“Though she be but little, she is fierce!” — William Shakespeare, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Death first came for lobbyist Stacey Smelser Webb decades ago but she wouldn’t let it take her.
Surviving cancer taught Webb that life was a gift to be savored every day, through good food, wine, and the joy of being with others, her friends said Monday.
“She learned at an early age that life is precious and you have to live it to the fullest,” said friend Electra Theodorides-Bustle, who also worked with her in the Tallahassee office of Southern Strategy Group. Webb was known for her elaborate duck confit and fondness for a good chardonnay.
“But she also taught me that you first have to take care of the people around you and take the time to do it and not take them for granted,” Bustle added.
The chemotherapy Webb had as a teen, however, also weakened her heart valves. The 46-year-old died Sunday after complications from heart surgery last month at Emory University in Atlanta.
Her petite stature belied a tenacity put to use both for clients and for those she cared about.
Former state Rep. Loranne Ausley first met Webb when she was a lawmaker in the early 2000s.
They became closer in the last few years, when their sons — both born prematurely — formed a band, she said. It’s called “W2” — Ausley’s son is Will and Webb’s now 14-year-old son is Walker.
“The last three years have been a joyous ride of fellowship and music,” said Ausley, a Tallahassee Democrat. “Sometimes, you’re blessed to know the parents of your child’s friends and this has been a blessing for us.”
Because Will is visually impaired, Ausley had long been protective of him, perhaps too much so, she acknowledged. Webb encouraged her to let her son push himself, including joining the band, which “changed his life.”
Webb “just had an immense heart, this ability to love and make people love her,” Ausley said. “Every person she knew felt she was their best friend.”
Shannon Colavecchio, a senior director of Moore Communications Group, a public relations firm in Tallahassee, said Webb never let her career define her.
Webb “was one of those people ‘in the process’ but not ‘of the process,’ ” she said. “Her family was of utmost importance to her, and she spent her life encouraging other people.”
Colavecchio, who also runs the Badass Fitness studio, said Webb once came to her for training because she was suffering with a bout of arthritis but was planning a trip abroad. Webb’s husband, John, is an avid cyclist.
“She wanted to be able to keep up with him,” Colavecchio said. “The way she lived is the way we should all live. So many people rooted for her to survive, and that says something about her life and who she was.”
Webb also believed that “food is love.” Bustle recalled one visit to the Webbs’ North Carolina vacation home where an offhand discussion about deviled eggs resulted in Webb suddenly whipping up a batch.
“That would have taken me days of planning,” Bustle said, laughing. “She loved food, loved learning about it. There wasn’t a time you went to her house that she didn’t put something delicious out on the table.”
Friends Amy Owen Center and husband Tim Center had their first date at the Webbs’ Tallahassee home.
Owen Center used “honest, steadfast, faithful” to describe Webb; Center said she was “the calmest, most brilliant, kindest soul around … If you spent time around her, you came to love her.”
And David Armstrong, president of Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, said he hired Webb more than 20 years ago as a policy coordinator when he was chancellor of the state’s then-community college system.
“She never had an ill word to say about anybody,” he said. “It’s hard to find someone with that big a heart, especially in the competitive business she was in. But she always put other people above her own needs. That’s simply who she was.”
Her family set up a public memorial page on Facebook, where friends and others can post condolences.
Webb is survived by her husband, son and other family members.
Funeral Services for Webb will be held 4 p.m. Thursday at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, 3720 Capital Circle S.E., Tallahassee.