TAMPA — Amy Shimberg recently fretted that, when she arrives in heaven, she might not remember all the names of the thousands of people she had delivered meals to over the last 45 years. And she was worried that she hadn’t yet completed some of her photo books, projects that she lovingly compiled, including books for her grandchildren documenting their childhoods.
She was a busy woman, right up to the end. Mrs. Shimberg delivered her last meal for Meals of Wheels just two weeks before she died Monday, before New Year’s Eve. She was 94.
The mother of five and grandmother of 15 dedicated her life to service, family members said Tuesday, remembering an energetic woman who believed equally in the importance of community and the power of the intimate, caring gesture.
"What stands out is how my mother cared so much about others, her family, her friends, her community,” said son Robert Shimberg, 56, a Tampa attorney and member of the city’s Citizen Review Board, which reviews police department actions.
“She really thought about others more than she did herself, and she taught us how important it was to give back to the community."
Amy Gross was born Sept. 12, 1924 in New York City. She graduated from New York University, then went on to obtain her master's in education from Columbia University. After teaching in New York, she followed her parents to Florida and taught high school health and physical education in New Smyrna Beach for several years.
A New Year's Eve blind date in 1956 almost never happened. Gross was planning to head back to Florida, but her flight was delayed because of mechanical difficulties. That allowed her to meet, and then quickly fall in love with, James H. Shimberg. They were married for fifty years and soon moved to Tampa, where James Shimberg started a real estate development business. The couple would have four children in five years. James Shimberg died in 2007
After arriving in Tampa, Mrs. Shimberg quickly plunged into volunteer work, becoming involved in public education. She served as PTA president in all the schools her children attended and stayed involved long after her youngest had graduated from high school.
In the late 1970s, she started serving hot meals every Wednesday for Meals on Wheels and served on the board for more than 25 years, twice as president.
She never stopped trying to advance the organization, said son Jim Shimberg, 59, executive vice president for Strategic Property Partners, which is developing the $3 billion Water Street Tampa project near the Channel District.
Just a few days before she died, her son said she was strategizing how to raise money to build a new facility for the non-profit organization.
"She was incredibly passionate about that particular charity,” Jim Shimberg said. “She had gotten so much joy from it. There wasn't a person she was afraid to call to ask for help moving that organization forward."
Mrs. Shimberg also helped former governor Bob Martinez raise money to fund Nature's Classroom, an outdoor environmental education program located along the Hillsborough River, for future generations of sixth graders.
Jim Shimberg said his siblings, inspired by their parents, plan to continue giving back to the community through their own passions, which include the YMCA, their synagogues and homeless issues. They also plan to continue the work of the education-focused charity of the James and Amy Shimberg Foundation.
When she needed a break from her whirlwind life, Mrs. Shimberg liked to take pictures of the many birds that visited her backyard feeder at her home. Her favorite? A hint: a bird that moves fast and seemingly never tires.
"She loved hummingbirds," said Robert Shimberg. "She loved the way they flew and approached the flowers."