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Woman's loss saps loved ones' energy

By LISA BUIE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 31, 2002

They had never seen her still.

Yet there she was, lying in a casket. Those who were close to Wendy Wallace remembered theaerobics instructor as a perpetual whirlwind, her brown ponytail bouncing as she led her students through grueling step workouts.

"Give me one more," she would tease, barely breaking a sweat during the routine. The joke among the regulars at the East Pasco Family YMCA was that the call for "one more" repetition usually meant they were in for eight more.

Longtime student Davy Massey described Wendy as "the Energizer Bunny."

"Everything in her life, she did with a passion," Massey said.

Wendy spent her last day -- Saturday, March 16 -- teaching two classes back to back. If that wasn't enough, she pedaled home on her bicycle. That evening she and her husband, Craig, rented a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. That night, Craig lost control of the bike on the curving approach to the Park Boulevard bridge between Indian Shores and Seminole. The motorcycle hit a barrier wall and slid on the bridge, investigators said. Wendy was thrown from the bike and may have hit a light pole. Craig, 34, was critically injured. Wendy, 36, was killed. He was not wearing a helmet; she was.

The cause of the accident remains a mystery. Craig, who spent weeks in the hospital, remembers none of it.

It had rained that night. Maybe he hit a puddle just the wrong way, he speculated.

"They say everything happens for a reason," he said. "I'm still trying to figure out what that reason is."

He will get no answers from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Investigators who closed the case Thursday were unable to call it anything more than "an unfortunate situation."

The Monday after the accident, members flooded the Zephyrhills YMCA with phone calls. Those who came to the YMCA burst into sobs. Some learned of Wendy's death through the bulletin board outside the entrance to the aerobics room.

On the board were snapshots of her doing things she loved. Wendy working out. Wendy spotting a little boy with a bowl haircut on a mini-trampoline. Wendy mugging with friends at the clubs where she loved to dance. Wendy playing a balloon game with children.

Wendy loved children as much as she loved exercise, her friends said. A mother of two young sons, she taught severely handicapped children at Centennial Elementary School. The job meant heavy lifting and changing diapers. And she was only 5 feet tall and 100 pounds.

The task gave her an upper body that was the envy of many YMCA women, said program director and longtime friend Mimi Bridges. The teenage girls who helped her teach gymnastics idolized her.

"Everyone wanted to grow up to be like Miss Wendy," Bridges said. "She had the body, the personality, the heart. She's working those angels' butts off."

Bridges said Wendy came to the YMCA about four years ago. She was devoted to exercise, whether it was spinning or aerobics or body sculpting. She even found her soul mate at the YMCA. Her husband of two years, Craig, was working out one day when he first caught her eye.

"Her presence is all over this place," Bridges said.

YMCA staffers plan to honor Wendy at 5 p.m. today as they put up a plaque bearing her name in the aerobics room. They also plan to dedicate a tree outside.

They will read a poem by Zephyrhills High School student Ashley Williams. And listen to songs that remind them of the woman who loved sweets, rock climbing, and who once described herself in a poem as "WhizWoman WhirlGirl."

On the song list: I Hope You Dance.

-- Lisa Buie is the editor of the central/east edition of the Pasco Times. You can reach her at (813) 909-4604 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4604. Her e-mail address is

buie@sptimes.com.

WhizWoman WhirlGirl

I am WhizWoman WhirlGirl

I wonder if I'll ever catch up with myself

I hear speed in the wind

I see light as it moves

I want to hurry up to slow down

I feel movement always in everything

I touch the air

I worry that the ground will catch me . . .

I cry when it does

I am WhizWoman WhirlGirl

I understand me

I know my own speed limit

I dream of chocolate and kisses

I hope for more of both fast

I am WhizWoman WhirlGirl

-- WENDY WALLACE

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