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A high school social studies instructor eventually became a union executive director.
By STEPHANIE HAYES, Times Staff Writer
Published January 12, 2008
TAMPA - For four years, Terry Wilson taught high school social studies. He witnessed a teachers' strike, a lack of benefits, dissatisfied students.
He wondered, how could it change?
"He just saw that teachers were extremely dedicated and selfless," said his wife, Elizabeth Wilson. "They weren't going to spend a lot of time speaking up for themselves."
For decades, Mr. Wilson worked with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, the teachers union, eventually rising to the level of executive director from 1989 to 2000.
Future Gov. Bob Martinez, who once held the same position, hired Mr. Wilson as his assistant around the early 1970s.
"He was young and worked his way up by getting elected and volunteering to do a lot of things that took time and effort on the evenings and on weekends," Martinez said Friday. "He showed that he could carry out his mission."
Mr. Wilson never slowed down.
He helped negotiate teacher salaries, sick leave pay, early retirement and health insurance. He worked around the clock, sometimes forgetting to eat lunch.
He was outgoing, with the bargaining skills of a lawyer. He loved to lobby politicians in Tallahassee to get laws passed that would benefit educators.
"He goes back to the old days of the nuts and bolts when we first started bargaining for the rights of teachers," said Yvonne Lyons, current executive director of the Hillsborough teachers union. "He really cared about the working conditions."
Mr. Wilson was detail oriented, Lyons said. He had infinite patience to figure out numbers, make charts and graphs, analyze program results, draw up budgets.
For all his order, he also was sentimental. If anything happened to his family, he'd become emotional. And he had a weakness for making people happy.
"He did have a big soft spot," said Mrs. Wilson, 60. "Sometimes he got burned, but his philosophy was that you have to trust people until they prove they can't be trusted."
Her husband wasn't one for relaxation, but he liked to sit on the front porch of his Seminole Heights home and wave at neighbors.
Mr. Wilson was handy, and he knew the ins and outs of home construction. He had to have his hands in the process. He had been working on building a retirement home in Tampa.
On Thursday, Mr. Wilson died after a heart attack. He was 65.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or 727 893-8857.
Born: Oct. 22, 1942.
Died: Jan. 10, 2008.
Survivors: wife, Elizabeth Wilson; children, Melissa Wilson, Amanda Wilson Newman, Heidi McClain; grandchildren, Mallory and Jessica McClain, Abigail and Laura Newman; niece, Amy Gremer; nephew, Michael Wilson.
Services: 5 p.m. Wednesday at Gonzalez Funeral Home, 7209 N. Dale Mabry Highway. Gathering to follow at Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, 4505 N. Rome Ave.
[Last modified January 11, 2008, 23:35:13]