INDIANTOWN, Fla. — A service was held Friday for a pioneering Martin County woman who was recently inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame.
Ethel Thelma Waters, known as the "unofficial mayor of Indiantown," died March 4 after losing a two-year battle with stomach cancer.
Waters, 82, moved to Martin County in 1947 and was diligent about improving the lives of others ever since.
In the 1960s, Waters started a child care facility for farm workers and held monthly meetings to educate parents about improving health conditions. Her message to see improvements within the community resonated with Martin County leaders and eventually led to the creation of Indiantown's first health clinic.
Waters was also a leading force in the community for civil rights.
A celebration of life service was held Friday at Timer Power Park in Indiantown.
Just six weeks ago, the community gathered at the park to celebrate Waters' induction into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame.
"On her last day, she told me to 'step up to the plate.' I told her I wouldn't let her down, and I really meant that," son Kelvin Waters said.
Earlier this year, she was recognized by state leaders for her relentless effort to establish Indiantown's first clinic and child care facilities.
Creating a senior center was next on her list.
"She always said, 'I see you,' and I know what that really means," said daughter Kimberly Waters Frager said. "You can look at someone, but you may not realize you're just looking at the exterior. You need to look at their heart and their soul to know that that person in there, they may just need a hug."
Waters directed the East Coast Migrant Head Start Program after convincing the Agricultural Labor Program to fund a Title XX Program.
An incorporated town until recently, Waters served on Indiantown's Neighborhood Advisory Council.
Indiantown leaders are expected to rename one of the streets in her honor. The signs will be switched by the end of the month.
Waters leaves behind six children, 13 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.