Archive for ‘Zephyrhills History’

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday

By , 5 March, 2010, 1 Comment

We salute January 15, 1929-the birthday of American clergyman, civil rights leader and activist, Martin Luther King, Jr., whose legacy brought progress on civil rights with attention to human rights in the U.S. This holiday causes us to reflect upon the diverse contributions that have been made to our own community and schools by a vast array of people who come from many backgrounds. This week we’d like to pay homage to a few exemplary folks who were role models in the African American community.

The first individual we have selected is the founder of Zephyrhills, Captain Howard B. Jeffries. Undoubtedly you have heard about him in relation to the land development genius, plotting and leadership of the emerging Zephyrhills back in 1909. It could also be that you are considering participation in the ‘Captain Jeffries look-alike contest’ which Main Street is scheduling? We wish to share however, another aspect of Mr. Jeffries leadership with you that we don’t think is widely recognized.

Captain Jeffries

Captain Jeffries

Captain Jeffries was the captain of a black infantry during the Civil War. He enlisted as a private in the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company F (which was a white infantry). Later however, he served as a Captain in the 72nd United States Colored Infantry which was organized in Covington, Kentucky.  The 72nd was organized sometime prior to July of 1864, but not earlier than the Emancipation Proclamation of September, 1862.  (St. Cloud Tribune (FL), April 1, 1920; War of the Rebellion, Series III, Volume IV, published 1900.)

Nick Linville, professional historian with Zephyrhills roots, who works with the Southeastern Archaeological Research (SEARCH), doing consulting on archaeological and historic preservation policy for clients as varied as the United States Navy, the Florida Dept. of Transportation, Progress Energy, and the National Park Service. His  professional research has taken him to archives in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Denver, and many places across the southeastern United States. Nick, a 1999 ZHS grad who also enjoys local history, unearthed this unforeseen civil war documentation of our founding father, just recently. Nick shared the following information:

The Civil War (1861-1865) was the first in which African Americans served in large numbers. Over 200,000 black men from both the North and the South served in the Unites States Army and Navy during the conflict. Issued in September of 1862, the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in states that were in rebellion and opened the door to the enlistment of black troops in the United States forces. The first African American regiments were raised in places that the Union Army had occupied such as New Orleans and the sea islands of South Carolina. Often, runaway slaves filled the ranks of these early regiments. Several Northern states began forming their own regiments midway through the war as African American men stepped forward to serve. While their participation in the armed forces was a significant advancement of the time, black troops in the Civil War were not permitted to serve as officers. By 1864, the raising of these troops was federalized and African American regiments were officially known as the United States Colored Troops.

One such regiment, the 72nd United States Colored Troops, was raised in Covington, Kentucky about 1864. Serving as Captain was none other than the man who founded Zephyrhills many years later, Howard B. Jeffries. Little is known as to why Jeffries was chosen for this position. He did have prior experience in the military, however, having served in the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry during the opening years of the war.

The founding of our own Zephyrhills was completed by a leader of African Americans troops who we would like to think had a intuitive perspective on the contributions that are derived from diverse viewpoints, experiences and history. Imagine if you will, what it must have been like in 1864, to be charged with a group of recruits who enlisted for the union (yes, the north) and fought in a complicated war? Mr. Jeffries must have had many conversations with his men about their families, passions, hopes and futures. We are so appreciative to Nick for bringing this information to the forefront.

So here in Zephyrhills and surroundings, African Americans have contributed much to our growth and development. African-Americans have been in Pasco County since at least 1812 and have been documented in the state of Florida since the time of the Spanish explorers brought slaves with them. African-American workers were instrumental in the construction of the rail tracks which included the Seaboard Airline in 1896 and later the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad which featured four passenger train stops daily. The Zephyrhills Depot Museum, now housed in the depot building, provides a historical image of the travel dynamics of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; (the brick depot had wide overhangs, exterior platforms and segregated waiting rooms with areas for passenger travel and shipping.) The first black family to reside in Zephyrhills was that of Jake Giles who transferred from the Coastline Railroad in Chosawatchie, North Carolina. The story of this family and contributions is well documented in the book by Vicki Elkins and Margaret Seppanen, Zephyrhills From A to Z.

African American workers at Abbott Station

African American workers at Abbott Station

It is difficult to capture the contributions of African Americans to our community and Clereen and I feel inadequate in doing so. We are so fortunate to have a keeper of history here in Zephyrhills-Irene Dobson. Irene is an active member of the Zephyrhills Historical Association and has lived through some turbulent times with grace and compassion. Her involvement in the local schools as an advisory member, parent and student advocate served as a wonderful example. Irene Dobson, Frances Spoto and Delores Moore organized the first integrated Girl Scout troop. Joe Spoto shared with us a little-known vignette about the three scout leaders. He said a movement in Zephyrhills lead by city leaders in the 70’s advocated converting the scout park, Shepherd Park, into an adult park area and through the spunky leadership of Irene, Frances and Delores, they were able to save Shepherd Park for the young people. Robert Dobson and John Mathis started the first integrated boy scout troop around the 1970’s with wonderful successes. She served on the Board of Sunrise in Dade City. Irene is a guide in helping us to gain a perspective on the contributions of African Americans in our community and we share her passion for acknowledging these gifts.

For many years, African American workers were instrumental in lumbering sawmills in Zephyrhills.  I.A. Krusen who  13,000 acres, mostly on credit, for 2.75 per acre and originated Krusen Land & Timber Company provided many jobs and offered a company store.

Cuts Manning

Cuts Manning

Krusen Lumber Company

Krusen Lumber Company

In fact, the only Zephyrhills African-American School was located on the Krusen Lumber property from 1949-1955. The African American School had two teachers: Bessie Barefield who also served as Principal and Martha L. Lewis. Zephyrhills African-American students attended this local school but later were bussed to the Dade City Moore Academy (named after J.D. Moore, an early teacher.) Irene Dobson collected photos of that original school and students. She helped us painstakingly identify the students and she donated the photos to the Depot Museum.

Celia Linkey Anderson, ZHS Librarian and 1929 graduate wrote about the period of integration:

Integration in Pasco Public Schools went comparatively smoothly. This was in great part due to the efforts of the parents and school personnel.  Pasco County was still “small town” in outlook in the sixties, with enough good will on both sides to effect a reasonable transition. Some private schools were opened at this time and a few are still in operation. Yet it can certainly be said that we faced a challenging crisis if not nobly at least creditably.

Professor O.K. Mickens continued as principal of Mickens Middle School after integration and it is believed by many that his influence was one of the major reasons for the smooth transition. He worked tirelessly to help in the crisis, backed by experienced gained from 40 years in the local school system.

Front row: Mrs. Bessie Barefield, Teacher/Principal, Mary Etta Holmes, Wila Blue, Nancy Jones, Mary Alice Stewart; Second Row: Lonnie Turner, Bessie Mae Giles, Matie Holmes

Front row: Mrs. Bessie Barefield, Teacher/Principal, Mary Etta Holmes, Wila Blue, Nancy Jones, Mary Alice Stewart; Second Row: Lonnie Turner, Bessie Mae Giles, Matie Holmes

In July of 1967 the News reported on the HEW (Department of Health, Education and Welfare)-initiated faculty integration which ordered that at least 34 Black teachers be integrated into the various schools of the county as teachers.  In Zephyrhills, we were so fortunate to receive the professionals of Earnest Abner, Melvin Dennard, and Joyce Snow, who contributed incredible leadership to our schools. Coach Abner served for over 30 years as a P. E. Teacher and coach while Joyce Snow was a chemistry and algebra teacher. Melvin Dennard was the first Black administrator in Zephyrhills at an integrated school. One additional Zephyrhills teacher was Ophelia Frazier who taught Spanish at ZHS.

First African American school in Zephyrhills

First African American school in Zephyrhills

To feature some additional community role models, Dobson shared that a person who was fondly respected in the African American community in Zephyrhills as a local humanitarian was—Mr. George Green (1894-1977). He was an enthusiastic participant in the annual Founder’s Day Parade with his white horse, Peggy.  Possessing a strong work ethic, he toiled not only as the local junk trader but as an employee of Krusen Timber.  With his wife, Daisy Haines, Irene related that George epitomized a sense of community that enriched the lives of children and families as he was always doing good deeds and taking care of people.

George Green driving a float in the 1953 Founder's Day Parade with his horse, Peggy

George Green driving a float in the 1953 Founder's Day Parade with his horse, Peggy

Irene Dobson delivered an address for the Martin Luther King, Jr. event in Dade City on Monday. In the speech she chronicled the life of Dr. King. Here is an excerpt from her speech,

“Regarded as the most influential in the civil rights movement, Dr. King stirred the conscious of American society with his non-violent leadership that made him an example. In 1963 he lead the historic march in Washington, D.C. and addressed 200,000 people as he orated, ‘I have a dream.’ His message did not falter throughout a turbulent time and on the evening of April 3, 1968 in Memphis, he delivered yet another speech, I have seen the promise land.”

We indeed are fortunate to have the leadership of Irene Dobson. Thank you, Irene! We invite you to share additional contributions to commemorate our 100th anniversary.

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on January 28, 2010.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Jerald Pricher

By , 5 March, 2010, 1 Comment

Renaissance man – A man who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both science and arts.

Have you heard the term, Renaissance man? As advocates of education, Madonna & Clereen truly hope that you were not ruminating over the 1994 comedy/movie of the same name by Penny Marshall but rather, the likes of the authentic Renaissance Man—none other than Leonardo da Vinci from the 15th century. Da Vinci was dubbed ‘RM’ because of his legendary art masterpieces as well as his intuitive and profound intellect—not to mention he was strikingly handsome, physically strong and possessing of a fine singing voice. His scientific and mathematic achievements were brilliant and the list goes on and on…a vegetarian who so cherished animals that he was known to purchase caged animals at the market just to set them free. Okay, get the idea? A person of multi-talents and interests!

Well, this week in Countdown, we set out to profile a very special and quite diverse individual from our Zephyrhills community who retired on January 8th from education after 32 years. We could not help but notice that our Zephyrhills person also possesses an array of diverse interests. Who is this person…it’s Zephyrhills’ own Jerald Pricher!

How do we (Madonna and Clereen) know Jerry?  Madonna weighs-in first: she first met Jerry in the 1970’s when she served as a fellow teacher with him but did not come to fully appreciate him until her own children, Jervis and Mamie, had the privilege of studying from him in his Algebra class in the mid-1990’s. He awakened a love of education and challenged them to a new level with humor, discipline, the spirit of competition, and witty charm.  They along with many other students will share some thoughts with you later on in the article. Clereen disclosed that from the class of 1973, she knew Jerry as an older student and remembered him emceeing events and running track. Later she worked with him on various alumni projects. We believe as you digest our Countdown article this week or perhaps revisit your knowledge of Jerry; you too will agree with us, that he is a ‘Renaissance guy’ for our community. He is a superb mathematician, skilled teacher, a father/brother/friend, an athlete turned coach, a referee at the many sports events, a historian/family genealogist and preserver of family and community history, a public servant, a student and teacher advocate and would you believe, a performer/singer?

Where did it begin? We did a bit of digging into school records and located some info. Along the way, we talked with a few folks—Sandra Pricher (sister), Betty Hall, Jean Murphy and others. Jerry is a 1969 graduate of Zephyrhills High School. He said it best when he word-smithed the following message on the school’s website that reveals a rather profound love and loyalty to the place:

“I entered first grade at ZHS in 1957, and graduated in our gym in 1969.  Ray Stewart was Principal at the time, so my roots go deep… I was in elementary school during the first man-into-space launches. We watched outside our classroom and listened on the radio. I was here in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated and was still here later when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy were also gunned down. Those were troubling times to be sure, but I always felt safe in that school.

I was here when ZHS won their first state championship in basketball. In fact, under the leadership of Jack Wilson, Chuck McKinney and Morris McHone, our teams went to the state tournament five years out of seven and won three championships. I was here when we finally got our gymnasium.”

ZHS 1968 gymnasium

ZHS 1968 gymnasium

Jerry was very active in high school. At the June 12, 1969 graduation of the 83 grads in his class, Jerald, son of Mr. and Mrs. Otis Pricher was awarded the coveted activities award. The week before, Principal Stewart had presented Pricher, along with Kathy Shannon, with the service award for ‘giving the most service to the school.’ This is little wonder because he functioned in numerous leadership capacities. School Daze columnist, Jannete Dunnigan, announced in her January 2nd ‘68 column:

“For the highly honored office of President of Student Council, we have the well experienced and qualified Jerry Pricher. Vice president is another experienced gentleman, Cliff Brown and two secretaries, Brenda Hughes and Valerie Wickstrom. Handling the expenditures will be Frankie Hall and parliamentarian is the re-elected Doy Smith. Sounds good, doesn’t it? With that group, it has to be.”

Pricher was prominent throughout the 66-69 school archives in presiding over assemblies, hosting fundraisers, and organizing his fellow students. In 68, the school sent Cliff Brown and him as their delegates to Louisiana for the National Student Councils Convention—quite the prestigious event of the day. The list is endless!

Pricher was a member of the ZHS Track; in April 17, 1965, the News reported, “Another school track and field record was shattered at East Bay on Friday… Jerry Pricher won first in the 880 with a time of 2:08.6.” The 1968 team consisted of Herbert Farrell, Larry Lindsay, Ruben Odom, Jerry Pricher, Dennis Hartley, Jim Streer, Dale Eady, Mike McCreadie, Ryan Gray, Ed Chadwell, Ulysses Alexander, John Mullin, Wally Reeves, Rocky Stanley, Mark Penny, Skip Stewart, Billy Poe, Doug Prowant, David Krystofiak, Cliff Brown, B.B. Lane, Richard Back, Richard McLellan, Alvin McKenzie, Clarence Odom, and Coach James E. Davis.  Ironically, or perhaps very logically, Jerry would later be the ‘Track Coach’ for the school and credit Davis, his track coach and later boss as his life mentor!

We discovered that Jerry starred in several drama productions: in 1969 it was Brides to Burn,  a 3-act comedy farce that teacher, Constance Kaylor directed, starring: Jerry Pricher, Bob Kinne, Melanie Massey, Anne Neal, Virginia Manley, Donna Samsom, Linda Wells, Barbara Rooks, Martha Colandria, Larry Bryant, Craig Palmer, Joy Reutimann, Joe Ahrens, Carolyn Dean, and Richard Miller. In 1968 it was Bill’s Night Out, directed by Marion Ditter, featuring: Donna Sansom, Joe Wells, Joe Ahrens, Susie Overhuls, Craig Palmer, Anna Doerr, Ann Howard, Jerry Pricher, Linda Martinson, Mary Grimes, Ingeborg Hennessy, Raymond Bohannon, Carol Burnside, Kathy Muse, Richard Miller, Sue Ellen Thompson, Gail Connolly and Gloria Gavin.

We also unearthed that Pricher was a member of a singing group, Sparkling Song Stylings by the Young’uns who were directed by Jean Murphy; they included: Larry Miller, Laura Achillich, Eloise Hall, Patty Hayden, Paul Woodruff, Lynn Murphy, Linda Duckett, Cliff Brown, Terri Rickard and Jerry Pricher.  In fact, Pricher’s singing talent earned him a soloist spot at the 1968 Baccalaureate service.  Just to fully document this, we called his singing director, Jean Murphy who told us, “I have known and loved Jerry Pricher since he was born. When I was Music Director at First Baptist Church, Jerry (around 8-years old) was in my Junior Choir. One day, we were practicing in the auditorium when I missed Jerry and discovered him crawling under the pews toward the door! A rough start, but Jerry turned out to be one of the better singers in the Youth Choir. He contributed his talent in many youth concerts also, with a small group of outstanding singers who presented special programs. Congratulations, Jerry, on your retirement!”

Pricher's teaching team in 1991-92-front row-Jean Mitchell; Team Leader-Jerry Pricher; back row-Skip Riley, David Bailey and Anne Lessard

Pricher's teaching team in 1991-92-front row-Jean Mitchell; Team Leader-Jerry Pricher; back row-Skip Riley, David Bailey and Anne Lessard

Sister, Sandy Pricher, told us that Jerry started teaching in August of 1978.  When he graduated from Stetson University, he worked in Orlando managing two different Pizza Huts before coming back to Zephyrhills. One of his long-time colleagues, Diane Nelson said, “Pricher’s retiring? That seems impossible.  When he joined the staff in 1978 it was ‘just for a year or two.’ Maybe we misunderstood him and he said ‘only for thirty-two.’ Teaching captures us, doesn’t it? In days of lore, his many buddies, Mike Kaylor, Dale Palmer, and David Bailey had many adventures together.”

Community involvement has been a passion for Pricher. He served as the President of the ZHS Alumni organization in the 1990’s and chaired the scholarship committee. Vicki Elkins, Director of Library and Museum Services in Zephyrhills, said, “Jerry has been a very dedicated and valued Library Board member and we appreciate him giving of his time and expertise to our Board. We wish him well in his retirement from teaching.” Jerry is the current President of the Board and has served on the board for over twelve years to assist Zephyrhills in maintaining the library for citizens of Zephyrhills and surrounding community.

Comments from his daughters, colleagues and former students best capture Pricher’s contributions:

Whenever my sister and I have ever been around town with our dad, he has constantly been stopped by former students who are very happy to see him. They call him, ‘Mr. Pricher’ or ‘Coach’ no matter how old they are and my dad remembers them all. It’s inspiring to see what an impact he’s made on his students that they go out of their way to greet him and express their appreciation! ~ Nicole Pricher, Class of 2004 and sister, Jean Pricher

I had the privilege of having Jerry Pricher as my 7th grade math teacher early in his teaching career in 1983. Although, at age 12, I was already taller than he was, he is truly a teacher that I have always looked up to and respected.   Jerry’s teaching philosophy could be summarized by the phrase, “Set high expectations for your students and they will rise to the occasion.” I continue to demonstrate this philosophy in teaching my own mathematics courses at the University of Arkansas.  Whether he was making sure I displayed mathematically correct steps on homework assignments in the classroom, or whether he called over-the-back or 3-second lane violations on me on the basketball court as a referee, he kept me in line to ensure that I was doing the best in my endeavors. Jerry Pricher was an inspirational teacher, a mentor, and a family friend. He, along with my father, is one of the few teachers who have had a deep and profound impact on my life. So, thank you, Jerry Pricher, for your many years of service in education, and congratulations on a job well done! Bravo! May God richly bless you!~Jeanine Boyd Myers, Class of 1988, Professor of Math at University of Arkansas

“I still remember the excited anticipation of finding out whether my daily answer was correct and I still remember the excitement of running the last lap of track practice. Whether in the math classroom or on the field, Mr. Pricher left a mark on all of us who were lucky enough to learn from him. The foundations of mathematics I learned with Mr. Pricher affected me throughout college as my choice of study, economics, habitually drew upon those foundations. But it wasn’t the actual math that prepared me for my challenges in college and on the tennis court. It was the skills on how to attack everyday challenges where Mr. Pricher’s teachings were truly effective. He instilled in me a sense of passion, commitment, and excellence towards each of my endeavors. I truly appreciate everything I learned from Mr. Pricher, and Stewart Middle School will not be same without him. I congratulate him on a wonderful career.” ~Suneal Bedi, Class of 2005, Graduate student at Harvard

I’m glad to hear that Mr. Pricher is getting recognition for his wonderful teaching career.  While I was in his class in middle school, his teaching style and motivational techniques really made me want to do the best I could.  The competitions he started among my classmates brought our learning experience to a whole new level.  He made learning fun, and some of his techniques I brought to my own mathematics classroom.  I always felt as if he had the students’ best interest at heart.  My experience in his classroom was truly a very positive one. ~Erika Jarvi, Class of 2004, Teacher at Wiregrass Ranch High School, Wesley Chapel

Junior high is often a hard time to remember.  Sandwiched between the early, formative memories of elementary school and the more dramatic ones of high school, junior high is often a forgotten experience.  This is not the case for us.  We vividly remember the passion, intelligence, dedication, and spirit of Mr. Pricher.  Junior high was memorable precisely because of him.  He was a superb teacher and indeed a “Renaissance Man.” He always encouraged us to be more than astute mathematicians (In fact, Sonu recalls a short but spirited stint on the track team!).  He deftly instilled in us a desire not only to do well academically but also to realize that there is more to life than mastering an equation or winning a math competition.  Though we may not have internalized this lesson as quickly as he would have liked, it resonates with us today.  To say we fondly recall the time we spent in his classroom is an understatement.   We are so honored to say that Mr. Pricher was our teacher. ~ Monu & Sonu Bedi, Class of 1993, attorney with Ropes & Gray in Boston and  professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Mr. Pricher was one of the toughest teachers I have ever had, but also one of my favorites!  He even taught me how to run on my toes! ~ Jervis Wise, Class of 1997, Attorney with Bjorn Brunvand, Clearwater

There are only a handful of teachers that I remember well and I want you to know that you are one of the few that stand out for me! Even though if memory serves I spent the majority of your class in the ‘Ozone Layer,’ I am so happy for you in your retirement and hope you enjoyed all of your time spent in the school system but most importantly I hope that you enjoy yourself now more than ever.  Thanks for all of your years of commitment! Live it up! ~ Angela Belcher, Class of 1994, Zoo Keeper for Primates, Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa

Jerry was a great teacher of young people and he used math as only one tool to do so.  He taught the value of honesty, responsibility, dependability, teamwork and a host of other very important values.  He was there to help the maturing process of students with a great degree on old fashioned hard work, focus, and fun.  I never had a time when any student, parent, or person spoke negatively to me about him.  However, it would not have done them any good because to me he was the best, is the best, deserves the best, and that’s exactly what we want for him, The Very Best!! ~ Randall Belcher, retired Pasco County Principal and son, Dr. David Belcher, Class of 1997, David is a physician in Anchorage, Alaska.

Mr. Pricher had an impact on me as a student, and on the entire school. I will always remember Mr. Pricher as a teacher who was in full support of me and my dreams, as he was with every student. I remember him at various games and shows at our schools in Zephyrhills. I was always jealous of my brothers, Matt and Nathan, because they got to have such a wonderful teacher, but even though I was never technically one of his students, he still cared. Now that’s a great teacher! Stewart will definitely miss you, and all of its future students, are definitely missing out. ~Elizabeth McLaughlin, Class of 2011, Professional Actress from Burbank, California

Jerry, Remember the auckies, wedgies, head butts, body slams?  You survived the weird friends of high school. You survived the Class of 69. You survived raising girls. You survived teaching for decades – I guess you truly are a Survivor!  Best to you in your retirement – you deserve it! ~Carolyn Dean, class of 1969, City of Zephyrhills

Mr. Pricher was one of the best teachers.  I credit him with giving me an understanding of mathematics that I never gained with any other instructor.  He had a creative approach to teaching that inspired us to do well.  He taught us to ‘think outside of the box.’ I honestly believe that if I had not been fortunate to have him as my teacher, I would have never had the understanding that has continued to sustain me throughout my education.  I just thought of him the other day when someone was asking me what percentage is equal to 2/3!  There are few people/teachers in your life that really make a difference to the person you become!  I wish I could have had him for every math class all the way through my bachelor’s degree.  I am so thankful to have had him at a very pivotal point in my life.  He wrote an insightful recommendation for my college application and he does not forget about his students after they leave his class. ~Brittani Back, Class of 1999, Tampa

Mr. Pricher was an excellent teacher who was always trying his hardest to teach us numerous ways to solve algebra problems.  He also had a great sense of humor and excellent classroom management (you couldn’t get away with anything in his class, not that I ever tried! I wasn’t that brave).  I can remember the girls trying to pass notes via their Keds® tennis shoes, or jean jackets.  Ah, those were the days. ~Jennifer Horn Collier, class of 2003, Middle School Math Teacher, Lithia, FL

Mr. Jerry Pricher was my math teacher. My Grandpa Ernest Kretschmar, Jr., was his math teacher, and my dad’s senior patrol leader in Cub Scouts. He would had word problem games with MacMutts token money that was used as a creative reinforcer. Congrats on the retirement, Mr. Pricher! You earned it! Hugs! ~Lea Kretschmar, Class of 2003, Tampa

Mr. Pricher is an incredible teacher and individual.  I was privileged to be in his class and have continued to learn from him.  He has a unique way of tapping his students’ competitive instincts and pinpointing what drives each individual to excel.  He sets a high bar for his students, but arms them with the academic and life skills they need to meet it both inside and outside his classroom.  With his caring yet no-nonsense approach, I could always rely on him as a trusted mentor.  Mr. Pricher’s class was always a highlight of my day, and looking back, on my educational career, he is one-of-a-kind for sure, and our schools and community have been privileged to have him.  As I left Stewart Middle School, I remember that some of his parting wisdom was to, “remember to stop and smell the pizza,” and enjoy all that life has to offer.  I hope that retirement will give him some more time to do that in his own life.  Congratulations and most of all, thank you! ~ Mamie Wise, Class of 2001, Attorney with D.L.A. Piper in New York City

To close, James E. Davis, Jerry’s coach (principal while a student) and later employer-principal left us with this story: “ I have the highest admiration for Jerry Pricher. As his track coach, Jerry initially was a sprinter and I recognized that he had a lot of endurance and personal drive. I talked him into running the 880. He performed great throughout the season but there was one boy named Meengs from Fort Myers that Jerry just could not beat. We set out to win the Conference Championship and set up a plan. We trained, strategized and decided that when I told him to kick (sprint) at the last 200 mark, he would do it. Sure enough, 15 yards from the finish, he overtook Meengs. ‘It happened!’ Jerry is a special educator, coach and person—just like one of my own kids! I recruited and convinced him to become a teacher. I knew he could teach! I saw him operate as student council president—great speaker, logical, sequential. He liked teaching. He reminds me a great deal of his father, Otis—one of the finest men in the world! Yup—I needed a math teacher and talked him into it!  Jerry is a special person to me.”

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on January 14, 2010.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Wrapping up the holidays

By , 4 March, 2010, No Comment

You may have noticed the notoriety that our town received this past week for New Year’s? It seems that the TripAdvisor™ selected the ten most outrageous events to ring in the New Year. Zephyrhills scored NUMBER 4 on this worldwide list—quite an achievement! The local acclaim involved christening-in 2010 at Zephyrhills Skydive City for a midnight parachute jump over Zephyrhills as part of the Skydive Boogie at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport. The TripAdvisor™ predicted that 600 folks would be jumping for the occasion. We weren’t there so we are not sure if we made the quota? You wonder what were the other choices? The first three included: 1) A skinny dip in Miami at Haulover Beach; 2) a wake-up plunge in Edinburgh, Scotland in the icy waters; or 3) a torchlight snowboard excursion down the slopes of Girdboard, Alaska. Wow, we made the list!

This week for Countdown, we are in fact, wrapping up the festive season with some accounts form our ZHS alumni of memories of their holidays. It is a smorgasbord of vignettes and a few photos.

The elementary school classrooms were festively decorated. Music teacher, Artiste Parsons produced an annual Christmas concert. I remember the soloists; Taryn Travis Chauncey had such a lovely voice! We brought gifts to exchange according to our gender. There was plenty of festive food at the class parties supplied by the homeroom moms; our mom’s made first-rate homemade cookies. In fourth grade at East Elementary School, Ms. Jones and Ms. Riegler convinced the students to perform a Christmas play. We rotated throughout classrooms down the hallways to act out our presentation throughout East Zephyrhills Elementary. I was the narrator. Later in high school, gifts were exchanged among friends. In our Junior and Senior hear of high school, the ‘promise rings’ were all the rage. ~Cyndee Thomas, class of 1979

Speaking of choruses, Artiste Parsons, music teacher who served West Zephyrhills Elementary School as well as Zephyrhills High School/Junior High over the years is shown in the 1970’s photo in front of ZHS and the Wickstrom Memorial. Artiste retired recently and was known for her concerts at the school that showed her student’s fine musical skills.

In 1954, our parents (Gilbert ‘42 and Audrey Chenkin) photographed us (Helen and Richard Chenkin) lighting Hanukkah candles in our living room window on 11th Street in Zephyrhills. ~ Helen Chenkin, class of 1966 and Richard Chenkin, class of 1969

The first Christmas after we moved from PA in 1950, my dad still didn’t have a job and we were surviving on his VA pension (I realized later). In the German tradition, we, like others in our former PA community, did not put up a tree before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Santa brought the tree after we were asleep, and it was decorated when we awoke on Christmas Day. In Zephyrhills, all the neighbors were bringing home trees and setting them up. As I was playing with Sandra Farnell who lived down the street, her dad brought home their tree and began cutting off the bottom branches. I had never seen this done before and the cut-off branches were pretty, so I asked to take them home. Just before Christmas, Dad tied the branches together and put them in our Christmas stand. It actually looked like a small Christmas tree. However it had no ornaments until we woke up on Christmas morning. And there it was all decorated with every ornament our other trees had ever held! That beautiful tree changed our meager Christmas into a grand celebration! Years later, when I was teaching, without telling the identity of the little girl, I would tell the children in my classes this story and ask if they thought it was fact or fiction…They had a difficult time believing it was a real story about me. ~Lynn Nichols Timmons, class of 60

I remember the wonderful folks at the various elementary schools during the holidays who were a part of the welcoming. A photo included features Anne Wentworth and Delores Moore in the late 1980’s at Woodland Elementary School with the Christmas tree. I also marvel at the dedicated teachers who produced Christmas pageants and taught lessons about culture around the world. Lynn Timmons and her team at Woodland which included Sharyl Robinson, Marion Post, B.J. D’Antonio and John Abernathy come to mind. They taught the students about people around the world through holiday traditions. Wow, we were really lucky to have folks like this teach our children!~ Madonna Wise, teacher/principal 73-2003

As a child, warm memories of Christmas always meant a trip to Holsum Bakery (in Tampa on East Hillsborough Avenue; across from the old Sears Building).  The bakery hosted a December open-house tour with a waiting line WAY down the street. All the sweet smells and aromas were everywhere and you could breathe in and enjoy.  At the end of the line was a little bag with some fruit and nuts and candy and a tiny loaf of bread!  This was always part of my birthday as well on December 11th and my grandparents and Aunt (almost like my sister), who lived close to the Bakery, joined us.  Even now as I drive by, I still can smell get a whiff of that wonderful scent and memories flood back.  Things which seem so simple now were what made those precious memories of childhood. ~Lenora Pollock Stokes, class of 1964

Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. I have lots of fond memories of sharing Christmas with my family & friends. Seems to last all December and sometimes runs into New Years Day. From our Breakfast Girls get-together to our gift exchange and dinner with co-workers at SunTrust Bank to a couple of family gatherings.  A tradition our family has done for a very long time is when it is time for everyone to open their gifts, we always start with the youngest first and graduate up to  the oldest so everyone can see what they receive.  Now I understand why my parents would almost fall asleep after waiting patiently for their turn but find it worthwhile as they/we (parents) receive the most gifts of all, not just monetary items but having the whole family together at one time enjoying the laughter and fellowship. ~Clereen Morrill Brunty, class of 1973

Each year at Christmas time, I make Italian “S” cookies with my two sisters-in-law from an old recipe passed down from a beloved family member.  We stay up many late evenings and make over 1,000 of these cookies to share.  It has become my family’s tradition to leave a plate of “S” cookies for Santa.  My son and daughter (ages 9 and 5) look forward to each Christmas Eve when we get out a special plate and fill it with cookies for Santa — to them, the “S” is for Santa! ~Darla Suk Sarhaddi, class of 1982

One of my favorite memories was tied to a Christmas time edition of the Zephyrhills News.  The title was “Zephyrhills Girl Gets Wings for Christmas”.  The story was about the fact that I soloed one of my father’s airplanes on my 16th birthday which was on December 18, 1975.  It was indeed a great birthday/Christmas present.  Dad, David Sullivan, ZHS class of 1952, was on the ground watching and talking to me on the radio.  I radioed down and asked him how to get the plane down.  His answer was simple, “In one piece!”  It was a very special time as my father had also soloed on that very same airport, possibly the same runway, when he was 14 years old.  Dad had taught me to fly but the official training hours came with 2 instructor pilots, Bill Jackson and I can’t remember the main instructor’s name.   I made my first commercial flight a few days later!  Also, we used to go to the Bahamas for New Years Eve.  One year Dad, Kathy, my stepmother, and I went and I got to take a friend, Nancy Dockery, also from class of ‘78.  We were 16 and had a blast. ~Trish Sullivan Farmer, class of 1978

We had a loving, stable, comforting, country life, with wonderful holidays spent on Gore’s Dairy during my early childhood.  It was idyllic, really.  Traveling into town two miles away was a big deal, and we always looked forward to visiting Zephyrhills every Thursday to do our shopping—especially as the holidays approached,.  The roads took us through seemingly endless orange groves, then across the magical overpass!  The first sign of ‘civilization’ was the Thriftway Supermarket!   But due to divorce, we were forced to face a new life in town, and moving day was the day after Thanksgiving in 1972.It had been a horrendous year—my parents divorced in July.  One week later, Karl Wickstrom who was like a big brother to me, was killed in a tragic accident, and then six weeks later, my Grandmother Mary Gore, died.  I missed my beloved farm and the family there that now no longer exists.  The holidays were not much to look forward to, but a special lady, Libby Peel changed all that.

Libby, and her husband, Vincent, had a New Year’s tradition.  They hosted a party every year for a lot of ‘the old and the bold’ in town.  In 1972, they opened their circle a little wider, and drew us in.  New Year’s Eve parties at the Peel’s never deviated, and went like clock-work, according to a plan.  Libby roasted turkey or a ham, and all the other ladies brought a covered dish.  We enjoyed this amazing feast at about 6:00 p.m., then the men would retire to the TV room to watch football, while the women washed dishes, then visited in the living room.  The Peels rounded up the usual suspects for this tradition, although some had to scoot out early.  I remember our wonderful ZHS band director, John T.V. Clark, usually had to eat and run, as he inevitably was playing a New Year’s gig in Tampa or St. Pete that night.  In later years, his older sons would sometimes join him.The rest of us ‘young folk’ would go outside to play games like freeze tag or ‘Stuck In The Mud.’  Sometimes, Thor Wickstrom, Ronnie Peel, and Bruce Clark would sneak some fire crackers out to the front drive for a little excitement.

When one minute to midnight arrived, the scene was like a well-rehearsed dance.  The men grudgingly flipped the TV channel to Guy Lombardo, the ladies put their coffee cups down, and met the men between the French doors that connected the TV and living rooms.  At precisely midnight, the couples kissed briefly to the strains of Auld Lang Syne, then the women returned to the living room for more gossip, and the men got rid of Guy Lombardo for more football.  Every year, it was the same.  Even when Libby lost her beloved husband, Vincent, she kept the tradition alive. Even when, years later, she remarried  Alan Winslow, she continued to hold her annual New Year’s Eve party.  As I became an older teenager, I used to think, “Is this all there is?  Where is the exciting, romantic New Year’s Eve party, like they show in the movies?”  I longed for more, and was determined to have more, if I could ever get out of Zephyrhills.  But now, looking back, I realize we had it all!

I am so grateful to Libby Peel for her kindness and generosity. And for being the secure woman she was. Many times, when there is a divorce, people rush to offer dinner invitations to the new ‘bachelor.’  They rationalize that he must need a good home-cooked meal.  Even now, most folks do not rush, or even amble, to invite a single woman and her children over for a home-cooked meal.  I guess they assume she does not need a break!  Libby gave us more than a break.  She gave the gift of friendship and hospitality.  She included us, and made us feel wanted at a time in our lives when we had never felt more unwanted. We were broken, and she began to mend us.  She gave us love, which, after all, is what the holidays are truly all about.  And Libby Peel forced us to celebrate the New Year whether we felt like celebrating it or not!  Conservatively, yes; Not with reckless abandon, no, but with great generosity and love.

Libby Peel is no longer throwing her great party.  And many of her dear guests have also exited stage left — folks like Chief Bill Eiland, Bernie Wickstrom, Dr. Harry Brownlee, Eleanor Chadwell, and John T.V. Clark.  But she — they — live on in my heart.  She symbolized the town I remember growing up in.  Not a town without pity, but a place of kindness and inclusion.  I feel thankful and blessed for Libby Peel’s loving example.  God Bless you, Libby, and Happy New Year, Dearest! ~Luan Gore, class of 1977

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on January 7, 2010.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: 2010 and a new decade

By , 4 March, 2010, 1 Comment

The Zephyrhills Historical Association with Margaret Seppanen as their wonderful leader, printed a lovely historical calendar for 2010 that was hot off the press this past week. Please contact the ZHA at (813) 782-8405 or (813) 782-4495 if you wish to obtain a copy. It includes a lovely array of historical photos which they have collected over time. For this week’s article, we profile a few of the photos and reflect back on one hundred years.

