Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Heritage from the Heart - April 2010

Tolle and Fitzpatrick Family Heritage

Over the years, I have been asked time and time again to share stories of my family Heritage. Friends and strangers walk into the Heritage House, and cottages, at Heritage Village and want to know more about the family that resided there and some of its history. Starting in March 2010, I decided to give this a try and write a monthly journal about my family Heritage, with the help of my family and friends. Not knowing where to begin, I decided to dedicate the March story (turned into a book ha-ha) to my parents, Ed and Kay Tolle and my in-laws, Charles B. & Dorothy Fitzpatrick. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing ! So get comfy and let’s get started…

The month of March has special meaning to both sides of my family. For my parents, Ed and Kay Tolle, it is the celebration of 64 years of marriage since March 14, 1946. For The Fitzpatrick family, it is the celebration of their Irish Heritage and St. Patrick’s Day. I thought it would only be fitting for me to share with you a piece of both sides of my family, and how we became one…

My dad, Edgar E. Tolle Jr. grew up in Lakeland, Florida. He and was one of 5 children, 3 brothers and one sister. Their names were Kendall, Carroll, Donald, Genevieve, and Edgar. Edgar Sr. was the Choral Director at 1st United Methodist Church in downtown Lakeland, on Lake Mirror. He was also the Choral Director at Florida Southern College and had a private practice of teaching voice. My dad’s mom’s name was Sadie. My mom said she was a fine example of a Christian wife and mother. She was a tiny little lady, and their only daughter, Genevieve, was just as tiny. My grandparents passed away when I was very young; so most my memory of them is from pictures and stories.

Skipping childhood for now, my Dad graduated from High School at the age of 16. Started college at FSC but decided to enlist in the Air Force, at 17, with two of us brothers (Carroll and Donald). Dad had mentioned that back then you were tested before enlisting and that he had scored higher than his two brothers that had graduated from college…he still takes great pride in that…ha-ha Dad is well known for his intelligence…his nickname was Whiz, later in college. By the way, this man still does the hard crossword puzzles in the paper every morning with a cup of coffee at the kitchen table…I never was good at those darn things!

Anyway, after serving in WWII Dad returned to Lakeland and started back to college on the GI Bill.

My Mom was an only child and the daughter of Hugh & Edna Barco, raised in Inverness Florida. She was the niece of Harvey & Ada B Edwards of Crystal River. Edna & Ada B were sisters. Edna was my "Mema" and Ada B was "Aunt B" to us kids. Mom was the granddaughter of John & Kitty Eubanks, which raised Edna & Ada B in what is now "The Heritage House". My Mom refers to this house as their home place. Mema was actually born in that house. Even though Mom grew up in Inverness, she spent much of her time in Crystal River, at the home place, with her grandparents. My grandfather, Mom’s Dad, had a stroke, so back then the nearest hospital was in Gainesville, so Mema spent a lot of time there.

For now, skipping childhood, Mom graduated from high school and headed to Florida Southern College, in Lakeland Florida.

Mom was there a couple years before meeting Dad, since he was off in WWII. She said the first time she recalls seeing him, he was sitting on a bench between Joseph Reynolds & Alan Spivey (college dorms at FSC, which are still there today). Mom was out taking pictures and snapped a shot of this handsome young man sitting alone. Mom said Dad must have been flattered and impressed because he asked her to attend a fraternity Open house with him then and there and she accepted. Dating in those days was basically going to watch him play tennis & basketball. She loved cheering him on and Dad was quite the athlete! By the way, Dad was a Theta Chi and Mom was a Delta Zeta. Mom and Dad met in September, got engaged on Thanksgiving, and Married in March…that’s right this romance was over a 6 month period. Wow … that was a short relationship, which by the way, Mema felt it was wayyyyy too short and wasn’t for them getting married so soon. They had not finished college and she had another fella from home, in mind for her daughter. Mom and Dad were "in love" and decided to elope… they had friends help them and traveled to Kingsland, Georgia where they had a Methodist preacher waiting for them to say their "I do’s". They honeymooned in Jacksonville and headed back to Lakeland to live and finish college. By the way, over time, my Dad and Mema became VERY close!

