It has been almost two years since Debbie Morrell lost her husband, Larry, to pancreatic cancer.
“He was just getting ready to retire after 38 years of working with law enforcement when he found out he had stage four cancer,” said Debbie.
While the loss was filled with much sadness, Morrell wanted him to be remembered for his mission -- keeping our roads safer.
Larry was a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy assigned to the DUI taskforce. He was dedicated to removing drunk drivers from the roads and preventing underage drinking. It’s a passion that started after a drunk driver killed his friend.
“He always felt like every drunk driver he took off the road was saving someone’s life and my husband saved thousands of lives,” said Debbie.
From 2002 to 2011, Larry made more than 2000 drunk driving arrests and in 2011 was appointed to take over the SAVE unit, which stands for Sheriff’s Alcohol Vender Enforcement. The group works closely with venders, bars, restaurants, and casinos to be responsible when serving alcohol.
Last year, Debbie, a teacher at Fishhawk Creek Elementary, honored her late husband by raising close to $8,000 for Mothers Against Drunk Driving under the name ‘MADD about Larry’.
MADD is a nonprofit organization that seeks to stop drunk driving, support those affected by drunk driving, prevent underage drinking, and strive for stricter impaired driving policies.
It’s an organization Larry and Debbie always advocated for – and one Debbie will continue to support for life.
“Sometimes I decorate my door with MADD ribbons and let my kids know that sometimes adults don’t make the best decisions,” she said. “So, they can make sure that they don’t get in a vehicle when they or someone they know has been drinking.”
However, raising money for MADD has been more difficult for Debbie this year.
A few months ago, she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I was undergoing treatment so I wasn’t able to participate in the MADD walk this year,” she said. “When I do something, I go all out or not at all and it just wasn’t possible.”
But her outlook on the future remains positive. Debbie hopes to participate in next year’s MADD walk and raise even more money.
For now, she calls on the public’s help to make donations in her husband’s honor.