A new decade brings a sense of renewal. You will recall that at the start of the decade of 2000-a new millennium, we were responding to the prediction made by technology gurus that the computer systems of which we had become so dependent, would malfunction at the strike of midnight. As you know, this did not occur and perhaps it was a prediction of the changes that were to continue throughout the decade in regard to communication. Looking back on that new decade of 100 years ago, here are some glimpses.

First Decade of Zephyrhills

Zephyrhills in her first decade

Zephyrhills in her first decade

The decade of the 1910s, the origin period of ZHS, is a time of great change in the USA.  For the first time, the country was considered a world leader. The dominant issue of the decade was World War I.  There were a larger number of girl students than boys and in 1919; the Junior-Senior Banquet even included two large flags in the banquet hall in place of the two seniors, Lyle Gilbert and Dale Leonard, who left school early to fight in France.  At the graduation ceremony in 1919, a letter from Lyle was read to acknowledge his patriotism and service.

1912 ZHS girls

1912 ZHS girls

The themes of change and certainly the impact of a worldwide war influenced the activities and directions of ZHS.  Opening exercises for the school term were heavily laden with patriotic and religious overtones, and attended by all community members with a strong leadership role played by area church ministers.

During this time, family roles were impacted by the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote in 1919. The ZHS high school play of 1919, was in fact, reflective of this social change, and entitled, “Her Honor the Mayor.” It was advertised as “a playful satire on women’s suffrage, chocked full of fun and the joy of life.”  In the synopsis of the play, the female was not portrayed in a very worthy light, which may have reflected the conservatism of the community and at least some perceptions of the new amendment.

In sports, Principal Walter Roberts served as the basketball coach and alumni report that the basketball team was outstanding.

This US decade included the first child labor laws which were enacted in 1915 and economic changes that scanned the spectrum from monopolies to the impact of immigration on the labor market. Consider that the Model T cost about $350 and the National Park Service and Girl Scouts of America were born in this era of prohibition There was the unthinkable sinking of the “unsinkable ship,” the Titanic in the news, while Zephyrhills experienced its own tragedy in the new ZHS building, christened in 1910 being destroyed by a fire in its second decade in 1926.

A newly consolidated school was an important milestone for the Zephyrhills colony. The Colony’s first high school was born in 1910!  The Zephyrhills Colonist, the local newspaper reports in 1915: “The Colony Company’s first high school was built between 7th and 8th Avenues on the west side.”

Rosemary Trottman in her book, The History of Zephyrhills, reports the following description of the first school building:

“As soon as the county school board received the deed to the site at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Sixth Street, it ordered the beginning of construction of the new school. Lumber was delivered from Greer Mill and the carpenters began the work. The inspection of the completed building was set for late summer…The school opened that first fall, September 1910, and the children were busy just getting to know each other. The children who came in school wagons tended to find a shady spot and eat lunches as they had in the previous one-room groups. It was like Sunday every school day when the Union, Childers, and Independence (one room school) pupils were united for lunch as they had been at church. “The building in 1910 had four rooms on the first floor with a wide hall and stairways leading to the upper story which was divided into two rooms. The dividing wall was a set of folding doors arranged on a metal track so that they could be folded back to make an auditorium of the two classrooms when necessary.”

Judge James Wilton Sanders

Judge James Wilton Sanders

The first principal was Judge J.W. Sanders who later served as the Pasco School Superintendent from 1913 to 1921.  Professor Sanders was age 25 when elected Pasco County Superintendent which means that he was in his very early twenties when serving as the first principal of ZHS—undoubtedly the youngest to serve as leader of the school.

Graduations were spectacular events for the day in this first decade, and the graduation speakers were prominent state leaders. The 1919 ZHS graduation featured Dr. Conradi, the President of the Florida State Women’s University (now FSU).  The first ZHS graduation of seniors was held in 1913 although an eleventh grade graduation was held in 1912.  Don Storms informed the alumni in 1972 that he was the only ZHS graduate to have graduated twice, as he participated in both the eleventh grade and twelfth grade graduations in 1912 and 1913. There were eleven graduates in 1912.

To learn more about our fine town, consider visiting one of the Zephyrhills Historical Association events or view their calendar.  Here are a few photos you will enjoy:

ZHS basketball yeam 1919

ZHS basketball yeam 1919

The first basketball team in 1919 was coached by Zephyrhills Principal Walter Roberts and team members were: Willie Stebbins, Robert Helms, Gerald Briggs, Curtis Geiger, Warren Haynes, Fred Stebbins, Kenneth Storms, and Edwin Stebbins. This began a legacy of basketball and sports in the area. 
J.F. Stebbins Manufacturing Company produced the P.C.S. Brand cane syrup and was located on the west end of Gall Boulevard at 8th Avenue. The building was also used for cotton ginning, per Margaret Seppanen.

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on December 31, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Thanksgiving & ZHS families

By , 3 March, 2010, No Comment

In an age of ever-changing technology and fast paced-living, we want to pause this week to share our gratitude to the community. We thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to impart some historical tidbits from the last one 100 years that have shaped our town. At the annual ZHS alumni celebration, the monthly 100-year committee meetings, or local school events, we consistently witness the importance that the instutution of ‘school’ has had a place of gathering, organization and growth for children and families.

Thanksgiving is, of course, also a time of gathering, family focus and appreciation of our country’s heritage. We suspect that many may recall Thanksgiving pageants at school that encompassed Pilgrims, American Indians and symbols of Harvest. The historical accounts from the Zephilsco, News, and other sources depict PTA celebrations, classroom events and service projects in the community. Perhaps the most noteworthy of Thanksgivings was that of 1939 when ZHS was closed for two weeks because of diptheria outbreak. Ironically, in 2009 with H1N1, it is not the first time the local school has been challenged with health questions and persevered to benefit students and families.

Thanksgiving takes on many dimensions for us.  You may be traveling, hosting your family, working at a center to serve up a scrumptious meal for others or perhaps savoring some past memories. We also know that families come in all configurations and for some institutions such as church and school comprise dimensions of nurturing as well.

The theme of family has often been a thread throughout our historical research about Zephyrhills High School. Just recently in our interviews with James E. and Claudette Davis, Raybell Surratt, Charles and Ann Henderson, Bunt and Cookie Massey and others, we have been mesmerized by their many warm stories about people and traditions in our community. The Clements, Rooks, Reutimanns, and others have jogged our memories about sports, entertainment and events that locals cherish. Along the way with the assistance of the Depot, Zephyrhills Historical Society and so many individuals, wonderful photos have surfaced that often capture events without words. So with that in mind and perhaps with the old script of that Thanksgiving Song by Lydia Maria Child that so many of us sang in school at this time of year, “Over The River and Through the Woods To Grandmother’s House We go…” we wish to share three photos that capture three example families from Zephyrhills over time.

The dates are: 1945, 1960 and 1969. It so happens that two of these families were in the midst of visiting grandparents when the photos were snapped and all three photos give us a glimpse of the importance of connections in our lives. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Miller children stand in front of the landmark Neukom’s Drug Store which posted a sign announcing, ‘War Bond Sales.’ The photo taken in 1945 showed Larry, Glenn, Nancy and Craig Miller enjoying a refreshing ice cream cone in downtown Zephyrhills. Feel the home-town warmth!

The Miller children


The Miller children stand in front of the landmark Neukom’s Drug Store which posted a sign announcing, ‘War Bond Sales.’ The photo taken in 1945 showed Larry, Glenn, Nancy and Craig Miller enjoying a refreshing ice cream cone in downtown Zephyrhills. Feel the home-town warmth!

The First family

The First family


The First family  including Mary Crawford First and sons, Gary and Greg traveled to Cleveland, Ohio to visit their grandmother in 1960 by railroad and they boarded the train at the Zephyrhills Depot which was then located where the Village Inn is now located. “At that age, nothing was more fun than riding a train, especially visiting the dining car,” said Greg who has been the ‘voice of the local Zephyrhills High School Bulldogs’ for over twenty years as sports announcer.

The Travis family

The Travis family


Bernie Wickstrom ran the Travis family photo in the Zephyrhills News after the family had just returned from an antique car show in 1969 and a visit to the grandfather’s home. Mr. Travis had a hobby of restoring Kaiser autos and this was a vintage 1947 Frazer Manhattan made by Kaiser-Frazer. They had just driven from Zephyrhills to visit relatives in upstate New York and they recalled watching the moon landing on their Grandfather’s black-and-white TV, this was the era of Woodstock.  In the photo were: June, Cindy, Jeff, Bob and Cliff Travis along with their dachshund,  Penny.

For Clereen and Madonna, family is an essential part of our lives, and we wish each and everyone a very lovely Thanksgiving!  We hope sometime during the holiday weekend, you’ll have an opportunity to remember some family events that have shaped your life. Whether you are visiting grandparents or perhaps savoring our lovely Florida weather with an ice cream cone instead of a turkey, we know you’ll remember past times as we do!

In our ongoing effort to capture the memories, please send us your stories about Thanksgiving.

Over The River and Through The Woods

Over the river, and through the wood,

To Grandfather’s house we go;

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh

through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood—

Oh, how the wind does blow!

It stings the toes and bites the nose

As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,

To have a first-rate play.

Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding”,

Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood

Trot fast, my dapple-gray!

Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound,

For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood—

And straight through the barnyard gate,

We seem to go extremely slow,

It is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood—

Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!

Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?

Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on November 19, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: A Salute West Zephyrhills Elementary

By , 2 March, 2010, No Comment
Music Class at WZES directed by John T.V. Clark in 1967. These are students from ZHS class of 1973 and are: Back row - Johnny Ray White, Vickie Griffin, Suzie Hill, James Meyer, Dale Reutimann, Steve Massey, Robbie Kretschmar, Richard Risher. Front Row - Rhonda Duncan, Connie Geiger, Linda McAdams, Jason Osborne, Tommy Garland, Debbie Messer, Nancy Clark, Mark Coyne, Dale Myers.

Music Class at WZES directed by John T.V. Clark in 1967. These are students from ZHS class of 1973 and are: Back row - Johnny Ray White, Vickie Griffin, Suzie Hill, James Meyer, Dale Reutimann, Steve Massey, Robbie Kretschmar, Richard Risher. Front Row - Rhonda Duncan, Connie Geiger, Linda McAdams, Jason Osborne, Tommy Garland, Debbie Messer, Nancy Clark, Mark Coyne, Dale Myers.

Our mission is to preserve memories of the 100 year history of education in Zephyrhills and we love sharing anecdotes and milestones of the past. Coinciding with the 100 year educational history and certainly embedded within it is the golden anniversary of West Zephyrhills Elementary School. This weekend, the school is honoring the 50 years of service to the community with a bash on campus. Clereen will be there representing our duo since Madonna will be in Louisville, Kentucky as a mom of her daughter, Rachel who is competing in a speech competition. We both send our congratulations and deepest gratitude to all who have served West over time!

As you might imagine, we dug up some Zephyrhills News articles over time to give you a flavor of this elementary school. Recently, we attended the inspirational memorial ceremony of the second principal of West, Ferdinand Renninger. Randall Belcher gave a moving tribute to this fine gentleman and asked that Ferd’s family, colleagues and friends share their recollections. There were moving tributes and one of the stories was particularly charming and we believe captures the spirit of Ferd as well as West. Zephyrhills businessman, Brant Blessing, a ZHS alumni of 1965, related that he was the Assistant Principal at West and was recruited by Mr. Renninger. He said that Ferd was a true inspiration but also a person who knew how to seize the moment and have some fun. To inspire the students in the 1960’s, Ferd proposed that Brant dress up in a superman costume and frolic across the campus, waving his cape to inspire the students to do their best. Brant’s wife, Beth, sewed the costume and Brant made his rounds across the campus. Brant related that customers at his State Farm Insurance office to this day, remember his superman flight at West Zephyrhills Elementary School. Can you imagine how many other stories could be told by the walls of West Zephyrhills Elementary?

It holds laughter, tears, triumphs, and inspiration that have undoubtedly impacted many generations. To the hundreds of students, teachers, staff and parents who have walked the halls of West, we say, thank you for your contributions.

Here are some glimpses of Zephyrhills News coverage over time to help you recall some milestones:

1959: First Principal! Stewart Brown has been reappointed principal of ZHS. The Pasco County Board of Public Instruction on Tuesday also appointed Arleis E. Ross principal of the new Zephyrhills Elementary School and Thomas McCree of Volusia County, to the principalship of the on-the-campus Junior-High-Elementary School.

