Ocala Style | December 2021

Page 1

DEC ‘21






It’s hard to believe another year is coming to a close! During this holiday season, we’re all reminded of how much we have to be grateful for, and as I think back on this year, I’ve never been more appreciative of the many blessings and friendships this year has brought me. With real estate being my passion and being a “people person,” the greatest joy and satisfaction for me is helping someone find their perfect home. Whether they are first-time home buyers, long-time owners upgrading to more suitable properties or downsizing to fit a changing season in life—No property is too small or too large—and there’s no better place to do all of this than here in Ocala. The town of Ocala has enjoyed great progress in recent years, yet still retains the “hometown feel” that continues to bring people to this area. Our downtown area is unique with wonderful dining and shopping that makes it an experience all its own. When it comes to horses, the phrase “Horse Capital of the World” is the perfect description, as there is no place like Ocala! The World Equestrian Center offers everything…. from a world class setting for equestrians to premier dining and shopping experiences. What really makes Ocala special, however, are the people who call it home and I have devoted my life to helping to find the right home or property a pleasure and a treasured experience. In closing, I would like to thank my team, Bonnie and Francis, for their tremendous support and loyalty throughout the years. They are a very important part in helping to make dreams come true for our clients. I would also like to thank my incredible husband J.J. for being my rock and my inspiration. And to my clients—many of whom have become close friends—I so appreciate you allowing me to be part of your real estate endeavors. My sincere thanks to everyone I’ve worked with and come to know. From my home to yours, wishing you a peaceful, happy holiday season!

Visit JoanPletcher.com to view properties, information, videos and photos. Call or Text: 352.266.9100 | 352.804.8989 | joan@joanpletcher.com | joanpletcher.com

Due to the privacy and at the discretion of my clients, there are additional training centers, estates and land available that are not advertised.

2021 Total Sales:

$118,102,950 Pending Sales: $22,947,471

Happy Holidays from my family to yours!

What A Year! There has never been a better time to sell!

Joan Pletcher

Call or Text: 352.266.9100 352.804.8989 joan@joanpletcher.com joanpletcher.com


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Art Editorial

GRAPHIC DESIGNER Steph Giera art@magnoliamediaco.com PHOTOGRAPHERS Bruce Ackerman Becky Collazo Julie Garisto Meagan Gumpert John Jernigan Katelyn Virginia Photography Dave Miller Dave Schlenker The Talented Photographer Alan Youngblood ILLUSTRATOR David Vallejo


DIRECTOR OF SALES & MARKETING Andrew Hinkle andrew@magnoliamediaco.com CLIENT SERVICES GURU Cheryl Specht cheryl@magnoliamediaco.com

Distribution Rick Shaw

EDITOR IN CHIEF Nick Steele nick@magnoliamediaco.com SENIOR EDITOR Susan Smiley-Height susan@magnoliamediaco.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS James Blevins Matthew Cretul Julie Garisto JoAnn Guidry Scott Mitchell Jill Paglia Max Russell Dave Schlenker Leah Taylor Beth Whitehead


ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Evelyn Anderson evelyn@magnoliamediaco.com Sarah Belyeu sarah@magnoliamediaco.com Ralph Grandizio ralph@magnoliamediaco.com



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Publisher’s Note


y the time you hold this issue in your hands, the downtown square will be lit up and we’ll all be in full swing engaging in social festivities—but also hopefully taking some time to reflect on 2021. No matter the season or the reason, Ocalans love a good tradition. We define these in a couple of different ways—there are the customs and beliefs derived from our religions or cultural observations and then there are those traditions we observe that are all our own, that we pass down through the generations…from crafting ornaments with our family members to making a favorite holiday dish. We explore some of these favorite traditions in this issue. Traditions are especially important with so much divisiveness and chaos in the world—they are something we can count on, keeping us grounded to our past and connected to our family and community. One of my favorite things about being a publisher this year was introducing readers to Sadie Fitzpatrick, Ocala’s new favorite columnist for our sister publication, the Ocala Gazette newspaper. So, it’s extra special to have Sadie help us cap the year off in Ocala Style and share a few of her favorite holiday traditions. Check out her festive Mixed Berry Trifle in our In the Kitchen With feature on page 53 and memories of how her mama proudly showcased her children’s handmade decorations, no matter “how hideous” they were. As traditions go, I’ve also learned that sometimes you just have to create your own and keep them simple and easy for your own sanity. They don’t have to be extravagant, complicated or have a specific history. To me, the season should be all about comfort, kindness and good cheer. So, as you rush around to finish your shopping and decorating and prepare for your holiday gatherings, remember to breathe, rest, reflect and find peace. Please accept our team’s warm thanks for your readership and our sincere hope that you end this year, no matter how you care to celebrate, happy and healthy and resolved to make 2022 successful.

Jennifer Hunt Murty Publisher

December ‘21


HappyHolidays from us to you


A Holiday Message


s we start the holiday season, thoughts turn to those who have made our work here at South State meaningful - our community and our team. This year, we changed our name to SouthState and grew our banking family throughout the southeast region.

