Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hispanic activist Anita de Palma of Clearwater dies at age 75

CLEARWATER — Hispanic activist Anita de Palma was so full of life that she needed two names to encompass all of the things that made her special.

As Rosario Anamaria Isabel Lourdes Mendez Gregory, she became an accomplished concert pianist and actress who spoke four languages and graduated from the Juilliard School. She performed in nightclubs around the country.

As a young woman, she developed an interest in politics that would eventually lead her to become Florida director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and run for Congress twice.

De Palma died Oct. 27. The Clearwater woman had earned a reputation as a role model who lived life to the fullest and always stood up for what she believed in.

While the funeral home and a newspaper funeral notice listed de Palma's age as 85, details from previous Tampa Bay Times stories would have placed her at 75 at her death.

"Anita was an icon," said LULAC national president Margaret Moran. "She was a trailblazer. She just had all this energy and was never afraid to speak out. ... She's going to be missed by all who knew her."

Born in New York to a Mexican father and a Scottish-English mother, de Palma moved to Clearwater in 1992 because her mother wanted to be buried with her family in Tampa.

Anita de Palma, she told the Times in a 2010 interview, was originally a stage name inherited from a husband she divorced in 1977. She continued using that name as well as Rosario Mendez.

De Palma got her first taste of politics when she volunteered during John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign, but her stage career kept her from doing anything about it.

That changed when she met the late Gabriel "Gabe" Cazares, former Clearwater mayor and Pinellas County commissioner, while volunteering on Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. He introduced her to LULAC, one of the largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights organizations in the United States.

De Palma was elected in 2003 to the state director post and served four years. Moran recalls that in addition to helping migrant workers and registering Florida's Puerto Rican population to vote, de Palma was an advocate for women.

"If she saw there was a need or the possibility that another woman could rise up," Moran said, "she was there to help."

De Palma ran for Congress in 2008, but lost in the Democratic primary. In 2010, she ran for the 9th Congressional District seat held by Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis. She defeated another Democrat in the primary, but lost to Bilirakis in the general election. Her platform in that campaign included creating a point system toward citizenship for undocumented immigrants and a ban on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

According to an obituary on the Moss Feaster Funeral Home website, de Palma's activism also included testifying before Congress on major health care and immigration issues and sitting on various groups that sought an end to domestic violence, child literacy and the transfer of American jobs overseas, among others.

In recent years, de Palma worked as a researcher at Nielsen Media Research, said co-worker Felipe Sepulveda. About six months ago, her health began to decline. She is survived by a nephew and cousin who live in Mexico.

"Everything she wanted to do, she did it," said Sepulveda, 61, of Holiday. "She was an example for all women, and she will be remembered forever."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or ksummers@tampabay.com.

If you go

Visitation for Anita de Palma will be held 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Moss Feaster Funeral Home, 693 S Belcher Road in Clearwater. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home, followed by burial at the Pyramid Crypts Inc. Cemetery, 4655 East Lake Ave. in Tampa.

Hispanic activist Anita de Palma of Clearwater dies at age 75 11/05/12 [Last modified: Monday, November 5, 2012 9:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa man driving ATV killed in Gibsonton crash on U.S. 41

    Public Safety

    GIBSONTON — A 24-year-old man driving an all-terrain vehicle died Monday afternoon in a crash on U.S. 41, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  2. Questions about Russia chase Trump during first Israel visit

    World

    JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump solemnly placed a note in the ancient stones of Jerusalem's Western Wall on Monday, sending a signal of solidarity to an ally he's pushing to work harder toward peace with the Palestinians. But his historic gesture- and his enthusiastic embrace of Israel's leader - were shadowed …

    President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after making joint statements, Monday in Jerusalem. [AP photo]
  3. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders

    Corporate

    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  4. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Editorial: Preserve wild Florida before it's too late

    Editorials

    The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State's famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes. …

    As dairy farms and citrus groves disappear, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over Florida’s wild spaces.