WZES Principals

WZES Principals

March 18 1960: Zephyrhills West Elementary School was dedicated during Zephyrhills Founders’ Days in ceremonies at which Chester Taylor, Pasco County School Superintendent, officiated in the new cafetorium. John T.V. Clark, Jr. directed the ZHS Band in a program of music.

Taylor told how the new school was planned and financed. The plant proper, exclusive of walkways, embraces 13,655 square feet built at a cost of $11.95 per square foot, the entire amount for the cafetorium and eight classrooms totaling $181,000. The school has a capacity for 24 classrooms when completed it its entirety. Mrs. Pauline Boggs sold the 43-acre site to school officials for $21,192 and Taylor said eventually the campus may include a junior high school plant. Zephyrhills West Elementary is probably the only school in Pasco County with maximum plans for expansion, he stated.

Superintendent Taylor said:

“We dedicate this school building, providing parents of the community with a plant in which teachers can pridefully instruct, with the thought in mind, however, that no school can offset the evil influence not merely of a bad home but of a home with low disciplinary and moral standards.

If fathers and mothers offer their children no more intellectual fare than comic books, a television set and picture magazines; if they make a home merely a place to sleep, drink and eat, and not the center of life then they have no right to complain of schools.”

Arleis E. Ross, principal, officially accepted the school keys from I.A. DeMinicis, Architect. Platform guests included Zephyrhills city officials, Pasco County board members and school trustees. A 49-star American flag for use in the auditorium and another for the outdoor flagpole were presented to the school by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary, with Mrs. Robert Sibley, assisted by Mrs. Jack Selzer.

1962: Elementary Graduation–Special ceremonies for graduation of 6th grade pupils into junior high will be held Monday, June 4, at West Elementary School. Miss Alice Zimmerman is in charge of planning both programs.

1963: Teacher assignments at Zephyrhills schools for the school year beginning in the fall have been announced by Chester Taylor, Jr. At ZHS, where Charles A. Henderson is principal the faculty will include: Lamar Calhoun, John F. Clements, John T.V. Clark, John D. Geiger, Mrs. Alpha S. Gill, Mrs. Betty Jane Hall, Mrs. Constance C. Kaylor, S.B. Kendricks, Ernest Kretschmar, Jr., Mrs. Marjorie Parantha, Earl Reitz, Mrs. Katharine Swing, W.A. Worthington, Lewis K. Wynne, William R. Jeffries, D. Hobson, Laird Jr., Miss Marion J. Ditter, Mrs. Lillian B. Johnson, William R. Kustes, Charles W. McKinney, Will H. McRaney, Clyde R. Mills, Green Napier and Mrs. Georgia H. Skyles.

West Elementary School, with Arleis E. Ross as principal, will have these faculty members: Mrs. Celia Anderson, Mrs. Vianna Gall, Miss Peggy Padgett, Mrs. Beulah Flynn, Mrs. Hettie Jane Price, Mrs. Anne Tipton, Mrs. Dorothy Rhodes, Mrs. Dorothy D. Turner and Mrs. Constance A. Ronnick and Mrs. Marguerite Goetz.

Zephyrhills News photo: A portrait of Arleis E. Ross, Principal of West Elementary School from its founding in 1959 until 1967, was unveiled in a ceremony in the school lobby. Standing beneath the picture were Miss Peggy Padgett, left, second grade teacher, who spearheaded the drive to raise funds for the memorial, and Miss Susan Gill, right, fifth grade teacher who was chairman of the committee which obtained the oil-tinted photograph. Mrs. Ross, Dade City, was on hand for the unveiling ceremony.

Zephyrhills News photo: A portrait of Arleis E. Ross, Principal of West Elementary School from its founding in 1959 until 1967, was unveiled in a ceremony in the school lobby. Standing beneath the picture were Miss Peggy Padgett, left, second grade teacher, who spearheaded the drive to raise funds for the memorial, and Miss Susan Gill, right, fifth grade teacher who was chairman of the committee which obtained the oil-tinted photograph. Mrs. Ross, Dade City, was on hand for the unveiling ceremony.

October 26, 1967: Zephyrhills News, ‘Memorial to Principal Arleis E. Ross’ – A colored photographic portrait of Arleis E. Ross, Principal of West Elementary School from its founding in 1959 until his death earlier this year, was unveiled in a ceremony in the school lobby. Mrs. Ross, Dade City, was on hand for the unveiling ceremony

May 4, 1967: Arleis Edward Ross, 51, principal of Zephyrhills West Elementary School since it was opened eight years ago, died Tuesday morning at Lakeland General Hospital. He had been in ill health for several months, suffering from a brain tumor. Services are to be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Sanctuary of the first Methodist Church in Dade City with the Rev. James R. Crook, pastor of the First Methodist Church of Dade City, officiating. All three Zephyrhills schools will be closed Friday morning during the funeral. Students will not report to homerooms until 11 a.m., it was announced Wednesday morning by Ferd Renninger, principal of East and acting principal at West during Mr. Ross’s illness. Mr. Ross was born August 17, 1915 in Whitley County, Kentucky of Frank Ross and Mary Ellen Davenport Ross. He came to Pasco County 13 years ago from Pine Knot, Kentucky, where he taught after receiving both the Bachelor of Arts and masters degrees in education from Eastern Kentucky State College. Mr. Ross served as Assistant Principal at ZHS prior to assuming the principalship of West Elementary.

He was a Methodist, a member of the National Educational Association, Florida Education Association, and the Principal’s Association of Pasco County. Survivors include his wife, Mrs. Verna H. Ross of Dade City; a son, Ralph E. of Melbourne.

1967: Almost 9000 students are expected to enroll in Pasco County schools, and a share of this increase is expected in Zephyrhills. At West Elementary enrollment topped 425 last year (it had been only 330 in 1965-66) and is conservatively estimated at 470 this year and at East Elementary, where the average daily attendance was 341 last year, about 360 are expected to enroll.

At all three centers some additional transferring in of African American students is expected, although crowded conditions will somewhat limit a total “freedom of choice” operation in the county. Although to any school of their choice, the school board has reserved the right to limit such changes in accordance with available space.

1968:Zephyrhills’ three public schools had a combined opening day enrollment of 1,636 students as classes for the 1968-69 term began Friday. Of this number 721 were enrolled at ZHS, 435 at East Elementary School and 480 at West Elementary. School Principals Raymond B. Stewart, James Walker and Ferd Renninger of the three schools, respectively; anticipate an appreciable increase in the enrollment figures as students return from vacation trips.

1971: West Elementary School’s opening day enrollment of 600 had been predicted and school closed Wednesday with 618 enrolled. This is an increase of 89 over last year. Double Sessions went off well. Except for some wrinkles to be ironed out in bus schedules to bring all of the buses into the schools at about the same time, everything went smoothly “all things considered,” on opening day Tuesday.

1975: Leland Brant Blessing, former ZHS basketball star, will return to this community in the fall as the new assistant principal of West Zephyrhills Elementary School, Principal Ferd E. Renninger has announced. West Elementary has 900 students on double sessions; the school has a rated capacity of about 600 students, Principal Renninger has never had a full-time assistant.

A 1965 graduate of ZHS, he was a member of the ZHS state championship basketball team.

Melodica Class at WZES in 1965 directed by Ms. Alice Zimmerman. Back row - David Calhoun, Tim Cleary, Steve Massey, Johnny Ray White, Dales Myers, Joey Street, Mike Reagan, Rhonda Duncan, Jan McCreadie, Teresa Quick, Cole Skinner. Front row - Alton Osborne, Vickie Griffin, Becky Williams, Lynette McCreadie, Eugenia Hall.

Melodica Class at WZES in 1965 directed by Ms. Alice Zimmerman. Back row - David Calhoun, Tim Cleary, Steve Massey, Johnny Ray White, Dales Myers, Joey Street, Mike Reagan, Rhonda Duncan, Jan McCreadie, Teresa Quick, Cole Skinner. Front row - Alton Osborne, Vickie Griffin, Becky Williams, Lynette McCreadie, Eugenia Hall.

1976: New instructors are Miss Susan Sullivan, Mrs. Christine Cole, and Mrs. Evelyn Hilton, a 1975 graduate of ZHS.

1978: West Zephyrhills Elementary School Principal Reinninger will be the first principal for the new elementary school now being built west of ZHS, Woodland Elementary. The new principal for West Zephyrhills Elementary will be Louis Freijo. Freijo is certified in elementary administration and has been employed by the Pasco County system for the past seven years.

1993: In 1993, Principal Jeanette Lovelace chaired the district-level committee for the development of the new elementary report card. She worked with representatives from all groups to develop a new assessment system that was researched-based and aligned to the needs of children and stakeholders.

1996: Principal Jeanette Lovelace oversaw the renovation of the West Zephyrhills Elementary campus. It received a new facelift with the addition of a new administrative building and several new classrooms. Having served as the principal since 1987, Mrs. Lovelace was delighted to unveil the beautiful newly remodeled school site.

1998: In 1998, six Florida Educators were chosen as Fulbright Scholars and were hosted by the Government of Japan to a visit to Japanese schools and homes. The representatives included Madonna Jervis Wise, Principal from West Zephyrhills who forged a partnership between her school and the elementary school in Nara, Japan. This grew into an international partnership which was initiated by Dr. Mary Giella, Assistant Superintendent who tapped Wise to be part of the USF initiative. Ing-Britt Pousette, principal from Sweden, nodded approvingly as a parent at West described how she volunteers twice a week to help children at the school learn to read.”It is better when the teachers are not always the experts,” said Pousette, 46, of St. Olofsskolan School in Sundsvall, Sweden. Pousette concluded that Swedish and U.S. schools face many of the same challenges. West and Sundsvall, Sweden students compared notes on weather and climate conditions throughout the year.

1999: Nancy Massey Perkins was named Pasco County’s outstanding social studies teacher in 1999. Nancy, a 1970 graduate of ZHS, attended West Zephyrhills elementary as a student and is proud of the fact that her mother has served the school for many years as a bus driver as well. She was nominated by Kathy Steiner, District Social Studies Supervisor, because of her innovative interdisciplinary units on Native Americans and The Wild West. Perkins arranged for the entire school to visit Spunk Sasser’s Rodeo and much to everyone’s surprise, Perkins and Principal Wise rode their quarter horses for the kids!

2003: West Zephyrhills Elementary jumped two letter grades, from a C to an A – the largest improvement of any of the schools in the county.

“We are all in shock,” said a gleeful Emily Keene, principal at West Zephyrhills. Keene said that when she saw the grades on the State Department of Education’s Web site, she announced it over the intercom for the enjoyment of teachers working during the summer. Keene credited the school’s teachers for their focus on reading and writing instruction last year. An after-school program that attracted about 60 students also helped, she said. “It was just a lot of hard work,” Keene said. “I’m really proud of everyone.”

From Clereen and Madonna, we second that Emily! We are very proud of all who have served West!

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on November 5, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Memories of Jim & Claudette

By , 1 March, 2010, No Comment

In follow up to our countdown story on James E. and Claudette Davis, we asked alumni to send us recollections. We got some wonderful responses. Here are a few that we think you will enjoy.

Coach Davis was on me to play football. I told him that I was not playing. My plan was to avoid  spring practice. Then my plan was to come out when the regular season started. Mr. Davis said, Robert, you are to play and I said, I’m not playing now. Coach Davis arrived at our house at 5:30 a.m. the next morning and ended up having coffee and breakfast with my mom. I ended up having to go to spring training! ~Robert Reeves ‘70

As a 1972 graduate of ZHS I had the opportunity of knowing Mr. Jimmy Davis during his days as a teacher and principal.  He was the epitome of a true, southern gentleman, and I always had a tremendous amount of respect for him. However, it was not until I married into the Hill family in 1975, that I really got to know him well.  He was like a third son to Ada and Ed Hill (my in-laws) and another brother to my late husband, Dale, and brother in-law, Carl.  Over the years we spent many special times together as “southern” families do—great meals, celebrations of marriage, anniversaries, births, birthdays and even those times of mourning as we said farewell to our loved ones.

