There are movers and shakers in every community who push progress in the right direction.
The best are true leaders who show through example and small, everyday actions how to make a difference in the world.
Pete Edwards, a long-time Osceola County resident, was one of those people for many who knew him. He passed away this week, but left behind a list of accomplishments and social involvement that runs the gamut of influential organizations in Kissimmee over the last 30 years. His reputation as a kind, generous straight-talker endeared him to a countless friends, acquaintances and colleagues from all walks of life.
Born Oct. 5, 1946, in Akron, Ohio, Edwards moved to Kissimmee when he was 10 years old and later, graduated from Osceola High School in 1966. After finishing college at the University of Florida, Edwards quickly dove into significant roles back in Osceola County.
“He was always a familiar face in the crowd, and so generous with his time,” said Donna Sines, executive director of Community Vision, who knew Edwards for more than 25 years.
Edwards and Sines worked together closely when he served as a board member and chair for Community Vision, a long-standing nonprofit in Osceola County. Sines regarded him as a dear friend and a great man who was always willing to contribute to a good cause and show his support.
“I always knew I could rely on him to be there,” she said.
Sines also recalled Edwards’ good-hearted nature and pragmatic sensibilities, describing him as the sort of person who “would tell you how it really was” then give you a hug afterward.
“If the goal of life is to leave the world a better place than we found it, then Pete lived a great, full life,” Sines said. “What he did for this community can’t be emphasized enough.”
Edwards was a major supporter of education and served as a member of the Osceola County School Board for eight years, along with positions on the Education Foundation board and as executive director of the Center for the Arts (now Osceola Arts).
Cindy Lewis at the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce noted Edwards’ many leadership positions in the area’s burgeoning tourism industry, including his role as the chamber’s first president/CEO in the 1970s and his most recent involvement as a chamber ambassador.
Edwards was also the first director of the Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (now Experience Kissimmee), and acted as executive director of the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce.
“Pete was a one-of-a-kind person,” said Lewis, who serves as executive vice president at the chamber and knew Edwards for about 30 years. “Just a kind, giving person. He was a truly great man.”
Edwards’ commitment to his family was just as unwavering as his commitment to his community. His dedication to home life was noted by many who knew him, including his wife of 46 years, Felicia. The couple lived, worked and played in Osceola County, where they raised three sons, Cory, Brian and Matthew, who went on to have six grandchildren for them to spoil.
Edwards was also heavily involved in the Rotary Club of Kissimmee Bay and served as a past district governor for the organization.
“Pete lived the 4-Way Test and loved and served his community in so many ways,” the social club posted on its Facebook page Tuesday.
Downtown Kissimmee business owner Jeremy Lanier volunteered alongside Edwards on the Osceola County Historical Society board and remembers the father and husband as a committed hard worker who knew how to make people feel welcome.
“He brought a level of professionalism and credibility to everything he did,” Lanier said. “He took it seriously, and if he invited you to join a board, he expected you to take it seriously, too.”
Like so many others who knew him, Lanier emphasized Edwards’ presence at countless meetings and events around town.
“He was so knowledgeable about the area,” Lanier said. “A local guy who really cared about Osceola County and its future.”
Edwards passed away Monday at the age of 72.
A Celebration of Life service will be held Saturday, May 4, from 2-4 p.m. at the Barney Veal Center, Osceola County Council on Aging, 700 Generation Point, Kissimmee. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Rotary Foundation, The Osceola County Education Foundation (for scholarships for students), or Community Vision.