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Tribute honors woman's avocations

The new fund will be used to plant trees and shrubs outside Habitat for Humanity homes.

By BRADY DENNIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2001


DADE CITY -- Barbara Mercer loved the local garden club and her role as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.

Thanks to a new fund created in her honor, both causes will benefit.

Mercer was killed Nov. 21 on U.S. 41 when a car driven by 21-year-old Shanna West slammed head on into the car where Mercer was a front-seat passenger.

West, who had been released from jail on driving under the influence charges only hours earlier, later admitted she was high on drugs at the time of the accident. Mercer was 53.

The Dade City Garden Club recently established the Barbara Mercer Habitat for Humanity Landscape Fund to pay for planting trees and shrubs at new Habitat For Humanity houses around Dade City.

"It was such a tragedy. We felt like this would be a good way to remember her, to honor her," said Vickie West, president of Dade City Garden Club and no relation to Shanna West. "It's also a good way for the garden club to participate with Habitat for Humanity."

During her time in the garden club, Mercer served as the chairwoman of the memorial tree fund, West said. It seems fitting, then, that the club will plant a memorial oak tree in honor of Mercer at the current house under construction.

What's more, Mercer was riding the night she was killed with Maria Florez and her two daughters, the family who were to move into the Habitat house. They were going to pick up a scholarship for Florez's 14-year-old daughter, Virginia Martinez. Neither Florez nor her daughters were seriously injured in the crash.

"She was always there for me to help with whatever I needed," Florez said of Mercer after the accident. "She was part of the family."

Lindy Mercer said Thursday that he was touched by the club's decision to start a fund in his late wife's name.

"It's really great what they've done," he said. "They've really honored her. They still remember what a neat lady she was. If you ever knew her, you couldn't get enough of her. She really had a lot of friends in this town."

West said the garden club didn't start the fund with the goal of soliciting donations, but she said anyone who wants to donate to the fund is welcome to do so.

To help

Anyone interested in donations should call Dade City Garden Club president Vickie West at (352) 567-1508.

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