CLAIR MEL — Sherry Crawford never lived within the city limits of Tampa. But no one knew the city better.
Mrs. Crawford worked in various departments of the City of Tampa for 42 years. She worked in the Mayor's Office under mayors Pam Iorio, Dick Greco and Sandy Freedman. For the past eight years, she was Iorio's administrative assistant.
Freedman, who was a close friend for many years, said Mrs. Crawford initially had planned to retire about seven months ago. But Iorio relied on her to help run her administration. Mrs. Crawford stayed on until about three months ago.
Mrs. Crawford passed away Nov. 21 from lung cancer. She recently had celebrated her 61st birthday.
"I know everybody says this after someone dies, but it's really true," Freedman said. "I didn't know anybody who didn't just love Sherry."
Mrs. Crawford was born in Clair Mel and lived there virtually her whole life. She started working for the City of Tampa while she was a teenager. She worked all day and took classes at Brandon High School at night.
She never had another employer besides the City of Tampa.
"She loved working for the city," said her daughter, Michelle Crawford. "She just loved it."
She met her husband, James Crawford, in the mid-1970s. She was dating one of his co-workers and had met Crawford briefly. But then they saw each other at a Perkins Pancake House and started talking. They were together ever since.
"They were together for 35 years, married for 30," Michelle Crawford said.
Mrs. Crawford worked for almost a quarter-century in the offices of three mayors. Although she didn't officially become the mayor's administrative assistant until Iorio was elected, she often filled in under Freedman when her administrative assistant was on vacation.
It's a demanding job, Freedman said, that includes crafting resolutions and helping to solve citizens' problems.
Mrs. Crawford's detailed knowledge of the city bureaucracy, plus the professional associations she had developed with the people outside the government who made the city run, made her the ideal person for that job.
She also had exactly the right temperament.
"I was just saying the other day that I never once heard Sherry raise her voice," Freedman said. "I never heard her raise it to anyone in the office, never heard her raise it to her children, never heard her raise it anyone on the phone. I'm sure you understand that there are some crazies who call the mayor's office on occasion, but Sherry could always stay calm."
Iorio also praised Mrs. Crawford's contribution to the city.
"Her tireless work behind the scenes is an example to all who serve the public," Iorio wrote on her Facebook page.
Mrs. Crawford was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago but seemed to be getting better, her family said. She was expecting a long retirement. About three months ago, she and her husband moved from Clair Mel to a home they built in Plant City.
Her family was stunned a few weeks ago when Mrs. Crawford's health took a sudden downturn. She went back into the hospital last week and passed away just a few days later.
"She just loved that house in Plant City," Freedman said. "She was so excited about moving into it. It's a shame she only got to enjoy it for a few months."
Besides her husband, James, and daughter Michelle, Mrs. Crawford is survived by her son Jamie and her daughter Andrea Crawford-Carter.
Marty Clear writes life stories about area residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.