As a tireless crusader for education, Marilyn Spiegel always had one thing on her mind: students.
Spiegel, a former teacher, who became the leader of the Miami-Dade’s PTA/PTSA in 1998, devoted her life to fighting for children and against violence.
She made countless trips to Tallahassee to lobby for the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up For All Students Act, which led to tougher anti-bullying policies for public K-12 schools.
For the legislation, Spiegel worked with Equality Florida to provide anti-bullying protections for LGBT students.
Spiegel died Thursday in a family tragedy. She was 69.
Spiegel and her fiancé were fatally shot and her former husband has been charged with first-degree murder.
Her death has left the Miami-Dade County education community shocked and in mourning.
“Marilyn was a fierce advocate,” said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida, a human-rights advocacy group. “A lot of young people’s lives are safer and better because of her.”
Spiegel did not stop her efforts at the county line. She wanted to make changes for all children regardless of race, sexuality or socioeconomic status.
During her three years as PTA/PTSA president of the Miami-Dade County Council, Spiegel attempted to change the image of the PTA from bake sales to lobbying and advocacy for children.
Spiegel also voiced her concerns for private school vouchers.
“She believed that every child should receive a fair education and should have everything our students deserve,” said Eileen Segal, Florida PTA president.
Spiegel continued to advocate for students even when her own three children had graduated from public school.
She was the kind of mother who took everyone in, said Kathy Hersh, a friend and colleague.
“She just spread her wings and took people in,” she said.
Spiegel herself has lived through the Florida education system. Before graduating in three years from the University of Florida with honors, she attended South Broward High School in Hollywood.
When Speigel was not working for children, she could be found on her boat. She home-schooled her children aboard the family boat in 1980 for a year.
Tragedy would happen on a boat 34 years later. Speigel and her fiancé, Harry Carlip, 70, were docked on their boat in Fort Myers when police reported that her ex-husband, Michael Spiegel, killed them.
To keep Marilyn Spiegel’s memory alive, the Miami-Dade County Council of PTAs/PTSAs will establish an annual award in her name.
Spiegel is survived by her three sons, Brett, Sean and Dean, along with her three grandchildren and her sister, Susan Homan.
The family requests that donations be made to the PTSA or Equality Florida.
A funeral service will be held at noon Wednesday at Beth David Memorial Gardens/Levitt Weinstein, 3201 NW 72nd Ave. in Hollywood.