Members of the Florida Legislature, past and present, remembered former Sen. Larcenia Bullard for her smiles and friendly personality during a memorial service in her honor. Nearly all mentioned receiving her customary embrace, the "Larcenia bear hug."
Senate President Don Gaetz said Bullard, who died March 16, stuck to her convinctions and never held grudges. "She was a proud and fierce Democrat, but she was never ever a bitter partisan," Gaetz said.
Bullard, who died at age 65, recently attended the Legislature's opening day with her son, Dwight, who won the Miami Senate seat she vacated because of term limits. Her husband, Edward, is a former state representative.
"Some political dynastices are built on money, some on power," Gaetz said. "The Bullard dynasty -- and it is a Bullard dynasty -- is built on love.”
Several Senate veterans attended today's memorial service, including Al Lawson, Nan Rich, Rod Smith and Tony Hill. Lawson said there were many stories about Larcenia Bullard he couldn't repeat in public, but he shared a few of the ones he could.
And then there was the time she dressed up like Marilyn Monroe to serenade Senate President Ken Pruitt for his birthday. "Everyone in there was in shock," Lawson recalled. "'Happy Birthday, Mr. President.'”
Several people remembered Bullard as someone who couldn't be easily swayed and rarely said a coarse word about her colleagues. She was the deciding vote in the controversial Terry Schiavo case. And in lighter times, she ushered the legislation that made Key Lime the state's official pie.
Sen. Arthenia Joyner said one of Bullard's hidden talents was writing eloquent letters or handwritten notes in greeting cards. And then her not-so-hidden gift: Bullard's ability to make herself the center of attention.
"She always found a way to make her way to the front so that she can share the limelight and the spotlight for the people that she represented," Joyner said.