REDINGTON BEACH — Sharon Pascarelli was beautiful, movie-star gorgeous, and she saw beauty in the world.
An artist, she dragged friends from the blue-collar suburbs of Boston to the museums, explaining Cezanne, Picasso, Van Gogh.
"I'd look at it and say, 'You've got to be kidding me, Sharon!' … It looks like the kids did it!' " said her lifelong friend Ginger Kelley, 64, of St. Petersburg.
One year, she and her gang from Dorcester came to Florida on vacation. A friend's brother showed them around town.
He had grown up with them, too, but moved to Tampa after getting out of the military. He saw Sharon from across the room and fell in love.
"Our eyes locked. It sounds corny as hell, but it's the truth," 56-year-old Joe Pascarelli said.
Mrs. Pascarelli painted big and painted everything. One day Kelley suggested she spruce up her bathroom. The next time she saw it, Mrs. Pascarelli had painted the wall tiles red.
Kelley went with her to a juried art show when Mrs. Pascarelli presented a work called Martha Washington's Geraniums. She heard two women whispering behind her. They called Mrs. Pascarelli an "artist's artist."
Mrs. Pascarelli married as a teenager and had two children. Her kids were teenagers, and she was separating from her firefighter husband on that fateful trip to Florida. A few years later, she moved down for good.
She and Joe Pascarelli married. She took to Florida and started painting it. Beach cottages. Pelicans. Islands. Dolphins.
She made a tour of local galleries and co-ops. She painted beach scenes that would sell, said Elaine Anagnos, artist and manager at A Little Room for Art in Pass-A-Grille, where Mrs. Pascarelli was a member.
She wanted to share her art, teaching students from her home studio. She and a partner opened one of the first galleries in Gulfport, before it was known as a funky artist's haven. Her warmth put people at ease.
"She was like a summer breeze," said fellow artist Galene Shorter, 49, of Bradenton.
In 1996, she was commissioned to design St. Pete Beach's first public art project, a 720-square-foot mosaic mural called Portrait of the Bay.
Friends described her as a private person who had a lot of commitments in life. From a young age, she had family. As she got older, her husband Joe needed care for his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
She shared her life with Joe. He rattles off her favorite movies: Auntie Mame (favorite line: "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death") and To Kill a Mockingbird.
They were having such a private moment together in January, the two of them and their white bulldog, Sarah.
"We started talking about how lucky we were, how blessed we were," Joe Pascarelli said. "She said, 'Joe, I'm feeling faint.' "
She collapsed, a heart attack. On Jan. 28, she died. She was 61.
A Little Room for Art will host a celebration of her art on March 6 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., one last chance to share her life's love.
Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or email@example.com.