In memoriam: RIP Terry Fleming

It was with shock that word went out about the death of Terry Fleming from a heart attack on April 28. 

Terry arrived in Gainesville in 2002 and immediately got involved in the community and helped spearhead the founding on the Pride Community Center. He became very active in the local Democratic Party, and as well became a strong advocate for the homeless, especially in recent years at Grace Marketplace. However, Terry’s work went way beyond Gainesville as a statewide activist. 

“We are all in shock, and mourning the loss our dear friend and dedicated colleague, Terry Fleming,” said Palm Beach County resident Stephen Gaskill.

Gaskill serves as president of the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus. Fleming served as VP and president of the caucus. 

“He was one of the giants of our community who dedicated his life and career to service,” Gaskill said. “First as a Navy veteran, then as a mentor and supporter of LGBTQ youth, as a policy advocate fighting for LGBTQ equality, and as a Democratic activist electing pro-equality candidates.

“Terry is a leader who can never be replaced. He brought decades of experience and institutional knowledge combined with a humble spirit and ‘get it done’ attitude. Because of Terry’s leadership, Alachua County and Gainesville have been light years ahead of other municipalities on LGBTQ equality – not just in Florida, but across the country. The Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus sends our condolences to Terry’s husband and family, his community and colleagues.”

Fort Lauderdale resident Michael Albetta, who worked with Terry said, “Terry had everything you wanted in a leader: a steady hand, a smart political mind, experience, compassion and empathy, a humble heart for service, and an infectious spirit that inspired people to work together for a common purpose. For more than 20 years, I’ve counted on Terry for his counsel, hard work, and belief in our mission of equality for all. We’ve lost one of the greats.”

Former Gainesville resident Maria Carter said “Terry is the first person I met when I showed up, 19 and scared, at the Pride Community Center in Gainesville. He couldn’t have been more welcoming. He found out I played music, and after that, he called me every year in August to invite whatever band I was in to play at the Pride Festival. He was the first gay person I met who went to church. He was an optimist and an activist. He brought so many different kinds of people together, with a cheerful, seemingly limitless energy that was infectious. I will miss him very much.”

Local organizer Jeremiah Tattersall shared this: “In 2017 we were protesting for the removal of the confederate statue from the Alachua County Commission building. A bunch of white nationalists showed up so a bunch of counter-demonstrators came too. These racists were rolling up with shields and helmets looking for a fight. It was a bit tense.

“I brought a bullhorn and we took to the platform that Old Joe was on to start chanting and giving speeches. I grabbed Terry and said, ‘make sure no one tries to come up behind me.’ It’s not the first time I asked him for this. And sure enough, someone tried to come up behind me and out of the corner of my eye I could see him with his hand on some idiots chest pushing him away saying ‘and what the fuck do you think you’re doing.’

“Terry always had our backs. He literally had my back at multiple protests making sure I was safe when I put myself in a vulnerable position. And that’s who he was. If you were vulnerable, in need, or a target he tried his hardest to build a place where you were safe. He was such a kind and loving man who would endlessly give. He was strong and passionate, smart and humble. He was one of the best among us. The world will miss you.”

Helen Strain said, “Terry was a master at building coalition to solve problems and advance a progressive agenda here, in our state, and in our nation. He was a masterful campaigner and I will never forget Election Day canvasses launched from his front porch and phone banks in his home. I will miss his laugh, his honesty and especially his friendship.” 

Alachua Branch NAACP President Evelyn Foxx said, “Yes, Terry was one of a kind. We have to do everything we can to keep his legacy alive.”  

Gainesville City Commissioner Helen K. Warren said, “Terry was our rock and pointer, floodlight beaming on the path to what needed to be our focus.”

And from the PCCNCF Board’s Facebook statement: “Carrying on Terry’s work will take all of us,” said co-president Tamara Perry-Lunardo. “Not just the Board and our regular volunteers, but everyone in our local community who shares the passion Terry had for serving others, working for LGBTQ+ visibility and equality, and creating a safe space for people to be themselves.”

The Pride Community Center will hold a memorial at the center when we can all come together, whenever that is.

Rest In Power, Terry Fleming.

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