During the change, I can assure you that your local SouthState bankers in Ocala and Belleview kept their focus on how to best serve the community they live in. After all, we are not just your bankers - we are your neighbors committed to the success of the community we live in. The local SouthState team remains committed to being a diverse and inclusive employer, a good steward of the environment, and active participant in the community. All the while, improving the financial health and banking access for Marion County residents. Personally, it’s an honor to work alongside such dedicated hard-working folks. The goodwill of those we serve is the foundation of our bank’s success - so we take this opportunity to thank the community that has placed trust through banking with us. We value that trust and we will work hard to keep it. We know that Ocala has unique needs as it grows, and that is why we are happy to report that our recent company growth has increased our capacity to fill those needs through greater lending capacity and more conveniences. For years, our bankers have been helping our customers find success. So, while considering this coming year’s personal or business plans, please reach out to us to discuss what banking solutions we can offer in support of those plans. If you haven’t yet banked with us, I invite you to visit and see how we do things. Expect excellent customer service, intent on making your life easier and more convenient. Finally, we know our company’s success is directly linked to the financial health of our community. That is why you can count on your local SouthState team to continue efforts to strengthen the community through corporate giving and volunteering in an impactful way. On behalf of the local SouthState team, I wish you a happy holiday season and a happy and healthy new year.

Rusty Branson

Rusty Branson,

SVP, Regional President

Member FDIC

in this issue




ins i der

f e a t u re s

li v i ng



The Believe In Santa Foundation brings joy to children year-round



Early Florida celebrations were far different from how we observe them today.



We offer some tips for making your home more festive for the holidays, such as bringing some of the outside in by incorporating natural accents.

Sadie Fitzgerald whips up a beautiful Mixed Berry Trifle fit for a queen.


Artist and educator Charles Eady incorporates Black history into his mixed-media creations.


Dave remembers a life well-lived, full of love and laughter.

Light Up Ocala provides a winter wonderland Florida-style, casting a bright glow all around the downtown square through the end of the holiday season.







Join us in celebrating local brides and grooms.







Photographer Dave Schlenker captures ballerinas in action.


Locals share personal insights and memories of Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa.

Left to right: Photo courtesy of Believe in Santa Foundation; Photo by Dave Miller; Photo by Meagan Gumpert



Fo u n d i n g M e m b e r s

Support the Realtors that Support YOU! The OHP team tirelessly continues to advocate for Ocala’s horse farms. HOW WE HELPED FOUND HORSE FARMS FOREVER AND SAVE OCALA’S HORSE COUNTRY Faced with imminent FDOT routes that would destroy valuable Northwest Ocala horse farms, Ocala Horse Properties helped create Horse Farms Forever to rally the community and actively fight against this harmful expansion. Rob Desino successfully helped lobby the Governor’s office to abandon all routes, while Matt Varney simultaneously influenced proactive solutions aimed at protecting Marion County’s status as Horse Capital of the World.

“We would not have been able to make such an impact so quickly without the expertise, leadership, and tireless efforts of Ocala Horse Properties.”

“It’s about protecting and honoring our land – our shared livelihood.”



Tr u s t t h e # 1 O c a l a Fa r m B r o k e r s 1 5 y e a r s a n d C o u n t i n g .

Contact The OHP Team Day or Night to List Your Property

(352) 615-8891 Chris & Rob Desino & Matt Varney www.OcalaHorseProperties.com


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Alphonse Mucha: Master of Art Nouveau Through January 9, 2022

Exhibition and museum tour organized by Landau Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, California.

Appleton Museum, Artspace and Store


Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, noon-5 p.m. 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd. | AppletonMuseum.org

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Social Scene

FAFO’s Ocala Arts Festival returned this year to the thrill of thousands of show-goers. The event, hosted by Fine Arts For Ocala, was spread all around the downtown area and included more than 150 artists and entertainment such as this intrepid stilt walker and soap bubble artist. Pictured: Mike Weakley | Photo by Meagan Gumpert, courtesy of FAFO December ‘21



Ira Burhans

FAFO’s Ocala Arts Festival DOWNTOWN OCALA Photos by Meagan Gumpert, courtesy of Fine Arts For Ocala


David Reutter

ne of our community’s favorite events, hosted by Fine Arts For Ocala, was back in full glory on October 23rd and 24th, with thousands of patrons checking out 150 artists, who took home $27,000 in prizes. The show included local entertainment, community organizations and vendors.

FAFO board members and volunteers





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Alphonse Mucha: Master of Art Nouveau

APPLETON MUSEUM OF ART Photography by Julie Garisto


uests at the VIP and Director’s Circle Opening Reception on November 5th were treated to an advance view of the vintage lithographs, drawings, paintings, books and other works created by the “creator of the Art Nouveau style.” The exhibit is on display through January 9th.

Ulli and Steve Monroe

Victoria Billig and Patricia Tomlinson

Sara and Rolando Sosa

Matthew LaPenta and Ananda Devi

Champagne Dreams

COUNTRY CLUB OF OCALA Photography by John Nevarez

T Michael and Linda Paglia

Jill and John Paglia with Kimberly and John Paglia III

he hallmark fundraising event for the Transitions Life Center, held November 5th, featured a rousing performance by the Dueling Pianos along with delicious food, a silent auction and raffles, and, of course, plenty of bubbly.

