SHADY HILLS — Elsie Logan knew how to get people to help out. Last winter, she organized a Christmas toy drive and needed a volunteer to pick up a load of presents. She called her friend, county commissioner Pat Mulieri.
The timing wasn't great. Mulieri was at a face-painting event in Land O'Lakes, dressed as a clown. Mrs. Logan said there wasn't anyone else to pick up the toys.
So, the clown-suited commissioner hopped in her husband's truck to pick up the gifts. When she got to Shady Hills, she asked who would unload the gifts. Mrs. Logan just looked at her and said, "Grab a bag."
Mrs. Logan, the community activist and unofficial mayor of Shady Hills, died on July 3. She was 73. This week, commissioners agreed to rename the community's park the Elsie Logan Memorial Park.
Mrs. Logan grew up in a small town in West Virginia and moved to Tampa in 1960. She spent some time in Temple Terrace and bought some land in Shady Hills a few years later, when the area was mostly woods and there were no paved roads.
She was widowed three times. Her last husband, Robert Logan, helped her start youth sports programs in Shady Hills. He died in 1995, and the football fields at the park are named after him.
"She didn't have much money," said her brother, Roger Lanford, who lives in Oswego, N.Y. "But she did always have stuff for the kids. If somebody dropped in, she found something for them to eat."
Mrs. Logan got to know most people in the area through her years managing a Rally convenience store. Her son, Tim Courtney, recalled a particular photo that captured her take-charge approach. The photo shows her climbing out of a deli cooler at the store.
"There was probably something that needed to get done," said Courtney, who lives near Atlanta. "And there was a specific way she needed to do it. So she climbed in there and did it."
When Mulieri was first elected in 1994, Shady Hills needed a lot of help. The road to the town's community center was full of potholes, and the parking lot was just dirt. There were hardly any community events.
"I always said Shady Hills was the land government forgot," said Mulieri, whose commission district includes the rural northwest Pasco community. She talked with the Rev. Tom Ash, who was then the pastor of Shady Hills United Methodist Church. He said, "If you really want answers, go meet with Elsie."
Mrs. Logan's first big event was September Fest, which featured games for kids, a chili cook-off and information from several social service agencies. Proceeds from the first event paid for about two dozen Christmas food baskets for needy families. Last year, the church passed out more than 350 baskets — 14,000 pounds of food.
She started an annual Christmas parade and a monthly fish fry. As the director of the church's Family Center, she teamed up with the county Elderly Nutrition program in 2005 to host a daily meal for about 30 seniors.
The community held a mock mayoral election in the '80s where people voted by putting a penny in a can. "I think she won by a landslide," said Rob Kravabloski, a church member and supervisor of the Elderly Nutrition program.
More than 200 people attended her funeral earlier this month, and three pastors helped officiate the service.
Mrs. Logan was rearranging some tables at the Family Center in January when she told other church members about a pain in her side. She was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer. After several rounds of treatment, she was able to return to work.
At a checkup doctors found the disease had spread to her brain. But her mind was still sharp. Lying in her hospice bed a few days before her death, she called over Kravabloski. She needed to give him a list of things to do for this year's September Fest.
Lee Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.