HISTORIC HYDE PARK — Her name was Geraldine Shear, but everyone called her Goldie. Never "Geraldine," never "Mrs. Shear." Her kids hardly ever called her "Mom."
"She was just Goldie," said her son Jeff Shear. "She happened to have a name that fit her perfectly."
She was, by nature, ebullient, fun-loving and charismatic, with an apparently innate ability to instantly charm anyone she met.
"I asked her once how it was that all these people adored her, even after they met her for five minutes," her son Steve Shear said. "I don't think she knew."
Mrs. Shear was 71 when she died Sept. 9 after a brief illness.
She was, her sons said, the kind of mom that all the other kids wished they had.
"We probably got away with stuff that other kids didn't," Steve said. "She let us drive around Davis Islands when we were 13 or 14. Our house was always the gathering place for all our friends."
Although she kept a refreshingly childlike outlook on life even into her later years, she was far from frivolous. She made a career out of working with local nonprofit organizations.
"She established and operated gift shops for nonprofits," Jeff said. "She started the gift shops at Lowry Park Zoo, the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Great Explorations and the Holocaust Museum. It wasn't in her nature to just work 60 or 70 hours a week at these places. She'd do volunteer work for them, too."
Her volunteer work wasn't restricted to places where she ran gift shops. She served on the board of directors of Congregation Rodeph Shalom and was president of Jewish Social Service.
She lived her entire life in South Tampa, the daughter of Romanian immigrants who for many years owned a shoe store called Bond Footwear on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City.
As a young lady, she had fallen in love with a neighborhood boy, a year older, whom she had known since their days at Wilson Junior High School. She eventually went to the University of Florida, where he was a student, and she earned a degree in education. They later returned to Tampa and married. They were divorced many years ago.
She taught for a few years at Hillel School, which at the time was housed at Congregation Rodeph Shalom on Bayshore Boulevard.
Her sons aren't quite sure how she started her career in nonprofit gift shops, but they know the first one she started was at Lowry Park Zoo.
She soon found she had a talent and an affinity for that kind of work, especially in places that drew a lot of youngsters. Because of her success at the zoo, she became the go-to person for nonprofit institutions looking to start gift shops.
"She didn't have to work," Jeff said. "Our father was a lawyer, so she didn't need the money. But she had a lot of energy, and she wanted to do something with her time. She loved the work, and she loved being around kids."
In recent years, Mrs. Shear had gone to work at her son Steve's business, but couldn't quite make the break from her roots in gift shops. At the time of her death, she was volunteering to help the Tampa Firefighters Museum get its gift shop going.
Besides her sons, Mrs. Shear is survived by her companion, Jack Wiesenfeld, a sister and four grandchildren.
Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.