TAMPA — JoAnne Thorpe viewed things from a different perspective. She considered possibilities.
Take for example one of her beloved Shih Tzus, Stormy.
Stormy was a wild child born in a winter storm. When Dr. Thorpe was away, the tiny pup would place toys about the house. It was never haphazard, always specific, always with panache.
Dr. Thorpe never got angry. She decided it was artwork, took photos and showed friends.
"I valued her lens," said the Rev. Phyllis Hunt, her friend and pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Tampa. "She could see things I couldn't always see. When I was confused about something, I would go to her and say, 'Tell me what you see. What am I missing here?' "
She was born in Tampa and graduated with honors from Florida State University, then earned a master's degree at the University of North Carolina and a doctorate from Texas Woman's University.
"She was an outstanding student," said her former FSU professor, Dr. Frankie Hall. "She had a good rapport with the other students. She had a real good sense of humor and laughed easily, and she had very high standards."
Dr. Thorpe became chairwoman of the physical education department at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She helped lead the charge for women, supporting Title IX and coaching volleyball.
When she retired, she split her time between Carbondale and Seminole Heights. She had a wealth of knowledge of the history of her neighborhood. She loved the democratic process and could recite Robert's Rules of Order.
At Metropolitan Community Church, she made it a point to know everyone. So much, in fact, she interviewed them.
"She made an appointments with every new person that worked at the church and to find out a little bit about them and tell them a little bit about her," said Hunt. "She would figure out for herself where that new person would fit into her spiritual journey."
Twice a week, she took her dogs to hospitals and nursing homes. She trained them to be still and comforting, to serve as sweet distractions to people who needed one.
Then, Dr. Thorpe would talk.
"She was very outgoing and could easily speak to people of any age," said her friend Pam Dickens. "That was what always amazed me. She could talk to kids, she could talk to the elderly. There was nothing that she couldn't break through."
When Dr. Thorpe suffered a stroke recently, she asked to see her dogs, Stormy and Sweetie. As she lay ill in the hospital, they became her own therapy. Dr. Thorpe died Jan. 15. She was 77.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.