There was always one constant…and that was Jimmy’s presence!  He was always there for us…in good times and bad. But the most wonderful memories that my family shared with Jimmy are the many special hunting trips spent together in our camp in southwest Georgia.  Jimmy was by far the best friend to Ed, Ada and Dale and Carl, but as our children (Tiffani, Britni, Dustin, Heather, Kara and David) grew up, they too loved Jimmy and his family as if they were blood relatives.  He was a tremendous support to my children and I during Dale’s death in 1995, and a wonderful mentor to all of our children in regard to educational endeavors.  He always gave wise advice to us and it was guided by his moral compass and tremendous compassion to see others succeed in life.  His educational background and loving support helped to pave the way for the success that our children have experienced in both college and their early careers.  I so wish Jim and Claudette a wonderful retirement and many years of contentment that is so well deserved!  I salute Jimmy Davis as both an educational mentor and a wonderful friend!!  He is truly a beloved and extended part of the HILL family… and always will be. ~Judy (Alston) Hill ‘72

Coach Davis showing Ryan Gray how to receive a baton, 1968-- courtesy of ZHS

Coach Davis showing Ryan Gray how to receive a baton, 1968-- courtesy of ZHS

I was a student under Mr. Davis; he was a teacher, mentor, and without me knowing it a friend.  I can clearly recall my math class with Mr. Davis. Ben Cook and Tony Neal were in the class with me, and we received some special tutoring on a regular basis. Our parents had agreed to corporal punishment as needed, and well let’s just say, we needed it more than I like to remember.  He also would let me sneak away to the lunchroom where my grandmother worked (Belle Locke) to scam a couple of her best fresh-baked yeast rolls.  I always shared!  I left ZHS for three years to attend Brandon and returned just after Christmas break in the 11th grade.  Sure enough there was Mr. Davis, and we resumed our special relationship, yet now it was more of a mentoring and coaching friendship. He often asked, “Kenny, what are you going to do with your life?”  I really did not know.  He helped guide me to the Air Force where I served 20 years and retired.  I would often see Jim after I left school. My mother Nell Nesbit, ZHS Class of ’56, worked as a special education assistant, so I would stop in and talk with Jim.  He was always interested in what I was doing, and what my plans were.  He was a true example of leadership. I learned so much from him, and I hope in the end he is proud of me as a student and a person. ~Ken Nesbit ‘72

My memories of Mr. Davis are as  “Coach” because that is what he always was to us. My older brothers were on the football and track teams so I got to hang around their practices from about fourth grade on. I remember Coach giving the players instructions on running through the line in football. Then without pads on he would show them. I also remember him being the strongest person I had ever seen—lifting weights. I remember going fishing with him along with my dad and brothers. Then later on as Dean of Boys getting sent to his office; he would tell me to not do whatever it was that got me sent to the office and then we would talk about fishing. He was a very respected person growing up and a father-type figure as well. Thanks, Coach Davis! ~Keith Reeves ‘76

I remember my brother, Larry Thomas, class of 1970 who thought highly of Coach Davis as his JV football coach in the late 60’s. I had him at Junior High. You always knew he would listen and he always carried himself like an exemplary leader. Gee! He witnessed a lot of changes. He may have been old school by the one’s I see today, but had good character – Solid character! ~Cyndee Thomas ‘79

Claudette Davis is a classy southern lady! She was a wonderful co-worker who brought energy, wit, and knowledge to the worksites she served in Pasco County.  My years working with Claudette were some of the most enjoyable times of my career that I spent working at West Zephyrhills Elementary School.  She made it fun–not like work at all.  She was truly the best of friend to me through challenging and changing times in education.~ Nancy Massey Perkins ’70

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on November 5, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Jim and Claudette Davis

By , 26 February, 2010, 1 Comment
James E. Davis

James E. Davis

Dorothy. may have said there is no place like home but Principal Jim Davis clearly feels there is no place like Zephyrhills. He is thankful for the opportunity to have served a cohesive community such as Zephyrhills that was concerned about young people and showed warmth and caring. “I would do it all again!” said Jim.

We had the distinct pleasure this week to interview James E. Davis who served as Principal of ZHS, Zephyrhills Junior High and Director of Employee Relations for the School District and his wife of 42 years, Claudette who also retired as an educator from Pasco County Schools.  Many alumni asked us to interview Mr. and Mrs. Davis for a countdown tribute.

Mr. Davis served ZHS from 1966 to 1975 and was principal from 1973 to 1975. He had the unique situation of assuming the principalship in 1973 when previous principal, Raymond Stewart was appointed by Florida Governor Reuben Askew to complete the term of Rodney B. Cox, Superintendent,  who died suddenly. It was an emotional and tumultuous time and Mr. Davis was the man for the job to bring a sense of normalcy and caring to the school during the transition. Later after Raymond lost the superintendent’s election, James became principal at ZJHS (now R.B. Stewart Middle School) from 1975 to 1984. Prior to becoming principal, James was a dean of students, assistant principal, math teacher and coach for hundreds of students at ZHS.

He retired in 2003 after serving for 19 years as the chief negotiator for the school district in the position of Director of Employee Relations. This unique leadership experience is indicative of the character of the man; Jim voluntarily stepped down as high school principal when Ray Stewart was out of a job because he felt it was the right thing to do. Undoubtedly that character has impacted many students, in fact generations, and enriched our community!

As we interviewed Jim and Claudette we found several recurring themes in their recollections: memories of students, pride in teachers, fondness for the community and commitment.

STUDENTS: “I enjoyed every one of them, and I remember them all,” Jim said. “I always tried to treat students the way I would want people to treat my kids.” Claudette added, “The students always knew that Jim cared.”

The life of a principal is one of self-sacrifice. Often Jim supervised students until midnight after ball games making certain that every student was safely picked up. Being a dean was a tough and grueling job as well; Jim recalled that he would telephone parents if students were absent (before the automated phone systems of today). He recalled making a phone call to the home of Mark Penney from the Class of 1971, a running back on the ZHS football team and talking with his mother.  After the mother said Mark was refusing to come to school, Jim made a home visit, ousted Mark and was invited for breakfast. After this incident Mark never missed another day of school.

A few personal anecdotes that Jim shared, were representative of the impact that he had on families. During his first year of teaching at ZHS after having taught in Tampa for one year, a group of his Van Buren students skipped school to make an excursion to Zephyrhills just to visit Mr. Davis. He recalls being called down to the principal’s office to meet with the group. One member of that first group of students, Bruce Kidd, telephoned Jim a couple of years ago to let him know that he had become a math professor at St. Petersburg Junior College.

Reuben Odom was another story that came to mind as Jim recalled Reuben phoning him at 2:00 a.m. a few years ago while on leave from the Navy to let him know that he was getting married the next day.  He just thought his old coach would want to know and characteristically, Jim felt honored to receive the call, even in the middle of the night.

Claudette and Jim said that they see students everywhere they go. Jim particularly enjoys the multi-generational groups. Even while serving as principal, he said it was quite extraordinary to work with a student whose parent you had also taught.  Not only do they see students in the local community, they said they have run into former students in other locations, Louisiana and elsewhere. The impact is truly far-reaching not only in geographic but personal impact. Jim is proud that several of his students later became teachers; Jerry Pricher and others keep in close contact with him.

BUILDINGS: Jim reminisced about the former ZHS campus. He said he remembered walking in to the vintage 1926 brick building each morning and just absorbing the character and history of the place.  When the school was on double sessions, he would usually arrive at 6:00 a.m. and do a regular walkthrough.  The auditorium and the hallways held many memories. Jim began teaching at ZHS in the first portable that the school district ever built. He said his portable was beside the classroom of Jean Murphy who was one of the first reading teachers in the school district. He personally constructed sidewalks along with Ray Stewart and tore down one of the Physical Education sheds. Lots of labor was poured into those buildings and the principals used to perform a great deal of it themselves.

Claudette Davis

Claudette Davis

COMMUNITY: “Zephyrhills was a fine place to work and an excellent place to raise your family,” said Jim. People had different concerns and positions but they worked through them without personal animosity.  So many key people made a difference; he recalled Jack Linville, Phil Shaver, Don Robinson, George Neukom, Bill Eiland, Bob Howell Bernie Wickstrom, and Irene Dobson. “I think the community supported the school  because they saw good people who cared about students.” Jim was principal of ZHS during integration and when asked about that time frame, he said that although they had a few situations, it was a smooth time. Openness with the students and creating an atmosphere of acceptance was essential. He credited Irene Dobson and the first African American Assistant Principal, Melvin Denard, as being instrumental in assisting with the process as well.

PARENTS:  Forging a bond with the parents was also a key principle that he followed. Jim said, “When parents realize you will protect and teach their children, and that you are headed in the same direction, you are a team. I believe in getting to know the parents. In those days the auditorium was jammed full when we had parent meetings.  The parents really viewed the principal and teachers as extensions of themselves as well.”

TEACHERS: Jim often brought the coaches home for dinner, said Claudette who is known to be a fantastic cook.  They recalled a time when Jim interviewed a teacher applicant, Carl Waldron and Jim invited him home for lunch; Jim said Carl called his wife, Mary, right there and said “I want this job because the principal even took me to his house for lunch.” Jim said that he had the type of teachers that you wanted to teach your own children. “They all liked kids!” He reminisced about Business/Language Arts Teacher, Constance Kaylor and recalled the day that she came to school and as they were chatting over a cup of coffee, mentioned that she had tripped on the sidewalk on the way to school. As it turned out she had broken her arm on the way to school but was concerned that Mr. Davis might not be able to find a suitable substitute, so wanted to make sure her students were taken care of before going to the hospital.

Throughout the interview Jim shared vignettes on some of the outstanding staff. Recognizable names were George Scudder, Cora McCreedy, John Clements, Jean Murphy, Ron Jeffries, Lisa Gude, Jake Redmon, Melvin Denard, Joyce Snow, Jane Reams, Stan Kendrick, Victor Smith, Liz Geiger, Victor Smith, Marion Crawford, Ann Crawford, Bill Kustes, Bill Worthington, Hazel Massey, Cora McCreedy, Dan Thomas, Mary Lou Massey and countless others.  He said an outstanding secretary, Evelyn Lail, contributed to many smooth years as well.

Jim shared that as Director of Employee Relations, he negotiated the teacher contact for nearly 20 years with the Union President, Liz Geiger, who had been one of the best math teachers he had known and always enjoyed a friendly camaraderie. He laughed about recruiting lunchroom manager Mary Lou Massey away from colleague principal, Ferd Renninger. It was obvious in the interview that Mr. Davis was a leader who inspired his staff.

As authors, we both had numerous encounters with Mr. Davis. Clereen was a student of his under his principalship and shared with him that she vividly recalled the location on the campus where she was caught in a public display of affection (PDA) and received her one and only detention. She chuckled as she recalled, “Mr. Davis, it must have been a great kiss because Jim Brunty and I have now been married 35 years.”  Madonna also shared that she was proud to recall that Jim hired her in her first teaching job and had a profound affect upon her career as well. “He and Claudette are just the best!”

Claudette Davis served for many years in the Pasco County School System as well. She is perhaps best known as the principal’s secretary for West Zephyrhills Elementary where she retired a few years ago but also helped to open Centennial Elementary School, Woodland Elementary School and Weightman Middle School. She fondly recalls working at Moore-Mickens Middle School in its final year as a middle school. Claudette is known as a wonderful care-taker for children and a tremendous child and parent advocate. Pitching in with fundraisers, joining in to serve at school dinners for the community and hosting celebrations for FCAT successes are memories that many have of Claudette. Always the first one to greet new students and parents coming to retrieve their children for an appointment or early dismissal, her warmth and nurturing spirit set the tone for the school.  All remember her lovely smile. Asked to share some memories, Claudette recalled her friend the Rev. Cora Hill whom she worked with at Moore-Mickens.

Mr. Davis is a 1959 Brandon High School graduate who served in the Army Reserve and graduated from the University of South Florida (its first graduating class) with a Bachelor of Arts in education in 1964. He taught and coached one year at Pasco Junior High and one year at Van Buren Junior High in Tampa, before coming to ZHS in 1966 as a ninth grade teacher. He coached track five years and assisted in football two years and was appointed as Dean of Boys in 1968. He became Stewart’s assistant in 1971.  He earned a Master’s Degree in Administration from Western Carolina University in 1971. Claudette and Jim have three children: Kimberly, Kelly, and James Jr. They are very proud of their children’s accomplishments. Kimberly Cassarelli is a cadet in the Police Academy and the parent of two children, Devon and Erin; Daughter Kelly Padilla is a graduate of USF and employed by Well Care and the parent of Frankie; and son, Jimmy is a graduate of the University of Florida where he is employed and currently working on his Master’s Degree.  All are graduated of ZHS.

