ST. PETERSBURG — The prospect of dinner with her daughter was so exciting, Betty Jean Churuti would wheel out of her adult living facility a half-hour early, sit and wait.
If anyone asked where she was going (and she hoped they would), she'd tell them proudly. When Debby Deacon and her husband pulled up in their PT Cruiser convertible, she'd beam.
"She loved riding in that convertible," said Deacon. "She was so proud of all of us. We could do something that was absolutely nothing, and to her, it was an amazing feat."
Her own feats, though plenty, she found less impressive.
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Mrs. Churuti a trailblazing female stockbroker, died Monday after a long illness. She was 79.
Her start in stocks was sort of an accident.
She worked nights doing clerical work at Western Union, trained on the same Teletype machine the brokers used. The men encouraged her to get a brokerage license. In 1961, she did.
Sometimes, after long lunches, the brokers didn't come back.
"Mom, God bless her, she'd just step right in and get everything done," said Deacon. "Processed all the orders, got all the trades done, got them all booked for the customers."
She stayed in the business, eventually becoming an associate vice president at Raymond James & Associates. She trained people and traveled, opening up branches.
"She was kind of a pioneer doing things that women hadn't done much of before," said her son, Bob Churuti Jr., who is married to former Pinellas County Attorney Susan Churuti. "That's not why she did it, though. She did it because it was a challenge to her."
She did much of it on her own. At age 46, her husband died of a heart attack. Her children were grown, and without her husband, she poured her energy into work.
And some years later, she found another outlet. Mrs. Churuti's brother belonged to the Second Time Arounders marching band. He encouraged his sister to join. She had played the glockenspiel in high school. Why not?
In the Second Time Arounders, she served in the honor guard, carrying flags at the front of parade lines. One year during a performance in a torrential downpour, Mrs. Churuti didn't waver.
"She was just holding that flag steady as you please," said Deacon, who is also on the honor guard. "I wanted to just shiver to death, but she was rock solid."
When her health went downhill, she couldn't walk in parades. Every year, she'd roll her walker to the parade route wearing full band uniform. She'd pop the seat out, sit down and watch.
As the band rolled by, she'd point to her friends and relatives.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8857.