Mom, her great-great-granddaughter Madison Jones,
and youngest great-granddaughter, Selina Kile
Shortly after their marriage, Mom and Dad moved from Palm Jungles, their homestead on Lake Pierce northeast of Lake Wales, to Lake Stearns, FL — later renamed Lake Placid. Dad had made — and lost — a fortune in the Florida land boom and bust, and had to begin his married life pretty much from scratch. In Lake Stearns, the couple opened and ran the first service station in the area, and were prominent in the community. When the service station burned down, they began again from scratch, my father becoming caretaker of the municipal golf course. My sister Gloria Marie was born there in 1928, and my older brother, Ted Jr., in 1932.
In 1933 the family, including my grandmother, Mary Alice Cundiff, moved to a location southeast of Lake Placid where, for several years, Dad and Mom operated an experimental farm for Donald A. Roebling, grandson of John A. Roebling. I was born in 1944, and my younger brother Shaughn in 1951. Due to their horticultural successes on the farm, they were instrumental in starting the caladium industry in Lake Placid. In the late 1940s and early 1950s they operated the first wholesale Caladium business in Florida, the “Bear Hollow Caladium Farm.” Lake Placid is now known as “Caladium Capitol of the World.” About 95% of the caladium bulbs produced worldwide are still grown within a 10-mile radius of that farm.
My father died in 1952, after an extended illness that left him a cripple for the last few years. Due to the medical expenses, there was little left after his death. Mom continued to operate the farm, with the help of my aunt and uncle, until the death of my grandmother at age 98. At that point she had no option but to sell the farm to another caladium grower — ironically, one who had gotten his start with stock developed by our dad.
Needing to make a living for herself, Shaughn and me, she moved us to Sebring, FL, in 1956 and began working as housekeeper for Father Emil A. Heiring, the parish priest. Like many women of her era, she lacked training for any sort of work beyond the myriad skills of running a house and family, so Father’s kindness was a remarkable windfall for all of us. When he retired in 1960 they remained in Sebring, he helping out at the parishes there and in Avon Park, until I left for college in Kentucky.
In the fall of 1962 they moved to West Palm Beach. Mom continued as housekeeper for Father Heiring, and for the last few years of his life was his principle caregiver as he slowly succumbed to Parkinsonism, dying in 1989.
Now “retired,” Mom continued to live in the Palm Beach County area where Shaughn and I and our families were located. My sister Gloria had been in that area for many years, but in the late ’80’s had moved to Chiefland, FL, when she and her husband retired.
Mom had been diagnosed with cervical cancer in the mid-’80’s, and had a complete hysterectomy at age 76. She did well until 1995, when she had a heart attack, followed by a triple bypass, at age 85. I’ve often described the effect of the bypass as being as if they’d installed a turbocharger. After she recovered from the surgery she was able to live alone in a small apartment for some time, closely looked after by family, as Shaughn’s daughter and son went to the parish school next door and Michele and I lived only about a mile away. She loved living alone, and once said to me that it was the only time in her life that she didn’t have anyone to take care of but herself.
In the mid-90’s my brother-in-law Hardee succumbed to cancer. Mom and Gloria, less than 20 years apart in age, had always told each other that if they were ever widows together they would live together. So, in 1997, Mom moved to Chiefland. Shortly thereafter my brother Ted and his wife Charlotte moved nearby, coming from California to be near family, as Charlotte was extremely ill. My niece Lynne and her daughter Beth soon arrived as well (that’s Beth’s daughter Madi in the picture) and so there was a nice little colony in the neighborhood — five generations at once, after Madison’s arrival.
Mom was an active member of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Chiefland for as long as she was able to participate in parish activities. She and Gloria were also members of the Springhouse Quilters Guild in Trenton, and completed numerous craft projects at home, which they sold, donated to charity and presented to family and friends as gifts. They also volunteered for years at Haven Hospice, from where Mom received much loving care during her last couple of years at home and her last few weeks when she needed full-time hospice care.
She is survived by all her children, 14 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and 14 great-great-grandchildren.