Carter maintained a lighthearted demeanor in a job that could be trying and stressful.
And she was effective.
"She was a liaison because a lot of people in the community knew her. If stuff was going on, she could kind of get a heads-up," Dome said.
Her former colleagues still saw Ms. Carter around the courthouse, where she volunteered with the guardian ad litem program, serving as a legal advocate for kids.
Ms. Carter was a close friend of sheriff's Lt. Charles "Bo" Harrison, who was slain in 2003 by a sniper's bullet as he patrolled outside a Lacoochee nightclub.
When Alfredie Steele Jr., the man accused of killing Harrison, went to trial in 2007, Ms. Carter was in the audience every day of the two-week trial. Steele was convicted of first-degree murder.
"We all loved Delia here," said Dome, the bailiff. "She was a good girl.
"It's hard to believe."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6245.