Clereen and I could not resist asking about the obvious love affair between this handsome and devoted couple. With a chuckle, they said their first date was the ZHS senior prom at the Zephyrhills Municipal Auditorium. Jim said, “Can you imagine? The first date and I was supervising the students?”  Claudette laughed and said, “Not to worry, it was love at first sight.” They both agreed that acclimating to Zephyrhills was assisted by the gracious support of Beanie Clements and Betty Hall who would leave a gift or share a kindness to help them feel more a part of the Zephyrhills community!

Thank you Jim and Claudette for all of the lives you have touched.  The legacy will stretch to further generations. We are humbled by your service and want you to know you serve as an example to all of us!

Next week we would like to share alumni recollections of Jim and Claudette. Please write in!

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on October 29, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Homecoming, a tradition

By , 25 February, 2010, No Comment

Homecoming is a festive time in a high school’s schedule of events. Traditionally it has been an occasion for alumni to return to the school and gather for reunions to renew acquaintances.  Over time, it has evolved into a signature event for the high school to boost school loyalty laced with a bit of jingoism for the spirit of the school, and most certainly the camaraderie support of the football team. I imagine every reader has at least one flashback on a memorable event such as the Homecoming game, a lively pep-rally, or memorable homecoming dance.

This year at ZHS the current homecoming week features a series of confidence-boosting, rally-enhancing merriment that will lift the football team and foster cohesiveness.  The scheduled events include designated dress-up days for the week, homecoming parade, the illustrious football game and a homecoming dance. A bit of easing of the school district official code of conduct’s dress code for the week permits students to assemble a creative outfit each day to reveal their true school spirit.  With homecoming week coinciding with Halloween, ZHS Student Council has capitalized on the time of the year to designate the official parade theme as ‘Favorite Horror Movie and/or Villian,’ so we should see some unique floats in the community parade on Friday.

If you happen to pass by the ZHS campus this week, you will see students dressed according to the designated Homecoming days which include:

Monday – Sports Day – Adorn your favorite professional or college team’s attire

Tuesday – Spotlight Day – Dress in red, green or yellow to designate your dating status?

Wednesday – Horror Movie or Favorite Villain Day?

Thursday – Twin Day – Select a friend and dress in matching twin outfits.

Friday – Spirit Day – Adorn yourself in orange and black and prepare the football team for victory!

Also note that the Homecoming Parade occurs in downtown Zephyrhills on Friday afternoon followed by the Homecoming game at the ZHS football field in the evening against Gulf High School.

Saturday – the Homecoming dance occurs in the Activity Center

So what of the history of homecoming at ZHS? We did a bit of digging to reveal to you a few snippets of information. We know of course that the first football team at ZHS was born in 1941-42 and composed of Dick Grange, Dick Tucker, Vernon Shaeffer, B.J. East, Nattie Storms, Bill Duey, Carl Lippincott, Willie Smith, Sanford Delk, Otis Jones, Norman Turner, Merrill Cherry, Carl England, Thurman Clardy, Richard Kelly, Billy Parsons and  Coach Thomas Burch Cornelius, and Assistant Coach,  W.W. Jackson. (Photo included) For several years due to World War II, ZHS was without a football team so we can only surmise that homecoming didn’t begin until a few years later.

Members of Zephyrhills High School's inaugural football team that played in 1941

Members of Zephyrhills High School's inaugural football team that played in 1941

In our research we found mention of homecoming around 1949. Our ZHS 100 committee has entertained the idea of compiling a comprehensive list of the homecoming games/scores as well as the homecoming queens and kings throughout history.  With this idea in mind, we invite you to send us information about the homecoming activities you recall. We promise to compile these for the upcoming centennial celebrations. Here are a few glimpses at homecomings that appeared to be prominent in the microfilm of the Zephyrhills News. For our history buffs out there, we hope these accounts will bring smiles to your face.

1950: Mary Ann Vestal ruled as queen over the ZHS Homecoming Game last Wednesday night and Paula Staples as princess. Others appearing in the half-time festivities were:  Lynda Wheeler, Vonda Clardy, Bunny Sue Sibley, and Julia Belle Pracher. Roger Whitworth was king and Jake Sapp, prince.  Jean Johnson, the 1949 Homecoming Queen crowned our new queen.

1953: 1953 Homecoming King and Queen are Raymond Geiger and Joan Myers. Neva Sellars, President of the class, served as emcee for the program.

1956: Colorful ZHS Homecoming festivities began Friday evening at toss-up time, when Bulldogs co-captains, Glenn Miller and Joe Thorn and sponsors, Ann Smith and Margaret Keen were spotted meeting the Crystal River captains and their sponsors on Krusen Field.  Drena Hampton was crowned by Carol Hughes, 1955 queen, with a tiara, given last year by former Mayor and Mrs. I.A. Krusen for the purpose.

1959: ZHS annual homecoming festivities will be climaxed this Friday evening with the crowning of royalty during halftime at Krusen Field.  A parade of floats will originate at the campus. Led by a police escort,  cheerleaders, majorettes, band, and class and organization floats will parade north on 10th street to 5th Avenue and then west to 1st street. The paraders will stop at 5th Avenue and 8th Street for a pep rally.  Another rally will be held after the parade.  The king and prince have been selected by members of the ZHS football team, under auspices of Student Council President, Bobby Baggett. Loretta Bamberger, homecoming queen for 1958, will crown 1959 royalty.

1961: Highlighting the ZHS’s 1961 homecoming festivities during halftime of the football game between the Bulldogs and the East Bay Indians at Charles B. Krusen Memorial Field Friday evening was the crowing of Linda Cavin as queen and Frank Kersey as king.  Sharing coronation honors with them were Bonnie Rannald as princess and Johnny Clements as prince. Dorothy Daniels, last year’s homecoming queen, crowned Queen Linda and King Frank in ceremonies, emceed by David Smith, last year’s student council president. Miss Cavin was escorted by Buzzie Reutimann.

Zephyrhills High School's 1951 Royalty were Homecoming Queen Joan Johnson, and Homecoming King Billy Richard

Zephyrhills High School's 1951 Royalty were Homecoming Queen Joan Johnson, and Homecoming King Billy Richard

1963: At the half-time Friday night, Judy Smith was crowned Homecoming Queen by 1962 Queen Susan Nichols. Diane Clements was crowned Princess by last year’s Princess, Anna Jo Davis.  Linda Sante and Mary Stanley were named sophomore and freshman maids. Also out for the coronation was “Big Mike” McGinnis who was crowned Homecoming King for 1963 and Ronnie Carroll, prince. And to top it all off, the Student Council sponsored the Homecoming Dance Saturday night. David Myers was in charge of the decorations and entertainment for the night. The room was strung with orange and black streamers meeting in the center. Up on the stage was a huge orange “Z”, donated by the seniors from their float.  It was flanked by foil letters saying “ZHS Homecoming.”  The FFA String Band performed for us and the rest of the program was emceed by Karol Kelly of Radio Station WZRH.

1968: Homecoming was one of the best and most successful for ZHS. There was something for everyone to participate in whether it was sticking a pin into  “Voodoo Ram” or cheering the team on at pep rally. The week ended perfectly with the team winning. During halftime of the game the Bulldog Marching Band formed a heart and as royalty candidates were escorted down the center. Everyone held their breath as Mr. Bill Brown (emcee) opened the envelope containing the final results. Sue Douglas was crowned 1968 Homecoming Queen by last year’s queen, Donna Bales.  Johnny Braxton was selected by the entire football team to reign with her as Homecoming King.  Two very deserving juniors, Sabra Cooper and Keathel Chauncey, received the honored titles of Homecoming Princess and Prince. Completing the Royalty Court were Lois Wells and Martha Padgett. Juniors captured first place honors with their float, “Darn the Rams.”  Second place honors went to the freshmen with their float, “Whip the Rams.”  Third place was awarded to the Senior Class with their float, “Dam the Rams.” The sophomores placed last with their float, “Knock Out the Rams,” but they received the honor of burning the “Voodoo Ram” at the bonfire and were recognized for decorating the halls with the best posters. Alumni were recognized at half time by being asked to stand. Mrs. Angie Skinner and Frank Sellars received a gift for being the earliest graduates of ZHS present at the game.

1970: ZHS had its first Homecoming egg toss. ‘Movies’ was the theme for 1970 Homecoming floats. Bruce Vogel, junior class president, said that the bonfire, pep rally and car smash scheduled for next Thursday is going to be the best ever. Other activities include tricycle races during lunch hours.

1971: Joni Palmer was crowned queen at halftime of the football game between ZHS and South Sumter High. Crowning the new queen was Ginger Douglas. Glenda Sisk, last year’s princess, crowned this year’s junior class winner, Janet Edmonston. Elected in voting within the football squad were James ‘Ricky’ Giles as King and Van McKenzie as Prince.

1973: Featured in the coronation of Homecoming Royalty at halftime of Friday night’s football game were six ZHS students:  Sue Sinacola, Queen Carl Hill (no. 10), King; Princess Patty Rutherford, and  Prince, Larry Hilton (no. 60). Flanking the group was Marta Meengs, freshman maid and Carla Burkham, sophomore maid.

1974: Karen Hughes was chosen by her fellow classmates to reign as the 1974 ZHS Homecoming Queen. The halftime coronation ceremonies were a highlight of the football game with Dunnellon Friday night. Others on the field at the climax of the ritual were Carla Burkam, sophomore maid; Dirk Padgett, Homecoming King; Christi Spoto, Princess; John Fries, Prince and Nancy Dockery, Freshman Maid.

The 1967 Homecoming Queen, Nancy Bently, crowns the 1968 Queen, Donna Bales

The 1967 Homecoming Queen, Nancy Bently, crowns the 1968 Queen, Donna Bales

1976: The homecoming royalty at Krusen Field  were King Ricky Padgett, named by the football team; Queen Andra Douglas, chosen by the student body and Trish Inman as Princess and Phil Fries as Prince. Chairman of the float committee is Beaty Cunningham and he said the parade float theme will be “Song Titles.” Floats will be judged on originality, construction, and appearance and the trophy will be awarded at halftime Friday night.

1978: Big events include a bonfire today after band practice and coronation rehearsal, and the annual Homecoming parade through downtown Zephyrhills. Teresa Ashbaugh is parade chairman.Candidates for Homecoming Queen are: Angie Baker, Brenda Howell, Cindy Dann, and Darlene Roman.

1995: Homecoming court is: Deana Deno, queen; Ricky Moore, king; Emilee Lewis, princess; Kevin Barry, prince; Rana Prior, sophomore maid; Brad Wernsing, sophomore squire; Elisia Rickard, freshman maid; and Will Stimpson, freshman squire.  A series of special contests and dress-up activities are sponsored and underway to boost enthusiasm.

Our list is by no means comprehensive, so send us your recollections, news clippings and memorabilia for our centennial bash! Savor the memories also!

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on October 22, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: 4-H Contributions Then & Now

By , 24 February, 2010, 2 Comments
1957 4-H Boy’s 4-H Club at Zephyrhills High School-Fred Trebour, Robert H. Campbell, Johnny Clements; second row-Paul Pattie, Paul Carlson, James Scborila, Curtis Tucker, Tommy Ross, Charles Grantham, Kenney Bloom; third row-Fred Lott, Jack Bently, John Dickinson, Ralph Couper, James Hill, James Clark, Ronald Highsmith, Tommy Geiger, Paul Yebba; fourth row-Larry Weicht, Jerome Outlaw, Jimmy Daniels, Leslie Dixon, Billy Coolidge, Charles Petty, Ronald Humphries, Marion Amerson, Tom McQuaddy, James Bohanan, Eddie Johnston, Leon Wilson. Photo from ZHS.

1957 4-H Boy’s 4-H Club at Zephyrhills High School-Fred Trebour, Robert H. Campbell, Johnny Clements; second row-Paul Pattie, Paul Carlson, James Scborila, Curtis Tucker, Tommy Ross, Charles Grantham, Kenney Bloom; third row-Fred Lott, Jack Bently, John Dickinson, Ralph Couper, James Hill, James Clark, Ronald Highsmith, Tommy Geiger, Paul Yebba; fourth row-Larry Weicht, Jerome Outlaw, Jimmy Daniels, Leslie Dixon, Billy Coolidge, Charles Petty, Ronald Humphries, Marion Amerson, Tom McQuaddy, James Bohanan, Eddie Johnston, Leon Wilson. Photo from ZHS.

