TAMPA — It is said that the world is composed of dreamers and doers. Felecia Wintons Taylor was both.
After dreaming of owning her own bookstore, she finally did it in 1992 when she opened Books For Thought, which became the pre-eminent African-American store of its kind in Tampa.
Years later, when she and her husband decided to start a charter school, Mrs. Taylor put a plan into action. Although the school has yet to open, she didn't allow inoperable breast cancer to prevent her from working toward that goal until the very end.
Mrs. Taylor died Saturday at University Community Hospital. She was 50 years old.
A native of Lake City, Mrs. Taylor is best known in the Tampa Bay area because of Books For Thought, the Temple Terrace store that carried predominately African-American authors and quenched a cultural thirst in the community.
"She wanted it to be a place you could relax, come in and have a conversation," said her sister, Donna James.
The store, on 56th Street, was featured in both Essence and O, Oprah Winfrey's magazine. High-profile authors, including TV judge Greg Mathis and lawyer Johnnie Cochran, held book signings there.
But it was Mrs. Taylor's attention to those closer to home that left the biggest impression.
"It was difficult to get books in stores," said Anthony Brinkley, whose self-published book You Can't Run Away From You: A Young Man's Journey To Himself, was carried at Mrs. Taylor's store. "But she was nothing but helpful."
Mrs. Taylor, who left a finance career to open the store, also shared her business acumen. She helped launch the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival and often gave business advice to others.
Carlton Burgess, who opened Burgess School of the Arts in 2003 near the bookstore, said she encouraged him to stay strong when times were tough.
Mrs. Taylor never had children of her own, but always had an affinity for them, James said.
In that spirit, she and her husband, Bishop Nathan Taylor, pastor of the Prevailing Word Worship Center, planned for a charter school that would discourage bullying. The idea grew out of an after-school program at his church.
After closing the bookstore in 2007, Mrs. Taylor focused on the charter school. She kept training teachers and planning curriculums, even after being diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2008.
Taylor Peace Academy was most recently slated to open in Carrollwood in August of 2009. But after a myriad of administrative hiccups, the Hillsborough County School Board denied the school's opening.
That didn't stop the couple, who planned to appeal the board's decision to the state, Bishop Taylor said.
"She was a caring spirit and was a very warm person," said Anita Lewis, who pledged Delta Sigma Theta with Mrs. Taylor at the University of South Florida.
Initially, Mrs. Taylor didn't tell many people about her diagnosis, preferring to keep the news in her family, Lewis said. But after a hospital stay in January, she began to open up. She didn't have health insurance. Her friends responded with action.
Lewis and others opened a bank account in her name, collecting $10,000 in donations. And Burgess, who now has a school in Ybor City, organized a gospel concert fundraiser.
Mrs. Taylor began chemotherapy and radiation treatments and, although her cancer never went into remission, she remained upbeat and relied on her faith, her husband said.
For the past two weeks, she had been in and out of the hospital with pneumonia, he said.
"Her legacy is her Christian experience and her love for the Lord," he said. "She really inspired me to live a dedicated walk."