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Champion of children scouted a tough path

Few could keep up with Sherrie Linn Sitki, a lifelong educator, volunteer and one of the few women on the Boy Scouts' honor society.

By JAY CRIDLIN
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 12, 2002


SHERRIE LINN SITKI
1949-2002

* * *

FAIR OAKS/MANHATTAN MANOR -- Sherrie Linn Sitki gave new meaning to the term "den mother."

She not only followed her sons through the Boy Scouts, organizing meetings and taking the scouts on camping trips; she became a Scout herself, attaining the highest honors possible in the Order of the Arrow, the Scouts' national honor society.

Mrs. Sitki, a lifelong educator and one of the first local women to join the Order of the Arrow, died July 3 after a brief but fierce battle with lymphoma. She was 53.

"She was my best friend, not just my sister," said Roxie Crowell of Clearwater. "She was a dedicated teacher, dedicated mother, dedicated wife, sister. She always put everybody before herself."

Mrs. Sitki got involved with the Scouts in 1986 after her husband, Bruce, volunteered to work with their sons' troop.

"She just thought that it was so important, and that it had such an influence on kids' lives," Crowell said. "That's what she was all about, as a teacher and as a parent."

At the time, women were not allowed to join the Order of the Arrow. Even now, there are fewer than 50 women among the 850 or so local Arrowmen, says Randy Saunders, a district executive in the region encompassing Hillsborough, Hernando, Pasco, Citrus, Sumter, Hardee, Polk and Highlands counties.

Beginning in 1988, though, women were allowed to join, and one year later, Mrs. Sitki, a former Girl Scout, signed up to be a member.

"Sherrie would help with anything that she was asked to do," said Art Rounds, a retired chapter adviser in the Scouts who worked with Mrs. Sitki. "She led meetings. She would help with any project that required physical or mental labor, anything of that nature.

"The Order of the Arrow was founded on brotherhood, cheerfulness and service. She was well qualified in all of those."

By 1995, she had ascended to Vigil, the highest level of honor within the Order of the Arrow. She was even recognized with the Founder's Award, the top honor given to an adult by a local council or lodge.

Though Sitki's life was centered on her three children -- she never missed a football game in which her sons played or her daughter cheered -- she helped other children in other ways.

Born in Michigan, she moved first to Illinois and then to Florida during her teaching career. She taught briefly at Hillsborough High before moving in 1984 to Tampa Bay Technical High School, where she taught students with learning disabilities and later worked as an administrator.

She would often work late hours, reading study questions to learning-disabled students after school or on weekends.

"She was involved in so many things," said Tampa Bay Tech principal Sylvia Albritton. "I really believe that we won't know how much we're going to miss her, not only just as a person, but in terms of everything that she did for the kids at this school."

Mrs. Sitki worked during her initial illness this spring, and even came into the office on the morning of her final hospitalization, June 12, two days after her 53rd birthday.

She was diagnosed with lymphoma just a week before she died. "She never liked recognition, but she really deserved it," said her husband, Bruce. "She was all for kids, all for education, all for making sure kids had a good time and were guided the right way."

Mrs. Sitki's survivors include her mother, Evalyn Rundle, of Tampa; her husband, Bruce, of Tampa; two sons, Bruce Anthony Sitki II, of Tampa, and Eren Sitki and Eren's wife Laurel; a daughter, Jennifer Sitki, of Tampa; two sisters, Roxie Crowell, of Clearwater, and Julie Hornstein, of Florence, Ala.; and six grandchildren, Bruce Anthony Sitki III, Alexis, Noel, Gabriel, Hunter, and Isabelle.

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