Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough's MADD co-founder moved by honor for sister

Linda Unfried expected an emotional night.

Last week, the co-founder of Hillsborough County's Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter came to support the Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies who would man a driving under the influence checkpoint at the Brandon intersection of State Road 60 and Parsons Avenue.

She arrived with a heavy heart. The site brought back memories of the grim August 2007 death of sheriff's Sgt. Ronald Harrison, who was shot by an assailant after working a DUI checkpoint at the same intersection.

"That was the last time we worked together," said Unfried, who often leads her organization in bringing food to the officials manning the checkpoints. "He walked me to my car that night."

The emotion, however, proved greater than she ever expected. The officials, which also included members of the Florida Highway Patrol and Tampa police, surprised Unfried by dedicating the checkpoint to her late sister, Josie DiStefano Palomino.

Palomino died 28 years ago at the intersection of Waters Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway because of the carelessness of a drunken driver.

Col. Greg Brown, head of the Department of Patrol Service, and members of the HCSO DUI Squad presented Unfried with a plaque in honor of her sister.

"It really was something special," Unfried said. "I was at a loss for words. I started crying. It's very, very meaningful.

"To have it dedicated to someone whose life is lost is very important."

For some, dealing with the death of a loved one involves chasing away the memories. Or perhaps those grieving choose to rekindle only the good times, never wanting to recall how a senseless act ended all the joyful moments .

Unfried easily could have embraced such sorrow. Although they were six years apart, she shared a special bond with her sister, and she concedes that even after 28 years she's still coping. Her parents, she says, never got over Palomino's death.

Yet Unfried chose to channel that sadness into something positive. Six months before Palomino died, the two sisters watched a movie about Candy Lightner, the California woman who started MADD after losing her daughter in a drunken driving accident.

"We called each other after that and said, 'Let's do this. Let's help MADD,' " Unfried explained. "She died six months later. I had no choice but to make the commitment."

This is why the dedication held so much importance to Unfried. DUI checkpoints, which the Sheriff's Office always advertises through media outlets, not only raise awareness, they save lives.

They remind us we're responsible for our choices, and the potential consequences can't be ignored.

For Unfried, every time her work with MADD diminishes drinking and driving or helps a family cope, she feels her sister didn't die in vain.

"She gave me this plaque, Footprints, about how God carries you (through difficulties)," Unfried said. "That has gotten me through losing her. The Lord did carry me through. He led me to start MADD and help other people get through it."

But it still hurts.

The day after the checkpoint dedication, Unfried's husband found a small book she had received from Palomino in the garage. The book expressed the love between sisters: birthday party memories, shared secrets, wanting to be like each other.

At the end, Palomino thanked Unfried for being a "super sister" and signed it "Love, Josie."

That's all I'm saying.

Hillsborough's MADD co-founder moved by honor for sister 02/02/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 2, 2012 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Taylor Swift ends intrigue, announces new album in November

    Blogs

    Yes, Taylor Swift fans, Wednesday was a lucky one for you.

    This cover image released by Big Machine shows art for her upcoming album, "reputation," expected Nov. 10.
  2. Taking heat from some for Charlottesville remarks, Rubio denounces the 'other side'

    Blogs

    Sen. Marco Rubio, who has come under fire for not denouncing the “Antifa,” did so in a speech last night in Florida, bemoaning people “on the other side of the political spectrum who …

    Marco Rubio on the campaign trail in 2015
  3. How to make a Strawberry Banana Smoothie

    Cooking

    Don't enjoy breakfast but need to get something in your stomach? Cranky around 3 p.m. and need a jolt of energy? Have trouble getting your daily recommended fruit servings? This smoothie is the cure for all of that and more. It's become my morning go-to. The secret ingredient here is kefir, a probiotic product that's …

    Strawberry Banana Smoothie. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  4. How to tell if the price is right on your next prescription

    Medicine

    Filling a prescription is no longer the simple errand you run after a doctor visit.

    Photo illustration. [iStockphoto.com]
  5. Rubio to Seminole County GOP: 'America is going to be okay'

    Blogs

    Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a reshaped stump speech Tuesday night to the Seminole County GOP, touching on many of the same points he made as a presidential candidate but adapting it to the tumultuous politics of the moment.

    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami.