TOWN 'N COUNTRY — Until 4 1/2 years ago, Linda Pitcher lived the contented, uneventful life of a working mother. She adored her adult son Brian Mydelski and her young son Jacob White. She worked hard at her longtime job with an insurance company and relaxed with family and friends on her days off.
Then, on the morning of Dec. 21, 2005, everything changed.
That day, her older son was killed in a road-rage incident on Interstate 75. His death drove Ms. Pitcher to a period of activism before other life tragedies and her own sudden death May 28, after choking on some food in her home. She was 48.
Her son died when a driver who thought Mydelski had cut him off drove onto the shoulder of the road, pulled up alongside Mydelski and bumped his car. Mydelski's car swerved across the median and hit a semi.
The truck driver was seriously injured. The driver who caused the accident left the scene but was later arrested and convicted of vehicular homicide. But his sentence of only six years for vehicular homicide enraged Ms. Pitcher.
The unassuming woman who lived in Town 'N Country and always wanted a quiet family life became a fiery and high-profile advocate for road-rage legislation. With her son's ashes at her side, she made repeated visits to the Florida Legislature, arguing for stricter enforcement and harsher penalties.
"The most noteworthy thing was the way she became an advocate for laws against road rage," said George White, the father of her younger son. "She tried to get laws passed against things like following too close."
Those efforts were largely unsuccessful, White said.
"She worked as hard as she could," White said. "At least she was able to educate people and bring some attention to the problem of road rage."
If nothing else, White said, she was able to find a healthy outlet for her grief.
After about a year of tirelessly working for stricter road-rage laws, she gave up the fight and returned to her normal life.
"She was just a good person," said her longtime friend Jolene Bertloff. "I don't know anything bad anybody could say about her."
More tribulation followed for Ms. Pitcher and her family. Last year, her son Jacob fell off his bicycle and nearly died from a brain injury. He fully recovered but had to have surgery, then had to wear a helmet everywhere he went.
Four months ago, Ms. Pitcher's brother, her only sibling, died in a motorcycle accident in Ocala.
On May 24, her son found her lying unconscious on the kitchen floor. She was rushed to the hospital but died four days later.
Her father, Harry Pitcher, had to break the news to 10-year-old Jacob.
"I said, 'Jacob, your mommy is dead,' " Harry Pitcher said.
"This family has had a lot of grief in the past few years."
Besides her father and her son, Ms. Pitcher is survived by her mother, Ruth Pitcher.
Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.