Lucy Johnson

Marissa Paglia and Michael Lapshin

Real People, Real S tories, Real O cala

Fables Vernissage

NOMA GALLERY Photos by Meagan Gumpert

T Grace Netanya

he private viewing of the Fables exhibit on November 4th drew numerous patrons of the arts to see the works of mixed media artist Grace Netanya. The works celebrate storytelling through figurative art and will be on display through December 30th.

Angi and Jay Grabbe with Lisa Midgett

Holly Young

Mary Emery and Maggie Weakley

Bark in The Park

Doggy Expo OCALA DOWNTOWN MARKET Photography by Bruce Ackerman

I Jessie Casteel with Winston and Holly


t was hard to tell who was having the most fun—the humans or the canines—at the October 31st event hosted by the Senior Resource Foundation of Ocala. The Marion County Animal Shelter and Meals on Wheels America each received $3,000 from event proceeds.

Alex Tubonjic and Natalie McComb with Wilbur

Phyllis Silverman and Casper


December ‘21


On the Scene A guide to our favorite monthly happenings and can’t-miss events

It’s A Wonderful Life

Ocala Civic Theatre The beloved Christmas classic is retold as a 1940s radio play through the magic of versatile voices, special sound effects and your imagination. Thursdays and Fridays 7:30pm, Saturdays 2pm and 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Purchase tickets at (352) 236-2274, the box office or ocalacivictheatre.com

Events 1-24 Holiday Paddock Mall

1st-24th - Photos with Santa. While reservations are encouraged, walk-ins are welcome. 12th - Sensory Friendly Santa Experience in partnership with Autism Speaks: from 9-10:30am. 20th - Paws & Claus, 6-8pm. Bring your pet and mix and mingle while your furry friend takes a paw-satively adorable photo with Santa.


Symphony Under the Lights


Bring the Harvest Home


Festival at Fort King

21st - Cookies & Claus, 10-11am. Enjoy cookie decorating and breakfast with Mrs. Claus. Learn more at paddockmall.com


Reilly Arts Center | 7pm Bring a blanket and some cocoa and set up your chairs at the outdoor stage for this free familyfriendly holiday favorites concert by the Ocala Symphony Orchestra. Visit reillyartscenter.com Ocala Downtown Square | 7:30am-1:30pm This countywide collaborative food drive collects non-perishable food, baby items and toiletries for families in need served by Interfaith Emergency Services, Brother’s Keeper and the Salvation Army. Visit marioncountyfl.org Fort King National Historic Landmark December 4-5 | 10am-4pm The fort comes alive in 1800s style with living history demonstrators, cast iron cooking, axe throwing, bead crafting, live music, home-brewed beer and food. Visit fb.com/fortkingocala


The Ocala Christmas Light Spectacular


Light Up Ocala


Gingerbread House Decorating


Santa on the Square


Light Up Lake Lillian

Florida Horse Park | 6-10pm Visit North Central Florida‘s largest drive-thru holiday light display. End the night in Santaland with local food trucks and pictures with Santa. Visit facebook.com/ocalachristmas for details. Ocala Downtown Square This luminous holiday favorite activity bedazzles downtown Ocala in a blanket of lights and attracts thousands of visitors for an evening stroll to wonder at the spectacle of it all. Visit ocalafl.org/lightup Ocala Downtown Square December 2-21 | Tuesdays and Thursdays 6-8pm Everyone’s favorite jolly old elf and Mrs. Claus will be available for free photos in the gazebo. Visitors should bring their own camera or phone. Visit ocalafl.org


NOMA Gallery | 1-5pm Kids and grown-ups can paint a premade gingerbread house in conjunction with artist Grace Netanya‘s exhibition, Fables. Kids decorate 1-3pm (parent or guardian must be present); adults decorate 3:30-5pm. Visit nomaocala.com

Southeast Robinson Road, Belleview | 3-8pm See Santa, enjoy arts and crafts and activities for children, browse vendors and more. For more information, email Amanda Valderrama at valderrama@belleviewfl.org or call (352) 245-7021.

This page, photography by Meagan Gumpert. Opposite: photography by Bruce Ackerman.




21st Annual Toys for Kids Cruise In


Thoroughbred Transformation Expo


Pops! Goes the Holidays


Ocala 200 Lions Club Flea Market


Urban Family Community Day


Ocala Christmas Parade: A Heroes’ Christmas


Holiday Home Tour


The Yearling Movie: 75 Years

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing 8am-5pm Bring the kids to see the Ghostbusters car and the Hot Wheels Corvette, along with a Marion County Sheriff ’s Office helicopter. Giveaways, dash plaques and more. Visit twilightcruisersflorida.com Reilly Arts Center December 4, 7:30pm | December 5, 3pm The Ocala Symphony Orchestra’s holiday performance will include the score of the animated short film The Snowman along with the concert. Families can also expect sing-alongs and a reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Visit reillyartscenter.com


Christmas Boat Parade


The Embot Experience


Lake Weir Yacht Club | 4:30-9pm Boats set sail from Carney Island Recreation & Conservation Area; event proceeds go to the Ocklawaha Food Pantry. Festivities include the “Down the Hatch” party at Eaton’s Beach at 7:30pm. For information, call (321) 432-1292. Workspace Collective | 6-9pm Local artist Emmeline Basulto, aka Embot, collaborates with The Gathering Cafe, The Grazing Haus and EL Puente Catering to show her art while supporting local businesses. Visit facebook.com/embotart

