TAMPA — It was a joyous time in the lives of Sandy and Danny Stewart.
Their only daughter, Laurie, had recently married Jimbo Woodroffe, and days later, Sandy and Danny celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary.
They were also in the throes of shopping and decorating their home in anticipation of welcoming family and friends at Christmastime.
That was when the unexpected happened.
On Dec. 16, 2012, Sandy died of a massive heart attack.
“It was like losing a mother, a sister and my best friend all at once,” Laurie said.
Just 20 years separated them in age and the duo did most everything together.
In fact, they were on the phone planning a Christmas shopping trip to the mall when Laurie said their conversation abruptly ended and she received no response from her mom on the other end of the line.
Her family was devastated.
“Memaw, as she was known to her grandchildren and all their friends, was just the most loving, sweetest, caring, selfless person I know,” Laurie said.
In Sandy’s memory, the Stewart family recently donated $10,000 to the Florida Hospital Foundation and, in turn, was granted permission to dedicate Room 306 in the Florida Hospital Tampa Women’s Health Pavilion in her honor.
A plaque erected outside the door bears the headline, “Memaw’s Cradle” and reads, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.”
It is the room where Laurie gave birth to both of her children with her mother by her side.
“My daughter was the first child born in that hospital back when it used to be called University Community Hospital,” said Laurie, also the mother of a son born there four years later.
She said she has a pregnant friend who has requested Room 306, and she thinks other friends and family members will likely do so as well.
“My mother is a guardian angel looking over that room,” she said. “She’s like everybody’s grandma now.”
Devan Coffaro, the daughter Laurie gave birth to in that room 21 years ago, said dedicating it in her grandmother’s honor is a wonderful way to keep her legacy alive.
“My Memaw was just amazing,” she said. “She was so kindhearted and she was Memaw to just about everyone, even my boyfriends.”
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.