1915 - 2014

LAKELAND - Jewel Bryan Sterling died Tuesday night while sleeping peacefully at Lakeland Regional Medical Center. She was a resident of Lakeland since 1933. Born in Ashburn, Georgia on February 6, 1915 to W.R. and Estelle Wiley Bryan, some of her most cherished memories were of growing up in the small, southern Georgia town surrounded by many loving relatives from both the Bryan and Wiley families.
 When she was 12 years old Jewel moved to Winter Haven, Florida where she excelled in school and enjoyed an active social life. With an outgoing personality and loving, helpful attitude toward her classmates, she was chosen the most popular girl in school and homecoming queen. She graduated from Winter Haven High School in 1933.
 After her graduation, she moved to Lakeland where she lived the rest of her life. In Lakeland she enjoyed meeting new friends and neighbors, played tennis, and loved to dance. She attended many parties and dances, and at one of these dances she met C. W. Sterling, who she described as being the best dancer she ever knew.
In 1935 they were married at the First Methodist Church and together they raised four children before his death in a traffic accident in 1958. During this time Jewel did not work outside the home, but she was an excellent seamstress who made wedding gowns, formals, cheerleading outfits, and costumes for the yearly dance recitals of students of local dance instructors. With her sewing ability and a natural talent for drawing, she often would make a sketch of clothing she saw in stores or in magazines and create her own patterns for dresses and formal gowns for her three daughters and her many customers. Jewel thrived on raising her children, participating in the Dixieland Elementary School PTA and serving as room mother each year. Through her sewing, babysitting, contact with students at dance studios, and her children's friends she knew just about every young person in town, and they adored her. In later years this rapport with children carried over to her grandchildren, and she had wonderful memories of the time spent with them.
 After her husband died she worked outside the home for the first time. She was fortunate enough to have what she considered to be the best job in town at Hightower Optical where she worked for 25 years until Mr. Hightower's retirement. This job offered her the opportunity to learn new skills in bookkeeping and office management while also enjoying contact with customers. Through the years she even became an "honorary member" of the Hightower family, embracing Bob and Markelle's three children and grandchildren and enjoying many happy hours with them on family outings. Jewel was one of the oldest members of the First United Methodist Church, a charter member of the Croton Garden Club Circle, and a member since 1959 of the Kappa Gamma chapter of Kappa Delta Phi. After her retirement she enjoyed ten years of helping others through Viste. She will be remembered as a devoted mother, grandmother, daughter, and sister as well as being a long time, active resident of Lakeland. She loved life and especially enjoyed her children and grandchildren, music, traveling, reading, gardening, and helping others.
 Jewel was predeceased by her parents, her brother, Bill Bryan, her sister, Rena Bryan Lay, her husband, and two daughters, Carolyn Fay, and Marjorie Lawrence.
 She is survived by her son, Robert Sterling and his wife, Micheline, of St. Augustine, and her daughter, Sandra Sterling, of Lakeland. She is also survived by her cherished granddaughters, Leslie Lawrence of Delray Beach, Leigh Anne Katusak and her husband, Mark, of Lake Worth, and Melissa de Baptiste and her husband, Marc, of Delray Beach, two grandsons, Ray Lawrence, and Bobby Lawrence, and great grandchildren, Bryan Katusak, and Shannon Vollrath and her husband, Mike. A memorial service to honor and celebrate Jewel's life will be held in the chapel of First United Methodist Church on Wednesday, March 19, at 2 p.m. Flowers can be sent to the chapel or donations made in her memory to the First United Methodist Church, 75 Lake Morton Drive, Lakeland, Florida 33801 – Ledger, March 17, 2014

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