Santa Paws

Ocala Downtown Square | 5-8pm This photo opportunity with Santa is just for pets. Bring your leashed furry friend and meet adoptable pets from the Humane Society of Marion County. Visit ocalafl.org

Florida Horse Park December 10-12 | 7am-7pm This equine competition includes dressage, working ranch, show jumper, show hunter, eventing, polo and freestyle; proceeds go to Run for the Ribbons. Visit fb.com/runfortheribbons

Bank OZK, SW Highway 200 8am-1pm Browse an array of goods and donate nonperishable items to the Lions’ food drive for Interfaith Emergency Services. Food and drinks for sale. Email bartorobert@hotmail.com

Appleton Museum of Art | 10am-5pm Enjoy free admission on annual community day event celebrating A Dickens Christmas: The Urban Family Holiday Exhibition. Make holiday crafts in the Artspace and take photos with Santa from 1-4pm. Food trucks on site. Free admission includes permanent collection and special exhibitions such as Heart of the Horse and Alphonse Mucha: Master of Art Nouveau. The Urban exhibit is on display through Jan. 6th. Visit appletonmuseum.org

Silver Springs Boulevard | 5:30pm View festive floats, marching bands and other entries as they travel along Silver Springs Boulevard, leaving from the McPherson government complex on 25th Avenue and going west to Eighth Avenue. Ben Marciano is grand marshal. Visit ocalachristmasparade.org

Commences at the Matheson History Museum, Gainesville | 5pm A festive tour of four notable Victorian homes, magnificently decorated for the holidays, in Gainesville’s Historic Bed and Breakfast District. Included are the 1867 Matheson House, Sweetwater Branch Inn, Laurel Oak Inn, Magnolia Plantation Bed & Breakfast, as well as the Matheson History Museum and Tison Tool Barn. The walking tour is less than a mile and begins at the Matheson. Refreshments, such as spiced cider and holiday cookies. $15. Visit mathesonmuseum.org/events

Marion Theatre | 12:30pm Showing of The Yearling followed by interview with Claude Jarman Jr., who starred as Jody. $15; RSVP at mariontheatre.org


The Nutcracker


Holiday Craft Bazaar


Giving Gala


SOSI | Science on Ice


New Year’s Eve with Elvis

Reilly Arts Center | 7:30pm Dance Alive National Ballet presents the traditional, family-favorite ballet with all its holiday magic. Visit reillyartscenter.com Silver Springs State Park | 10am-4pm Beautiful surroundings, food vendors, handmade craft items, art and photography, and more. The Friends of Silver Springs present a “sleigh” tram ride along the Creek Trail and Santa will be there too. Glass-bottom boat tours, games and toy drop-off. Visit silversprings.com Licciardello Farms | 7pm Second annual charitable holiday party will benefit The Rock programs in some public schools. Raffles, silent auctions, drinks and hors d’oeuvres. RSVP at givinggala.info Discovery Center | 7:30am-5pm Day-camp-style program activities include experiments and hands-on fun. Dropoff from 7:30-8am; pick up no later than 5:30pm. Visit ocalafl.org

Turnpike Mike’s at SummerGlen Golf Club 9:30pm Ring in 2022 with music by the King performed by tribute artist Cote Deonath, dinner and a champagne toast at midnight. Doors open at 6pm. facebook.com/tpmsummerglen


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Photo courtesy of American Heart Association

Photo courtesy of Cote Deonath



A Spirit of Sharing The Believe in Santa Foundation, based in Ocala, helps children statewide.


By Susan Smiley-Height

anta Claus himself says everyone can make a difference in the lives of others. And that is the key objective of the Believe in Santa Foundation, Inc. At the all-volunteer nonprofit, the head elf is president/CEO, Keith Carson, also known as the “Minister of Merry.” The retired police officer says a serendipitous moment led to his forming the foundation. “I was on a committee putting on a really big event for underprivileged children, 400 or 500 kids,” he recalls. “In our last planning meeting the organizer got a message from Santa saying, ‘Hey, I can’t make it.’ This is six days before the event. It’s December. So panic set in. Foolishly — maybe not — I raised my hand.” Carson was so taken by the experience that he decided to put his new Santa suit to good use year-round. “As a police officer, one of the things we saw a lot at Christmas were homes in poor neighborhoods getting broken into and presents taken. These families couldn’t afford presents in the first place, let alone replace them,” he offers. “So, I decided to form a nonprofit. Our idea was to do this at Christmas, but we also help children living in poverty, disaster survivors, crime victims, those hospitalized, children of service men and women, the terminally ill. A kid can’t pick and choose when they get a terminal illness or their house burns to the ground or they end up in a hospital or a hurricane comes, so we decided we’d do it all year round.” The foundation was launched in August 2013 in

