TAMPA — Nancy Beytin may not have had a lot in common with Grace O'Malley, the legendary 16th century pirate queen.
Yet O'Malley and Mrs. Beytin were both strong women who changed the world around them, albeit by different methods.
In 1992, Mrs. Beytin helped form the first incorporated group — or krewe — of women to participate in Gasparilla.
The group was named Ye Loyal Krewe of Grace O'Malley.
O'Malley lived by the motto Terra marique potens, which means "powerful by land and sea." The krewe had a slightly softer motto: "Fun, friendship and frivolity."
Mrs. Beytin also left her personal stamp on the Tampa Bay area through charity work, especially the Festival of Trees and by raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Mrs. Beytin died Tuesday in an automobile crash. She was 56.
At the time of her death, Mrs. Beytin was planning a second trip with the krewe to Ireland to learn about O'Malley, who died in 1603.
"Nan was very much a woman who created her own world," said Bobbie Schofield, 64, another founding O'Malley krewe member. "We created our own krewe, our own life, rather than let things shape us."
Mrs. Beytin's day started at 5 a.m., with the best cup of coffee she could make and half & half (no sweeteners). By 7:15 a.m., she was walking 3 miles along Bayshore Boulevard. She showered and changed into something casual like overalls, Birkenstock sandals and a tie-dyed T-shirt.
On holidays, Mrs. Beytin transformed her South Tampa home with so many decorations, she had to rent a storage locker.
She grew up in Northport, N.Y., on the Long Island shore, the daughter of two teachers. In 1974 she married Kenneth Beytin, her high school sweetheart. They moved to St. Petersburg, then Tampa, where he practiced law.
She loved to host dinner parties, where she was known to caress a glass of red wine and announce, "This is the funniest story you have ever heard …"
"Every story she ever told was the funniest story you ever heard," said Michaile Stein, 28, her daughter.
In 1996, she served as the "O'Malley," or head, of the krewe she had helped found four years earlier. Membership has grown from the original 14 to 280.
On Tuesday, Mrs. Beytin and her husband were returning home after dropping off his mother in Boca Raton. In a storm, the car, which was driven by Kenneth Beytin, left the road and struck a pillar, Florida Highway Patrol troopers said.
Her husband was injured but is expected to recover, his family said. Mrs. Beytin's death has stunned her family and a wide circle of friends.
"When I first heard it," Schofield said, "I wasn't sure they were speaking English."
Said her daughter: "She taught me how to be strong, to see the good in people and to enjoy life."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]