The former Flagler Home Builders Association executive persevered.
“I feel stupid wearing black,” I thought. Although it's tradition to wear black for a memorial, it didn't seem to work, considering it was debi's funeral.
People like debi Peterson — who died Sept. 3 after years of battling lung cancer — are rare. If you knew her, then you know how lucky you were.
I grew up attending Palm Coast United Methodist Church, where debi and her husband, Bob, were members. Their daughter, Holly, and I ran around with the rest of the hoodlums at youth group, pretending to be cool.
When I returned to Palm Coast to take a job at the Observer, I encountered debi on a more personal level. The Home Builders Association was a client, and so we became partners. I watched her at HBA events, noticing how she had clearly earned so much respect from her members, who had become her family.
In the last few weeks, I’ve learned even more about debi: her accomplishments, her accolades, and most of all, the way she truly touched others. She was constantly lifting others up, encouraging them to be more than they thought they could be. She was compassionate, caring and creative.
For the last 18 years, debi has stood at the helm of the Flagler HBA. During the boom, Palm Coast became the fastest growing city in the nation. The home builders and affiliated businesses were the business community in Palm Coast. I can’t think of anything else that mattered more at the time.
When the economy plummeted, home building came to a halt, but debi stayed put. Like any good captain, she stayed aboard — and helped them stay afloat through those tough years. I’m sure during that time debi watched businesses from the HBA crumble, fold and leave town, but she never did. Her legacy within the business community in Flagler County will live forever.
As she headed to the hospital this past weekend, debi wrote to all of us on her Facebook page, and I keep reading it, marveling at her grace: “Ok, it is time. ... I want to thank each of you for your friendship and kindness, thank you for being a part of my life and for you GO live life, enjoy that vacation, laugh, watch out for my Landen [her grandson] when you can. He is in an adult world with little kid understanding. Send him a card every now and then. I don’t know what else to say, I guess hospice is the next step on this journey, hope it gets delayed a bit! Hugs!"
She was indeed rare. And I plan to take her advice and enjoy life. I can only hope to live with as much light and color as debi did.
If you meet someone in your life with as much light and color as debi, I urge you to hold onto them. Embrace them; only good can come from it.
Jaci Centofanti grew up in Palm Coast and is the advertising manager for the Palm Coast Observer.