South Florida. “In 2017, we moved to North Central Florida to be able to serve children in need all over the state,” says Office Manager Deborah Johnson. “We’ve gone from helping about 20 children that first year to more than 6,000 each year. COVID has sent requests through the roof, while donations to our organization have plummeted. Despite that, we’ve managed to meet the requests made to us. It’s not easy, but we operate as lean as we can.” “Everyone can help,” Carson affirms. “Whether it’s volunteering time, a monetary donation or sharing your expertise.” A goal for the foundation is to create a North Pole attraction in the Ocala area, which Carson says is ideal because it’s a main travel artery. He has a warehouse filled with items to stock the venue, but “I’d like to have about 10 acres of property, whether someone would donate it to us or lease it for $1 a year.” “We want children to visit and believe they were at the North Pole and met the real Santa,” Johnson notes. “We also want them to forget about whatever they’re dealing with, even if for just a short time.” A nomination must be submitted by someone associated with a nonprofit, a member of a recognized media outlet or public safety agency, or someone not related to the nominee to receive assistance. Visit believeinsanta.com or call (561) 509-5776. December ‘21


Love, Joy & Peace -Nikki Serrano

Are you looking to buy or sell a home?

Our first class approach can help you find your dream home, perfect for entertaining guests and family this holiday season. Call us for a complimentary home evaluation today.



Nikki Serrano | 352-585-1562 stellarrea.com


The True Pioneer Christmas of Florida By Scott Mitchell

Photo courtesy of Florida State Archives.


hristmas is a very traditional holiday. It is a constant in our hectic calendars that arrives each season and often remains unchanged as the years tick by. While this may be true for the recent past, a little research into a “typical” pioneer Christmas yields surprises. We envision families dressed in their best clothes gathered around a tree with gifts or a large traditional holiday meal. The reality is that life was hard for pioneers and not all had those luxuries, or even celebrated Christmas. Our beloved Florida has been multicultural since the first Europeans arrived in 1513. Much like today, how and if you celebrated depended on your ethnicity and ancestors. Early Jewish settlers, such as Moses Levy, and Creek and Seminole/ Miccosukee people who lived traditional Native American lifestyles, as well as settlers of Scots Irish descent, likely did not celebrate Christmas at all. Many other groups of mostly European descent, however, observed Christmas as a major religious holiday. Upon settling in what is now Florida, each culture brought unique traditions with them. Pioneers of German descent are credited with introducing the Christmas tree, hanging stockings over the hearth, caroling for neighbors and Saint Nicholas. Early trees were small and sat atop tables decorated with homemade garlands. The English brought mistletoe, the concept of Father Christmas and the tradition of turkey or goose for dinner. Early Floridians of Spanish descent brought the

tradition of the three kings, or wise men, and nativity scenes. In fact, the Christmas season in Spanish Florida would have extended to January 6th, when the three kings arrived to celebrate the birth of Christ. For African Americans still living in bondage before slavery was abolished, Christmas varied widely. Some got a break from harsh work during the holiday while others were subjected to cruel lockdowns over fears among owners of holiday uprisings. Up until the Civil War, some slaves celebrated Johnkankus, a tradition brought from West Africa at Christmas. This holiday is now mostly forgotten, with the exception of some areas of the Caribbean Although much has changed since Florida became a U.S. Territory in 1821, some things have stayed the same. Our state remains very diverse with a rich culture, some still struggle to make ends meet and, for many, Christmas is still centered on family coming together. As we enter this holiday season, let us remember that while Christmas has not always looked as it does today, celebrating with loved ones is as important as it has ever been. Scott Mitchell is the director of the Silver River Museum & Environmental Education Center. He has worked as a field archaeologist, scientific illustrator and museum professional for the last 25 years. For more information, visit silverrivermuseum.com or call (352) 236-5401. December ‘21


Love, Laughter and a Life Well Lived By Dave Schlenker | Illustration by David Vallejo


iz Cumbess led a life rich in stories, laughter, color and texture. She was a beloved Marion County artist who, in 2002, parked her life-sized Horse Fever statue in her kitchen as she converted the huge chunk of fiberglass into Van Whoa, a public arts masterpiece that fetched thousands of dollars for the local arts community. “It scared the junk out of my dad,” Jessica Cumbess recalls, referring to the time when her groggy dad, Jerry—an ex-Marine who restores cars—ambled into the kitchen late at night to find a dimly lit Van Whoa guarding the ice box. Liz was a “pebble-kicking tomboy” who was not afraid to square off with neighborhood bullies growing up. As an adult, she would spend evenings tearing up the farm on fourwheelers with her closest friend, Scott. She was a holiday-crazy hostess who also lured friends to “property-cleaning parties” to pick up yard debris, cut down trees and work their ever-loving asses off in sweaty chores. In the end, there would be a bonfire, drinks and all

the trappings of a Liz-sanctioned shindig. Liz was a mom with “Inspire” tattooed on her wrist. She used to drop Jessica off at grade school in the family’s yellow Jeep—doors and top off, Pearl Jam spilling out of her Wrangler. Liz went overboard during the holidays, from Halloween haunted barns to food-rich Christmases. Leftovers of her holiday stuffing were savored in a binging bowl on a couch with a spoon. “We guarded our portions closely,” Jerry confesses. But any portrait of Liz Cumbess would not be complete without horses. She adored them. They adored her. “Horses were really her life. She had a natural gift with them,” says Jessica. “She had a connection with animals, horses especially. One of her favorite things to do was to sit in the barn, listening to the horses eating hay.” Liz was a rider, trainer, instructor and equine massage therapist with a deep, spiritual connection to classical dressage.