My parents had 3 children, Edgar E. Tolle III, Hugh E. Tolle, and Laura Louise Tolle Fitzpatrick. My parents raised us in Citrus County and they reside in Crystal River today. Their oldest son Edgar E. Tolle III passed away at the young age of 26, after a battle with Cancer. Huey married his high school sweet heart Kathy Andersen & Laura Lou married her high school crush, Patrick Fitzpatrick.  My parents have 7 grandchildren and 5 great grand- children, with one more on the way.

My mother was 4th generation from the Crystal River/Inverness area. My parents chose to move back to my Mom’s roots to raise their family. My grandfather, Hugh C. Barco, was the Tax Assessor but passed away from a heart attack and then my grandmother, Edna (Mema) was appointed his position by the Governor. Mema was very much a part of our lives as I grew up. After Mema gave up the position of Tax Assessor, my Dad ran for the position and won. Before Tax Assessor, my Dad worked many businesses…from being a Teacher to running the family Fish & Oyster Company (which by the way, was where Charlie’s Fish House is today.) There was a point in time that Dad shared an office space, in Crystal River, with a Lawyer by the name of Charles B. Fitzpatrick, a friend he knew socially and talked into opening his Law office in Crystal River. Pat nor I were in this world yet. They had a secretary by the name of Jean Varney, which we later went to school with her children. In my high school years, Dad became the President of Citizens National Bank. He and his good friend Ed Gerrits were in this together. Throughout most of his different business interests, Dad always came back to Real Estate. By the way, Dad still goes to his office at our family Real Estate Company every day, at the age of 86.

Oh by the way,  Miss Dot recalls dad and Mr. Fitz’ friendship started when they played baseball on a City League together, on the East side.  At that time there were only 3 teams (Inverness, Crystal River and Brooksville) that played each other on Sunday afternoons.  When dad and Mr. Fitz shared an office in Crystal River, dad recalls it was at the time when Mr. Fitz was drawing up the papers to legalize First Federal Savings & Loan, in Inverness. This was huge for Mr. Fitz and one of his many success stories of being an Attorney in Citrus County.  On many occasions, when business was slow…Dad and Mr. Fitz would close office and shoot pool at the Pool Hall down the street.   This is where they would conduct business and brainstorm…haha  The Pool Hall later burned down but was near the Water Tower, in Crystal River

My Mom taught school and was also the school Librarian. Between the two, she was in education for almost 10 years. As I grew up, I mostly remember her doing a lot of Volunteer work and being involved in many clubs. She helped form the Crystal River Junior Woman’s Club (on Citrus Avenue), which by the way, a good friend of hers, Dorothy Fitzpatrick, came from the Inverness Club to conduct the Induction of Officers. Mom also helped form ESA, was the first Altrusa President and very strong part of the Miss Citrus County Pageant for years…the list goes on and on…

My parents were great examples for my brothers and I. Growing up in politics, we were always in the public eye and were expected to act accordingly. We were raised in a Christian upbringing and were taught to treat people the way we would want to be treated. My Mom and Mema both raised us to behave because people were watching…Mom said that was true…because they were…ha-ha that was a part of being in the political world I think…Totally off the subject but another thing I remember about my Mema is she always said she was 39, every birthday she was 39…ironically she died at the age of 93 (the reverse). Also, we were always called her "partner". She loved life and her family and we loved her.

As you can tell, Mom and Dad were socially involved on both sides of the County...Dad worked in Inverness & Crystal River for many years, so his connections were very wide spread. Being raised on both sides of the County, Mom had strong strength in the community as well. Our county was small enough where everyone knew your name! Through the years, as you have read above, my parents were connected with the Fitzpatrick family, long before Pat and I knew our families even knew each other…Now to give you some history on the Fitzpatrick family…here goes…

Going back in time, my husbands parents, Charles B. & Dorothy Burkhalter Fitzpatrick were Irish Catholics. They were the proud parents of 5 sons… Mike, Spike, Timmy, Kevin, and of course Patrick.  When I came in the picture, Miss Dot’s mother, Beatrice Burkhalter Engel, lived next door to them. Miss Dot was one of two children, Bobby being her brother, lives in New Orleans today. Granny Engel was a tiny little lady that was as sweet as pie. She was adored by all who knew her! Her grandsons were the light of her life, there was no doubt! She lived a long healthy life and passed away at the age of 103, in 2005, under her daughter’s care. Mr. Fitz has one brother named Bob. He used to visit ever so often through the years, when I came into the picture. Bob had a deep voice and bald. My kids would refer to their brothers as Uncle Bobby or Bald Bob…ha-ha

