Orlando LGBTQ advocate Terry DeCarlo dies after battle with cancer

DeCarlo became a voice for LGBTQ community after Pulse shooting

Jim Helsinger, Maddie Tarbox, and Terry DeCarlo during the "Angel Action Wings for Orlando" relocation at the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida (The Center).
Jim Helsinger, Maddie Tarbox, and Terry DeCarlo during the "Angel Action Wings for Orlando" relocation at the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida (The Center).

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando LGBTQ advocate Terry DeCarlo died Monday after losing his battle with cancer, according to his husband.

DeCarlo was the former director of The LGBT+ Center Orlando and became a powerful voice of reason and strength after a lone gunman opened fire inside Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016 shooting and killing 49 people at the popular gay club.

DeCarlo had stepped down a few weeks prior to the shooting but after the tragedy, he stayed on for another two years.

DeCarlo’s husband, Bill Huelsman, posted on DeCarlo’s Facebook page Tuesday announcing his passing. DeCarlo suffered from mouth cancer.

“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. The cancer was just too aggressive for treatment," Huelsman wrote.

In the first 24 hours and the months and years after the Pulse shooting, the LGBT Center became a refuge for survivors and families needing support. DeCarlo told News 6 six months after the tragedy that the relationship between the LGBTQ community and Orlando had changed dramatically since the shooting.

DeCarlo attended events in Orlando marking the third year after the massacre, including the CommUNITY Rainbow Run benefitting the onePULSE Foundation.

“It’s all about love, remembrance. Look at everybody. This is incredible,” DeCarlo said at the race.

The OnePULSE Foundation sent this statement after learning of DeCarlo’s death:

“We are heartbroken by the passing of our dear friend Terry DeCarlo. Terry was a passionate advocate for Florida’s LGBTQ community and leaves behind a powerful legacy. We are forever grateful to him for helping our community heal and move forward following the Pulse nightclub tragedy. Our deepest condolences and prayers go out to his husband Bill and his entire family.”

Orlando-area leaders and community members also reacted to the news Tuesday while a Central Florida resident said there are plans to gather at Pulse to remember DeCarlo together.

“The Center family was sad today to learn of the passing of Terry DeCarlo,” a post on The Center Facebook page read. “Terry helped the organization through it’s darkest times in 2016 and beyond. Our thoughts go out to his husband, Bill.”

“I’ll always be grateful for the role that Terry played after the Pulse tragedy,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said. “And for his work as one of our city’s LGBTQ+ leaders, where he was committed to making Orlando an inclusive, welcoming community for all. Terry will certainly be missed.”

“My heart is broken with the news of Terry DeCarlo’s passing. Terry was a lifelong advocate for LGBTQ Floridians and he led Orlando through the aftermath of Pulse when we needed him most,” Orlando Rep. Carlos G. Smith said in a tweet. “This is a terrible loss for our community. Sending strength to his husband, Bill.”

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