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Florida LGBTQ Leader Terry DeCarlo, 57, Dies Of Cancer Complications

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Steve Rothaus
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Husbands Terry DeCarlo and Bill Huelsman at Broward Bares It, a 2012 HIV fundraiser for Broward House.

Florida has lost one of its leading activists in the LGBTQ community. 

Terry DeCarlo, 57, died Monday night of complications from stage 4 neck and face cancer. He lived in Wilton Manors with his husband, Bill Huelsman.

Together with DeCarlo for 22 years, Huelsman posted Tuesday on Facebook: 

"It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to post this. But I need to let everyone know that I lost the love of my life last night," Huelsman wrote. "The cancer was just too aggressive for treatment."

DeCarlo made a mark in South Florida as the development director for Broward House — a nonprofit social services organization for people living with HIV and other chronic health issues.  

For four years, DeCarlo served as executive director of The Center, an LGBT+ education and advocacy nonprofit in Orlando. He was a leading voice for the community after the mass shooting that killed 49 people at the PULSE nightclub in 2016.

"Grab your loved ones tonight," DeCarlo told NPR Member Station WMFE after the shooting. "Say I love you. Hug them. You never know what can happen."

PULSE survivor Brandon Wolf, who now works for LGBTQ-rights group Equality Florida, told WLRN Tuesday that he will remember DeCarlo for his strength, conviction and being full of love after the shooting. 

"He was the glue that was holding us together, at a time when the community felt like we might fall apart," Wolf said. "He played an intimate role in what resources our community had, how our voices were uplifted and amplified. He kept the spotlight on marginalized communities. … It feels like we lost that radiant joy that he brought." 

About two years ago, DeCarlo returned to South Florida as a Program Project Coordinator for Broward County Transit, in the marketing and communications realm. 

Broward Transportation Director Christopher Walton told WLRN Tuesday afternoon that DeCarlo's engaging energy and leadership will be missed.  

Walton called DeCarlo, "one of those people who is just naturally engaging, a natural for the type of work that he did here. Very very tough to replace what he brought us." 

"At the end of the day he was just good guy," Walton said.

After DeCarlo became ill, friends in October launched a GoFundMe to raise money for uncovered medical expenses.

"Terry has dedicated his life to philanthropy and helping those who may not have been able to help themselves," according to the GoFundMe page, which so far has raised $14,344. "Now is our opportunity to help a man that has dedicated his entire life to helping others."