Woman's passion became standard
By MARTY CLEAR
Published July 13, 2007
Carol Peckett's children are all grown, and her husband died earlier this year. Just a few weeks ago, at age 83, she moved from her longtime home into a small apartment designed for seniors.
It may have seemed she was bringing her life to a close. But to Mrs. Peckett, it was a new beginning.
"She was always an optimistic person," said her daughter, Cathy Peckett. "She was so excited about her new apartment. She loved it. As her friend said, she was like a bride."
She was keeping up an active social schedule. She played bridge on the afternoon of July 5 and had invited eight friends to her new home for dinner July 6.
Her dinner guests arrived to find that Mrs. Peckett had died peacefully in her sleep sometime during the night.
"She had had heart problems, so the assumption is that it was a heart attack," said her son, Chet Peckett.
To family and friends, Mrs. Peckett was known as a bright woman in every sense of the word, possessed of a sunny disposition and a keen mind.
"She was an avid reader," her daughter said. "She read three newspapers every Sunday - the Tampa Tribune, the St. Petersburg Times and the New York Times. She read them all cover to cover, even the classifieds. She never left the house."
But she left a greater legacy to Hillsborough County.
She was the prime mover in creating the county's Artists in the Schools program, and over the years she helped build it into one of the best in the nation.
"We still get calls from all over the country from people who want to use our program as a model," said Lynn Norton, the director of education for the Arts Council of Hillsborough County. "And Carol was the one who started it, with Joe Testasecca. They started with no budget, and now it's over $350,000."
Mrs. Peckett had long held a passion for the arts but had never had a career. When her kids were grown, she went back to college and earned a master's degree in exceptional education.
After she graduated, in the early 1970s, she took it upon herself to contact Testasecca, who was the visual and performing arts coordinator for the Hillsborough County School District. She suggested that the district start an artists in the schools program and offered her help.
She wrote the grants that helped start the program, which brings touring professional artists of all disciplines into local schools, and also brings groups of students into local venues for performances.
In 1984, the local program that Mrs. Peckett had developed was recognized as the best in the country.
Even after she retired, she stayed involved with the program, attending performances and recommending whether the artists should be invited to return. She still held that job at the time of her death.
She also helped out one day each week with her daughter's preschool in Land O'Lakes.
"She was always very supportive," Cathy Peckett said. "She came out to the preschool every week. No matter what. She wouldn't schedule any appointments or anything because she wanted to be here to help out."
Mrs. Peckett grew up in Miami Beach and attended Florida State College for Women. She introduced her roommate, Roberta Golding, to the man who would become Golding's husband.
Golding returned the favor and introduced her roommate to her cousin, a man named Irvin Peckett, who became Mrs. Peckett's husband of 61 years and one of Tampa's most prominent businessmen. He died in January.
Besides her son and her daughter Cathy, Mrs. Peckett is survived by daughter Adela Ingersoll, five grandchildren and a sister.
[Last modified July 12, 2007, 08:48:48]
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