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She was a friend to people -- and pets

Mada Huddleston, who died at age 72, managed a pet store and worked as a veterinary assistant.

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 29, 2002

Mada Huddleston

When Sara Ward needed help as a teenager, her big sister, Mada Huddleston, took her in and saw her through the tough times.

"She would not give up on people and she didn't give up on me. She was always my rock," said Ward, now 60 with grown children of her own.

Through the years, Ward was one of many people, and animals, who relied on Mrs. Huddleston.

"She was like a mom to most of us," said Annie Wian of Veterinary Medical Clinic on Henderson Boulevard.

Mrs. Huddleston was 72 when she died March 21 of natural causes. South Tampa pet owners knew her from the clinic. For years, she also managed Naturally Pets, the store next door, which closed last fall.

"She talked to everybody. She was concerned. She'd learn their whole life history," Ward said.

"I'm sure some people thought sometimes she was strange. But it was a good strange."

Lou Stallings worked with her at the clinic.

"She was the most fun person. There was nothing shy about her," said Stallings, 66. "She had a story for everything. Any time you needed to know something, you'd just call Mada."

Mrs. Huddleston and her first husband moved to Tampa from Alabama in 1948. After their divorce in the early 1970s, she went to work as a veterinary assistant.

Her home was open to pets, as well as people.

"She was always taking care of people's dogs," said her only grandchild, Wendy Guertin, 32.

And she was always quick with a compliment.

She found nice things to say about people's hair, their eyes and their ties.

"She always said, I believe in giving people their flowers while they're alive,"' Stallings said.

Mrs. Huddleston, Stallings and two other friends shopped the recent Chiseler's Fair.

She wore a pair of jeans she bought in January.

"She was so proud of those jeans. She wore them everywhere," Stallings said. "She'd tell people, "Can you believe I'm 72 and I got my first pair of jeans?' "

In addition to Guertin and Ward, she is survived by a son, Jacob F. Johnson.

- City Times chronicles the lives of the famous and not-so-famous. To suggest an obituary, e-mail or call 226-3382.

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