CLEARWATER — Paulette Szabo Gross so loved Florida State University that she once admonished her son for gassing up his car in Gator country.
"We don't spend money in Alachua County," she said, Paul Gross recalled with a laugh.
Daughter Rebecca Tieder said because Ms. Gross was known for her straightforwardness, Tieder and her brother came up with the slogan: "Don't ask — she'll tell."
The Clearwater resident, former banker and Hillsborough Community College administrator died Sunday of cancer at 65.
She graduated from the University of South Florida, though her football loyalty remained with FSU, where she earned a master's degree in higher education and where she and her husband, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Raymond O. Gross, spent some of their happiest years.
"She knew many of the referees by name in the (Atlantic Coast Conference), and she would speak very directly to them, through television and at the game."
An ardent civil rights and women's rights activist, Ms. Gross was a 30-year member of the Athena Society, which promotes equal opportunity for women.
She started her career in banking for Exchange Bank of Tampa. Eventually, she was vice president and human resources director for Chase Manhattan Corp. At one time, her son said, she was known as the highest-ranking female bank executive in the state.
But she found the ideal workplace when she joined Hillsborough Community College, where she was assistant to the dean of health, wellness and sports technologies.
"The joy she had day in and day out working with the folks there was, maybe outside of family, one best things to happen to her," Paul Gross said.
Ms. Gross worked on program accreditation and the tenure process and kept everyone upbeat, said Amy Anderson, the dean.
And she was very funny.
Ms. Gross always threatened to bring in the Chippendale dancers when Anderson would be out of the office, the dean recalled.
Ms. Gross and a Gator fan colleague used to redecorate each other's office with rival paraphernalia. She always made sure to turn over the Gator fan's posters. In honor of her memory, the colleague turned over her posters, Tieder said.
Ms. Gross' children described her as a voracious reader, excellent oil painter and an inveterate room rearranger. She was in a hospice room for a total of 48 hours, said her daughter, during which time she had someone rearrange the furniture.
Ms. Gross struggled with cancer for 18 months. She was determined to live long enough to meet her second grandchild, Jackson, born seven weeks ago, and see her son get married July 23.
"She managed to attend the wedding that night," Tieder said.