"I've learned the hard way that it's never too early to think about your legacy."
That quote from Deanne Roberts, reprinted on the website of ChappellRoberts, resounds with particular poignancy today, one day after her death. She died much too young — at the age of 59, after a four-year battle with cervical cancer — but her legacy was huge.
In tributes from journalists, from the organizations she created, from the people she brought together, a picture emerges of a down-to-earth visionary, an approachable leader — a woman who changed the way Tampa Bay thought about itself.
She was, first off, a courageous, ground-breaking businesswoman: she launched her own one-woman PR firm when she was 25, grew it into Roberts Communications & Marketing, and recruited her own successor, Colleen Chappell, with whom she established the full-service marketing/PR firm ChappellRoberts. She co-founded Creative Tampa Bay, helping introduce the region to Richard Florida's ideas about the creative economy. Seeing the need to nurture young leaders, she founded Emerge Tampa Bay and Connect Florida. As chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, she addressed the complex issues of a growing, changing city.
I knew Deanne through CL and through CTB, where I'm a board member. When I moved here seven and a half years ago, I was struck by how welcoming she was. She radiated good humor and positive energy that made you believe, as she did so passionately, that Tampa Bay was full of promise, a place that could be hospitable to the new, to the creative. Yet she was also a realist. As her quotes on the ChappellRoberts tribute site demonstrate, she knew that words were not enough; leadership required action, and persistence, and hard work (not to mention a killer Rolodex).
After the jump, you'll find details about next week's memorial service and links to the online tributes to Deanne, including Robert Trigaux's strikingly personal tribute in the Times, the comprehensive ChappellRoberts retrospective, and testimonials from her colleagues at Creative Tampa Bay. The sense of loss is palpable; so is the immense respect for a woman who, no question, left a rich legacy.