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Brooksville mother of two dies of cancer

The community helped raise money for treatment in Texas. But Tracy Bolton, 29, died before she could make the trip.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- Friends and relatives of Brooksville resident Tracy Bolton had been bracing themselves for weeks, knowing that with each passing day, the woman they loved and admired was slipping further from their grasp.
Friends say Brooksville resident Tracy Bolton, 29, was a vivacious woman and a passionate mother who made her family her top priority.

That knowledge gave them time to say goodbye, but it did not make it any easier Tuesday afternoon, when Mrs. Bolton, mother to 6- and 7-year-old boys, died after a two-year battle with brain cancer. She was 29.

"It's a shock because you don't expect anyone your age to really pass away," said close friend Brandy Voyles, who met Mrs. Bolton a few years ago when the two waited tables at the Denny's restaurant in Ridge Manor West.

In fact, during the past few weeks, Mrs. Bolton's husband, Gayle Bolton, had rallied behind his wife, raising $10,000 to send her to Texas to undergo a controversial cancer treatment that promised hope when conventional medicine offered none.

"If only we had gotten the money a week sooner, we would have been out there," Bolton said Wednesday as he cried softly. "But if it was her time to go home, I guess it was her time to go home."

Mrs. Bolton, a Hernando High School graduate, was diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago. Two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation therapy did not stop the tumor's spread. She had been bedridden for some time, and her condition worsened on Saturday, when she started having trouble breathing and was taken to Brooksville Regional Hospital. She died about 5 p.m. Tuesday, surrounded by family and friends.

Those who knew Mrs. Bolton said they will remember her as a vivacious woman and a passionate mother who made her family her top priority.

"They would always spend time together, going to the movies, driving around, going to Hernando Beach to watch the sun set," recalled her mother, Jenny Chears. "That was a family that should have had more time."

One of the most difficult things about Mrs. Bolton's illness, recalled Voyles, was her inability to tend to her sons the way she used to.

"I'm sure it was hard for her. She never talked about things like that. But sometimes I looked at her and she looked real sad, especially at Christmas."

Voyles added that even when Mrs. Bolton was sick, she tried to stay positive.

"She had this laugh -- she laughed so loud. It was like this (Steve) Urkel snort. She was so great."

Gayle Bolton, a heavy-equipment mechanic for Florida Crushed Stone, now must raise his sons -- Matthew, 7, and Joshua, 6 -- alone. But friends said if any man is capable of such a daunting task, he is.

Bolton, married to his wife for almost 11 years, said Wednesday that a friend of the family will help watch the children while he works. He added that being a single father, although difficult, is far from the hardest task he has faced.

"This is probably the easy part," he said Wednesday. "Watching her lie in the hospital bed and not being able to do anything -- that was the worst."

All money donated to Mrs. Bolton's recovery fund will go toward funeral expenses and remaining medical bills. Despite her death, a softball tournament fundraiser scheduled for Feb. 19 at the Hernando County Family YMCA on Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill will still be held in her honor.

The viewing for Mrs. Bolton will be from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Merritt Funeral Home, 2 S Lemon Ave., Brooksville. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Friday, also at Merritt Funeral Home.

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