Miss Dot is a very strong Irish woman that is very proud of her family.   Her son’s are her life and she gave them every inch of her being. She was a  volunteer as well and was a leader in the Cub Scouts (as if you wouldn’t imagine with 5 boys) one of the founders of the Pink Ladies at Citrus Memorial Hospital and one of the original organizers of the Woman’s groups in Inverness Golf & Country Club. She is a delightful woman and known for her jolly sense of humor. She is a book of family stories that will make you laugh until you cry. Personality is what she is full of and I think Pat is most like his Momma in this way.

Mr. Fitz was a well known Lawyer & Irishman in our community. I recall many years he would dress in green from head to toe on Saint Patrick’s Day. He would even go as far as dying his hair green .  He always made statements with his attire, which made him stand out in a crowd! He was a very intelligent, confident, charming, and handsome man. Needless to say all the boys took on his many wonderful qualities as well. I will have to say though, in my opinion, Kevin was most like his Dad, when it came to entertaining the public with his style and charm, but looking back at pictures, when Mike was in his teens, he was the spitting imagine of him in looks.

Dating the youngest Fitzpatrick son was not approved of when I was in high school, by either of our fathers I recall. I think they thought I was too young at the time (only 3 years but that was a lot back in high school). It wasn’t until one 4th of July, we both were home from college, that we had our first date (by the encouragement of Pat’s brother Timmy). That night was the first night of the rest of our lives together. We both went back to college after that week-end. Patplayed football for the Clemson Tigers, in South Carolina and me at Florida Southern, in Lakeland Florida (following in my parents footsteps). Long distance romance only made our hearts grow fonder. Pat asked me to marry him and we said our "I do’s" in Crystal River at the Plantation, out on the point, where many weddings are held today. I married my lucky Irishman, Patrick, on June 7, 1980. This June, we will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. We have 4 beautiful children that are now married and blessed us with 5 amazing grandchildren (and one more on the way).

A large family was something Pat and I both wanted, so we wasted no time after we got married. Our first child was a son, Patrick Shane Jr. and was born on July 6, 1981. About 18 months later, a daughter, Erin Kathleen was born. My Dad and Mr. Fitz were very proud grandfathers. I recall them both, along with all the brothers at Citrus Memorial waiting for the new arrivals. Mr. Fitz loved watching his Irish legacy grow! Our third Daughter, Elaina Kristine, was born on September 5, 1985…just a few months before Mr. Fitz was hospitalized and passed away on New Years Day…1986. Spike, the second oldest son, became the father figure of the Fitzpatrick family from that point on. He also continued to practice Law in the family Law Firm of Fitzpatrick & Fitzpatrick, which he was very well respected. Our family continued to grow with our forth and last child, Elisha Katherine, which she was born on my birthday…November 18, 1986.

For many many years, prior to Mr. Fitz’ death, the Fitzpatrick’s were well known for throwing St. Patrick’s Day Party’s.  Of course you wouldn’t dare show up without your green on. Some would wear a touch of orange for fun, just because that was a "No No" with the Fitzpatrick’s Catholic background. Many years after his death, they still continued in his honor… Kevin, and his wife Adele, carried on the tradition for a few years after it became too much for Miss Dot to continue alone… like I mentioned earlier…Kevin was most like his Dad, so this was only fitting for him to carry on the family tradition. Just a few years ago, our son Shane and his wife Alyse have picked up the tradition where his Uncle Kevin & Aunt Adele left off, by throwing a St. Patrick’s Party… in honor of their family heritage.

Today, as of 2010, three of the 5 brothers are no longer with us, leaving the book-ends Mike (oldest) and Patrick (youngest) to carry on their family legacy. They were all Amazing men that are missed terrible. There are 13 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren (one on the way to make 7). My life as a Tolle and Fitzpatrick has been an amazing journey so far, the stories are priceless and will live on for generation to generation. I am proud of my heritage and hope you enjoyed a piece of my life. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad and Happy St. Patrick’s Day Miss Dot! Erin Go Bragh !

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