The week of October 5th was National 4-H week. With our recent article on the contributions of scouting to the development of our community’s rich history, we wanted to focus attention this week on another important nonprofit youth organization, 4-H. Florida 4-H celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2009 and boasts 234,000 members and 10,000 volunteers statewide.  Florida 4-H began with corn clubs for boys in 1909 which was followed by tomato clubs for girls in 1912. The history of Zephyrhills is full of reference to 4-H and Extension organizations. In the early years of 4-H, projects were mainly focused on canning, corn growing and livestock projects. In the 1930’s, expansion of 4-H projects for girls included offerings such as clothing, home management, food and nutrition, and other home economics projects. Expansion for boys encompassed soil conservation, tractor driving, engineering, electricity and agricultural production projects. We know from our research that Zephyrhills had a 4-H club as early as 1913. Our article this week provides just a few snapshots of 4-H over time in our community.  The historical vignettes come from both pages of microfilm and recollections of local ZHS alumni. We realize the list is by no means, comprehensive, but we hope it will give you an indication of the educational impact that this organization has had over time. See if you recognize any of these names?  Please share with us more 4-H memories.

1913: Mrs. Rosemary Wallace Trottman, the author of The History of Zephyrhills, 1821-1921, was an active member of the Zephyrhills 4-H Tomato Club back in 1913. Rosemary was invited to be the keynote speaker at a 1976 4-H banquet and proudly detailed her tomato projects in the early years of the town when nearly every city home had a hearty garden and livestock. 4-H was not only social but important for learning some basic skills. She added that the passing of the Smith Lever Act was critical because it created the cooperative extension service.

1926 4-H Club Girls Camp

In 1926 the News announced that the annual camp of Home Demonstration 4-H Club girls would be held at the Port Richey home of the Demonstration Agent, Mrs. Harriett Ticknor. A photo of the girls in vintage bathing attire drinking bottles of milk, was posted proudly in the newspaper of the day with a caption entitled, Milk For Health.

1939 Produced Some National Winners

An announcement in the October 1939 Zephyrhills News celebrated students, Max Bryant & Dave Boatwright for winning University of Florida 4-H Scholarships as  a result of their Florida Dairy Team Demonstration competition. The boys competed at the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco and the community delight was depicted in the article as it stated, We have just received a wire from Mr. McClellan stating that the Florida Dairy Demonstration Team won the scholarship in the National Dairy Demonstration Contest in San Francisco.

1954: Phyllis Geiger Debien of the class of 1954 related that the mention of 4-H brings back great memories. Marianne Simmons was our leader so you know we always had plenty of projects to do (sewing, cooking, crafts, etc.)  I still have some of the ribbons that I won at the county fair, but the most memorable event was summer camp, years 1946-48.  We went to Camp MacQuarrie on a lake up near Ocala and slept in log cabins with bunk beds. It was the first time away from home except staying with cousins.  Crafts, singing, talent night, swimming lessons in the lake and some boating—I will never forget the feeling of that cold wet bathing suit in the morning!

1957: The News reported on a September 1957 meeting at the Florida Power Home Service Center of the 4-H Club. New officers for the year were Laura Higginson, President;  Ann Brooke Smith, vice president; Leslie Smith, secretary-treasurer, Barbara Higginson, Council Delegate, Betty Jo Hall, song leader and Ellen Barefoot, reporter.  Six Crystal Springs 4-H Club boys were also recognized at the annual county awards banquet that year: David Coell, dairy judging team; Joe Higginson, garden, dairy judging team and junior lamb; Paul Pattie, safety, dairy judging team, electricity and swine; Richard Morton, dairy judging team; Hal Morton, electricity and safety; and Jim Marsh, safety.

1957 4-H Girl’s 4-H Club at Zephyrhills High School-Barbra Higginson, Laura Higginson, Ann Smith, Leslie Smith; second row-Brenda Sue Brown, Myrtis Nelson, Vickie Hopkins, Patricia Jackson, Nancy Overhauls, Elaine Howard, Mary Ann Trebour, Patricia Chancey; third row-Gail Hill, Judy Trebour, Fay Gaskin, Ellen Barefoot, Vonceil Smith, Carol Shinner. Photo from ZHS.

1957 4-H Girl’s 4-H Club at Zephyrhills High School-Barbra Higginson, Laura Higginson, Ann Smith, Leslie Smith; second row-Brenda Sue Brown, Myrtis Nelson, Vickie Hopkins, Patricia Jackson, Nancy Overhauls, Elaine Howard, Mary Ann Trebour, Patricia Chancey; third row-Gail Hill, Judy Trebour, Fay Gaskin, Ellen Barefoot, Vonceil Smith, Carol Shinner. Photo from ZHS.

1964: Leslie (Smith) Ehrich, Class of 1964, told us that 4-H was a significant part of her youth in Zephyrhills. She related that her sister and two brothers were also in 4-H: Ann (Smith) Neukom, Class of 1958 and Ben Smith, Class of 1959. We were all 4-Hers along with our older brother Chan, who had already graduated in Virginia before we moved to Zephyrhills. During my school years, from age 9 until I graduated, 4-H was a large part of my life. Our mother, Mary Jeter, had been a 4-H’er in her youth and she raised us in the program.  As farm children, it was just a part of our lives.  We participated in most all of the projects offered.  Back in those days, girls were expected to have girl projects and boys had more of the agricultural side. When we arrived in Pasco County, there were no girls in the dairy program. Only after Mama assured the County Agent that she would be with us all the time, were we approved to show our cattle.  Mama was very knowledgeable on the subject and taught us well.  We all seemed to have a livestock aptitude and we enjoyed a lot of success with our Zephyrhills Guernsey dairy cattle. For me in particular, what I didn’t learn from Mama at home, I learned in 4-H.   With my best friend, Jere (Alston) Harkness, Class of 1964, by my side, we learned to sew this and cook that.  We made annual trips to Tallahassee (FSU) for additional classes on subjects that we could take back and share with younger members. One of my proudest 4-H accomplishments was a young lady from Zephyrhills who was just getting into 4-H as I was getting out. She had been given a Guernsey heifer calf and I spent many afternoons working with her and the calf.  Bonnie (Brocies) Jolly, Class of 1972, was one of the best 4-Her’s Pasco County has ever had.  She participated in many different projects, with emphasis on her dairy cow and beef steers each year.  And now, after all these years, she is an Extension Agent in Kentucky, and of course, works primarily with 4-H groups.  We are still close friends.  4-H gave me my proudest moments of my youth years.

1965: In 1965 Zephyrhills 4-H was featured in National Geographic magazine. Ron Penn, class of 1965 related that his grandmother, Mary Lloyd, was one of the 4-H leaders and he actively participated in swine and poultry projects.  Coincidentally, he and another ZHS alumni, Joe Maniscalco made national news in October 1964 when a middle-eastern dignitary was touring Pasco County. To experience the local culture, the visiting official was taken to none other than a county fair, Pasco.  Feeling it was newsworthy, National Geographic published a prominent photo of Ron and Joe with Ron’s prized rooster.  Ron says he still has the 4-H pin from his project.

Ron Penn and Joe Maniscalco with Blue Ribbon 4-H Rooster at Pasco County Fair in 1964; photo appeared in National Geographic. Photo from Ron Penn.

Ron Penn and Joe Maniscalco with Blue Ribbon 4-H Rooster at Pasco County Fair in 1964; photo appeared in National Geographic. Photo from Ron Penn.

1972: The Pasco County 4-H Dairy Judging team in February 1972, placed first at the Florida State Fair and included Denise Williams who placed as high individual among the 60 4-H youths competing; Pam Griffin who ranked as fourth high individual; Octavio Blanco who ranked as fifth high individual and Martha Mester of Zephyrhills.

1976: In 1976 a News article discusses the annual awards ceremony with mention of several Zephyrhills students. The program opened with the pledge to the flag led by Jodi Cochrane and the 4-H pledge led by Missy Hush, 4-H creed by Mike Nutt and devotions by Martha Ross. Linda Dukes, president of the 4-H County Council presided with assistance by David Herring. Topics included: Public Speaking by Steve Lane; demonstration on electrification by Greg Seigrist; County Council Report by Diane St. Romaine and Scott Black, and Share the Fun by Kathy Hormuth, Martha Ross, Jan Jernstrom, and Don Jernstrom. Reports were given on pertinent topics: Citizenship Short Course by H.V. Nawlin; 4-H Congress by Tina Dukes; Teen Leadership Forum by Linda Dukes and Leadership Camp by Ronda Ferguson. County Commissioner Bill Hamilton presented county record book. Special awards were given to Valerie Trippet of Zephyrhills, achievement; David Herring and Kathy Nawlin, Outstanding 4-H’er of 1975-76; Ronda Ferguson and Scott Black, Essay Contest Winners.  Record book winners for the 1976  included: Valerie Trippett, Erik Dukes, Clark Mickler, Jesse Bryniarski, Don Jernstrom, Debbie St. Romaine, H.V. Nawlin, John Huggins, Rita Boyd, Elaine Cochrane, Martha Ross, Bob Hunt, Tina Dukes, Valerie McBride, Jody Cochrane, Bryan Lofley, Jane Futch, Nancy Nawlin, Greg Seigrist, Jan Jernstrom, Scott Black, Marilyn Sumner, Jimmie Huggins, Kathy Nawlin, Ronda Ferguson, David Herring, Joan Sumner, Kathy Norton and Greg Partridge.

1978: Earning the right to compete in the Florida’s 4-H Congress State Finals events July 24-28, 1978 at the University of Florida at Gainesville were four Zephyrhills students: June Neumann, horticulture; Jodi Nutt and Laura Mester for a team demonstration in agriculture; Don Jernstrom in veterinarian science and Ronda Ferguson in public speaking.

1980: Susan Steuart McGee, class of 1980 said, I remember really enjoying 4-H meetings and one thing that I vividly recall was doing a demonstration on compiling a sewing basket with fellow 4-H’er, Ronda Ferguson. We won first place!

1993: Robin Counsell started Zephyrhills 4-H Club and met regularly at Woodland Elementary. A wonderful community activist, Robin planned monthly activities along with her cousin, Tommy Martin.  Livestock projects and workshops were regular events.  Robin was always adamant that the club participate annually in the Coastal Clean-Up project. Andrea Counsell, Jean Morel, Andrew Counsell, Mamie Wise, Jeremy Morel and others showed pigs and steers each year. When this club was phased out, Mamie went on to join Leaders of Tomorrow 4-H Club lead by Francine Hancock. Pasco County lead the state when Wise became State 4-H President and Tye Reedy became Vice President in 2001. Mamie and Kristin Benedini competed at state public speaking competitions as well.

Current officers in 2009 of Zephyrhills 4-H: President:  Jeffrey Mitchell, Vice-President:  Evan Freeman, Secretary:  Summer Belasic, Treasurer:  Serena Tackett, Reporter:  Bradley Boydston, and Cloverbud:  Mallory Crandell. Photo from Christie Combs Mitchell.

Current officers in 2009 of Zephyrhills 4-H: President: Jeffrey Mitchell, Vice-President: Evan Freeman, Secretary: Summer Belasic, Treasurer: Serena Tackett, Reporter: Bradley Boydston, and Cloverbud: Mallory Crandell. Photo from Christie Combs Mitchell.

2009: Christie Combs Mitchell, class of 1992 and current 4-H leader, related, As my son, Jeffrey, began to grow up, agriculture became a passion for him. This undoubtedly stemmed from his great family role models—dad, Scott Mitchell, Grandpa Charles Combs, Uncle Chuck Combs, Uncle John Combs and his cousin, John Boy Combs).  As a family, we decided to start a local 4-H club here in Zephyrhills where we were born and raised—thus the Zephyrhills

4-H club was established in 2004.  Today the Zephyrhills 4-H Club is one of the most active clubs in Pasco! We have a great group of members, leaders and parents who all share in the love of our community, 4-H and agriculture. The 2009/2010 Zephyrhills 4-H Club Officers are students: Jeffrey Mitchell, President; Evan Freeman, Vice President; Summer Belasic, Secretary; Serena Tackett, Treasurer; Serena Tackett, Reporter and Bradley Boydston, Cloverbud.

As an author, please indulge me as I share that my daughter, Rachel Wise is also currently an active 4-H member of Boots & Bits 4-H Club along with ZHS Junior, Julie Baniszewski.  They focus on equestrian projects and do loads of community service in the area as well.

We have only captured a small contingent of 4-H history in the Zephyrhills community.  Please share with us your recollections of 4-H and its contributions to the community.

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on October 15, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise