The Rev. Janice Stringer was never one to dispense generic advice.
She studied people, their quirks and personalities. She pondered what they needed and how she could help.
One day, she chatted with Stefanie Brokas, a member of TLC Family Church in Lakeland where the Rev. Stringer was a pastor.
"I think you ought to walk with me a while," she told Brokas.
Brokas didn't quite understand. Take a walk? Hang out?
She started spending more time with the Rev. Stringer. They went on mission trips, discussed God and prayer.
"She taught me how to love people, how to see the best in people, how to be able to go through things," said Brokas, 29. "She taught me about life."
Eventually, she understood.
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The Rev. Stringer did things with passion.
She obsessed over the Beatles before they were popular. She went dancing with black friends amid Southern racial tension.
As a teenager, she met her husband, Jack. She was charismatic and 6 feet tall. He was reserved and 3 inches shorter. They married when the Rev. Stringer was 17. Her family didn't know.
"They got married in July, and we didn't know until October," said her brother, Mark Proffitt. "We came home from the Georgia State fair and found a note that said, Jack and I are married and we just found out that I'm pregnant."
The couple moved to Tampa, and the Rev. Stringer found her Christian faith after friends invited her to church.
She started attending Countryside Christian Center in Clearwater, where she became the women's pastor. She led Bible study for 400 women at once.
Around 1990, she and her husband felt a new calling. They opened a church in Inverness, co-pastoring for seven years.
Then her husband died of heart problems. "It was a major blow when he passed," said Proffitt, 49. "He was her soulmate."
She traveled the world preaching. She moved to Lakeland and spent her last years at TLC Family Church. She bonded with young people, who responded to her sense of humor, no-nonsense style and personal touch.
"She was a practical joker," said her brother. "People always saw her ministry side, but she had kind of a fun mean streak. She loved to laugh."
She beat breast cancer twice before it spread. Toward the end, she talked about seeing her husband again — it was the first thing she wanted to do.
The Rev. Stringer died Wednesday at 57. She wanted everyone to wear bright colors to her funeral.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8857.