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Epilogue | Lucy Jill Wilson

Love of Springsteen buoyed Lucy Jill Wilson through cancer

ST. PETERSBURG — In 2007, Jill Wilson's cancer had already cracked her spine. The treatment left her exhausted, swelling her hands and feet and even bloodying her nose.

She described the pain in an upbeat blog entry, a couple of sentences before announcing "a celebratory Springsteen trip" to Washington, D.C.

Bad as the cancer was, it had not advanced, and that was reason enough to celebrate.

Two weeks later, Bruce Springsteen revved up the crowd from the Verizon Center stage.

"Is there anybody alive out there?"

Ms. Wilson piped up from the front row. "I am!" she cried.

Ms. Wilson died early Thursday at Hospice Woodside. She was 47.

A longtime Springsteen fan, Ms. Wilson found the singer especially helpful over a five-year struggle with inflammatory breast cancer.

"A Springsteen concert has never ever done anything but brought me joy and happiness," she wrote on jillwilson.com.

The daughter of a school superintendent, Ms. Wilson grew up in Tallahassee and Georgia. As the education/new media specialist for the St. Petersburg Times' Newspaper in Education program, she taught teachers a range of Internet skills.

She decorated her Old Northeast home with retro album covers and the artwork of friends.

The cancer diagnosis in 2004 upset her. "She had these ridiculously sparkling blue eyes," said niece Sara Burke, 26. "And they dimmed a little bit."

She fought back with mass outings. In 2007 she and several friends visited New York and hung out on the set of the Late Show With David Letterman, where Spring­steen's wife, Patti Scialfa, was performing. Gretchen Letterman, Ms. Wilson's Times supervisor and the comedian's sister, had arranged the access.

Backstage, Ms. Wilson met Springsteen, who gave her a kiss.

In January, Ms. Wilson managed to gain access to musical rehearsals leading up to the Super Bowl. On a rain-soaked day in Raymond James Stadium, she listened to Springsteen sing Born to Run and other songs, leaning on friends for support.

In March, former Times staff writer Tom French visited Ms. Wilson at her home. "She was struggling," said French, 51, a friend and fellow Springsteen fanatic. Ms. Wilson said that she often heard Springsteen and his E Street Band in her head, as if it were background music.

Lately, however, Ms. Wilson said she had only heard one instrument playing: the organ of Danny Federici. Known for the distinctive organ riffs on classics such as Hungry Heart, he died in April 2008 of cancer.

"Instead of hearing the whole band, she was hearing this guy who died playing the organ," French said. "Almost like she thought she was ready."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

.Biography

Lucy Jill Wilson

Born: July 25, 1961.

Died: May 7, 2009.

Survivors: mother, Jane Wilson; sisters Jenny Burke, Krista Wilson and her husband, Ron Komosinski; foster sister Rene Cosenza and her husband, Bill; niece, Sara Burke; several aunts, uncles and cousins.

Service: 1 p.m. Saturday; First Presbyterian Church, 701 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg.

Love of Springsteen buoyed Lucy Jill Wilson through cancer 05/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 9, 2009 1:28am]
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