She did not want to waste life. And perhaps that is the most resonant element of this remarkable life cut short. “She would rather be celebrated than mourned,” Jessica offers. My friend Liz died on September 16th, 2021, following a long bout with cancer. The cancer did not end her life, but an odd side effect from treatment did. Odd story— doesn’t matter. In traditional obituary protocol, I tell you that Elizabeth Anne Riccardo Cumbess was born on February 6th, 1964, in upstate New York. She is survived by her brother, Anthony Riccardo Jr.; her beloved husband, Jerry Cumbess; daughter Jessica and 1-yearold grandson, Kaeson; son-in-law Alex Fort; and, last but not least, her dear friend Scott Head. That’s it for protocol. Liz was not about protocol. She was about horses, art, education, laughter and love. She grew up with a pony named Lollipop and died with an armada of animals that included horses, dogs, chickens and a 40-ish cockatoo named Garth (a mouthy big bird who prefers the company of women). She led equestrian summer camps at the house. “It was amazing,” says Jessica. “She really had a love of seeing other people enjoy horses.” She was a painter whose horse-heavy landscapes and whimsical puppy portraits filled local galleries and art corners. She was an art teacher who, Jessica said, “always taught out of the box.” Jerry met Liz when she was dating one of his friends. He saw her, and he was putty. He left for the Marines but sent the lovely Liz letters and his dog tags. “When it came to my mom, he was a big teddy bear,” Jessica shares. An obituary is not exactly what I had planned

to write for my holiday column. Yet I love thinking about the life of Liz in this time of family, tradition and warm fuzzies. I think of her family shoveling her famous holiday stuffing in their festive pie holes. That memory will make them smile this year. “This may sound odd, but she had an innocence,” Jessica points out. “She just saw the good in people. Everything is new. Everything is beautiful. She kept it joyful.” In the weeks before her death, there were splashes of serendipity, little things that brought a close family closer. Liz declared, for example, she wanted dreadlocks. That resulted in an unforgettable motherdaughter artistic collaboration that produced a work of art with shades of blue. “She was so unique,” Jerry asserts. “She wasn’t cut from the same cloth as others.” On another day in those final weeks, her grandson, Kaeson, suddenly hugged Liz like no human has hugged another human. It was tight. There were tears. “He called her Goo-ga,” Jessica recalls. “She was beside herself.” Another thing the world needs to know is that Pearl Jam-loving Liz played the cello. The sweet resonance of a bow on strings was a spell, deeply personal and powerful. In those final days, she played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for an enchanted Kaeson. A simple tune. A bittersweet encore. Celebrated not mourned. And that is where I will leave this not-really-anobituary obituary about a grandma in dreadlocks dubbed Goo-ga. One closing request: This holiday season, savor your leftovers on the couch and tip your glass to all lives lived with grace, color, texture and kindness. And just to be safe —guard your portions!

In the weeks before her death, there were splashes of serendipity, little things that brought a close family closer. Liz declared, for example, she wanted dreadlocks. That resulted in an unforgettable mother-daughter artistic collaboration that produced a work of art with shades of blue.

December ‘21



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Celebrate... You are cordially invited to celebrate Ocala’s newest brides and grooms, get a glimpse into their most special of days and hear firsthand about the memories that will always hold a place in their hearts. Pictured: Reiley & Jake Lolmaugh | Photographed by Katelyn Virginia Photography December ‘21



REILEY & JAKE LOLMAUGH May 29th, 2021 Venue: Knoblock Family home on Lake Weir Photographer: Katelyn Virginia Wedding Planners: Party Time Rentals Florist: Graceful Gardener Her favorite memory: Celebrating the most special day at the most special place with all of my favorite people. It truly felt like the most magical day. The Knoblock home was so special because it was my Grandma Mary’s best friend’s house and my Grandma couldn’t be there due to being placed in a memory care unit last August. Even though she couldn’t make it, the location was filled with memories of her and it felt like she was by my side all day. His favorite memory: Standing at the altar looking at my bride and envisioning the rest of our lives together.


KRISTINA & ALEX GROBLER April 17th, 2021 Venue: Private residence on the Rainbow River Photographer: Luis with The Talented Photographer Wedding Planner: Making it Matthews Florist: The Plant Shoppe Florist Her favorite memory: Saying our vows. It was the perfect amount of love and humor. His favorite memory: Our first dance to Chris Stapleton’s Starting Over.

December ‘21


Image by Molliner Photography


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December ‘21


Merry & Bright Fill your home with all the magic the season has to offer. By Nick Steele

‘Tis’ the Season As we celebrate the wonder and joy of the season, we hope we can provide some cheer and inspiration for decorating your home with simple personal touches, vintage charm inspired by warm childhood memories and the lush beauty of nature’s bounty.

December ‘21




Forces of Nature

Bring the beauty of nature indoors this season. Arrange flowers and foliage into gorgeous centerpieces, table settings and seasonal trimmings. Crown mantles, doorways and railings with graceful swags of greenery. Magnolia leaves woven into garlands, wreaths or a centerpiece add an elegant natural element.

Ditch the tinsel and basic wreath this year and opt for a festive dried orange slice and cranberry version with pinecones instead. When it comes to color and beauty, fruit can be as festive as flowers, especially when used to decorate a holiday dessert or garnish serving dishes. If you have dreams of the stuff of sugar plum fairies, go ahead and indulge in sugared fruit arrangements. You can also go bold with glimmering natureinspired accessories, like the striking handcrafted glass trees in various sizes and styles by Simon Pearce, available at Agapanthus Ocala.

December ‘21


Holiday Magic If you’re like us, you’re craving a return to the comfort and joy of holidays past—when we created glad tidings from what was on hand and decorated with items that were passed down through the generations. This past resourcefulness inspired homespun décor with lots of heart. So now is the perfect time to embrace the comfort of tradition and make some new memories. Children love making ornaments for the tree and those often become treasured keepsakes

as time goes by. Try having kids paint natural wooden ornaments from stores such as Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. Wooden clothespins are a great canvas to create festive little characters, representing everything from nutcrackers with mini pom poms for hats to sweet angels with scraps of lace and some gold thread. Cut out stars from white poster board or felt, run a glue stick over the surface and let kids sprinkle on the sparkles. Festive trimmings don’t have to come with a big price tag in times like these, so unfussy and easy to achieve may just be the antidote we all need to make the season bright again.

You can also build on tradition with special flourishes. Treasured and traditional, glass ornaments like those from Christopher Radko, also available at Agapanthus Ocala, add a touch of warmth and whimsy. If building a traditional gingerbread house is a bit too involved and time consuming, decorate a cake with some iced gingerbread cookies in the shape of houses for a sweet shortcut that’s sure to bring a smile to your guests. It’s a fun way to transform an ordinary cake into an eye-catching decorative element. If it’s a white Christmas you want, choose a flocked

tree or cover your ornaments and natural elements, such as pinecones, in a generous dusting of artificial snow. For a simple yet sophisticated touch, Dillard’s Market Street at Heath Brook stocks a striking Southern Living Capiz Berries Wreath that will add a chic organic element to your front door. However you choose to express your holiday style, be it an outdoor-inspired woodsy wonderland to something nostalgic, like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, we join you in celebrating this special time at home and hope you will enjoy all the magic that the season can bring. December ‘21


Let There Be

Lights Light Up Ocala

One of Ocala’s best-loved traditions will warm hearts throughout the holidays. By Susan Smiley-Height Photos by Dave Miller


he iconic gazebo and streets all around downtown Ocala are enveloped in the festive glow of canopies of glittering lights, joyfully decorated Christmas trees and bright red bows. This Florida-style winter wonderland lends itself to selfies and late-night strolls. And it’s all part of the splendor of the beloved Light Up Ocala holiday tradition. While the official Light Up Ocala event is a once-a-year kickoff to the season—that took place on November 20th this year—all the work which goes into transforming the downtown area with a spectacular light show remains on display through the end of the year. Molly Butz and Amy Casaletto, administrators with Ocala Recreation and Parks, say that the Light Up Ocala kickoff event, during which a switch is f lipped to illuminate all those lights, began in 1984. “The first official Light Up Ocala event was held on Friday, November 30th, 1984,

from 6:30 until 9 pm,” says Casaletto, community special events manager. “That was the weekend after Thanksgiving— exactly 101 years and one day after the great fire that burned downtown Ocala on November 29th, 1883. It was hosted by the Downtown Development Commission and coordinated by Gail Collins. Mickey Melon, a child with muscular dystrophy, threw the switch that night.” It was in 1988 that the Recreation and Parks department took over the annual event. “That year, Special Olympics gold medalist Toni Marie Chillemi f lipped the switch,” notes Casaletto. Guest switch-f lippers in the past have included Marion County’s own resident movie star family, the Travoltas. By 2001, it was taking two to three weeks to accomplish all the preparations for the spectacular light display. “In 2006, Ocala Electric Utility upgraded the electrical system to accommodate more

Santa and Mrs. Claus with Landen, Shiloh and Audrey Jones

lights as the trees on the square had grown over the years,” Casaletto explains. “In 2010, the 50-foot-tall Christmas tree first debuted.” The most challenging aspect of Light Up Ocala is adjusting the event as downtown grows. “As new business comes downtown and sidewalk or road improvements occur, the event shifts and conforms to the ever-changing 44


landscape,” shares Casaletto, “which can be quite a challenge when determining logistics for vendor placement or performance space and, of course, parking.” Those who have been downtown for Light Up Ocala in the past few years will not be surprised that crowd estimates range from 25,000 to 30,000 giddy celebrants enjoying the lights,

Photos by Bruce Ackerman

Light Up Ocala posters from the first two years and this year's celebration.

entertainment and vendor offerings. Last year, the pandemic cast a pall on the festivities, but the lights still came

This Florida-style winter wonderland lends itself to selfies and late-night strolls. on and people could attend smaller events through the holidays. “Yes, the public still came out to enjoy seeing downtown Ocala decorated with lights,” Casaletto recalls. “Ocala Recreation and Parks installed several holiday photo ops around the area to

West Port High School JROTC Color Guard

Girl Scouts troop from Anthony

encourage the public to come out, snap some selfies and enjoy the lights in a safe, sociallydistanced manner. Citizens were encouraged to use #GlowOcala for the photo ops. The photo ops will be making an appearance again this year and will remain out through the holidays.” So get your camera ready and head downtown to relish the festive atmosphere and find one more reason to love this special place we call home.

World Champ, from the Horse Fever II herd.

December ‘21


What it

means to me…


No matter which you observe—Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa—or another holiday tradition, there is no better way to celebrate than by ringing in the season with hearts full of love for our families and offering true kindness and compassion to others.




anukkah, or “Festival of Lights,” is a Jewish holiday observed for eight days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, occurring any time from late November to late December. This year’s observation began November 28th and culminates December 6th. The festival requires the lighting of nine candles on a candelabrum, or menorah. One of the nine branches stands above or below the others and is called the shamash, or “attendant,” and is often used to light each candle for each day of the holiday. Other popular Hanukkah festivities include singing special songs like Ma ’oz Tur, playing the game of dreidel and eating oil-based foods such as latkes and sufganiyot. Hanukkah commemorates the victory of a group of Jewish people called the Maccabees after they rose up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors, liberated Jerusalem and rededicated their second temple, rebuilding its altar and lighting its menorah. Among secular Jews, Hanukkah has attained cultural significance in the United States and elsewhere due to it occurring around the same time as Christmas. Brent Malever, 82, a former Ocala City Councilman, was born and raised in Ocala. His grandfather was among some of the first Jewish families to settle in Marion County in 1905 and opened a clothing store in Ocala. “We’re four generations in Ocala,” says Malever. Hanukkah is a happy time for Malever and his family because of the pleasure he gets from seeing his children and grandchildren enjoying the holiday. He says it isn’t just the religious aspects he and his family love but how Hanukkah is celebrated at home and emphasizes what makes a home special for each practicing family.

According to the Talmud, the Maccabees successfully revolted against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah miraculously burned for eight days, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one day. Foods baked in oil, preferably olive oil, commemorate the miracle of a small flask of oil keeping the menorah alight. “It’s traditional to eat potato latkes and jelly donuts,” Malever says, adding that his wife makes the best he’s ever tasted. “We decorate the house and we light the candles each night.” Malever says he and his wife say a prayer over each candle during the lighting ceremony. According to tradition, candles usually burn for at least half an hour after it gets dark. Typically, two blessings, or brachot, are recited when lighting the candles. The reason for the Hanukkah lights is not for the lighting of the house within, but rather for the illumination of the “house without,” he explains, so each passerby can see the light and be reminded of its miracle. “It’s a special holiday,” he declares. “And our family always looks forward to celebrating it. Who wouldn’t enjoy a holiday filled with family, food, gifts and games?” Dr. Harvey Taub, 58, a urologist at the Advanced Urology Institute in Ocala, says Hanukkah represents right over might, religious freedom and the unbroken chain of thousands of years of Jewish heritage and traditions. “Hanukkah means ‘dedication,’” explains Taub. “My ancestors kept their traditions alive; and without the historic events that mark Hanukkah, Judaism would have been wiped out. The Greeks would have felt that they could have done anything to anybody.”

December ‘21



Lighting Up the Season



aura Mae Hunt, a decorating hobbyist, never planned to create a holiday extravaganza but that’s what she’s done with “Hunt’s Christmas Haven.” In December 1990, after she and her husband Johnny built their home, she started decorating inside and out with a few decorations from a hardware store and her first live tree. The following year, she added items and began inviting family members and coworkers to see her winter wonderland with glittering lights and rows of figures in their holiday finest. Over the years, she has added a room of miniature holiday village displays, with joyful children spinning round and round, skaters in vintage apparel gliding by, skiers descending snowy slopes, a train weaving its way through

the finery and Santa and his reindeer flying by, all thanks to an array of animated novelties. Hunt recalls guests said she was doing too much for “no one but them to see,” so she began opening her doors for house tours. Cameraladen crowds gathered, along with community leaders and carolers, and it all transformed into a dazzling annual affair. The production is no easy feat. Each light on the roof, Hunt puts there. She curates each display with care. The house, yard and driveway are festooned in lights, so many in fact one imagines the view is an enchanting sight for passengers on planes traveling to and from the nearby Ocala airport…or from the driver’s seat of a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. A multitude of animated amusements keep the action in a

state of perpetual motion. “In Florida, we may not have snow,” she says joyfully, gesturing to one illuminated icon among the outdoor displays, “but we have palm trees!” The nearly 70-year-old begins decorating in what she calls the “Ber” months—September through November. Johnny sets all the materials close to the house and Hunt goes to work. “I work from the time I put it up, until the time it comes down,” she explains. “But I love every minute of it. To me, it’s so special.” Her passion landed her on ABC’s Great Christmas Light Fight in 2015, an opportunity initiated by her daughter. For the filming, Hunt hung lights in humid August, maintaining bulb changes through December. She confesses to having more money wrapped up in Christmas decorations than in the value of her home. She says she lost 20 years of vacation time while curating the show, making sure guests were out of her home by 9pm so she could travel to work in Crystal River by 11pm. It was a routine she kept until she had enough seniority to take December off. “That’s how special decorating for Christmas

is to me,” she shares. “I have gotten so many compliments. I do it because it just touches people.” However, Hunt is quick to share, “It was never about the attention.” At the center of the celebration is Jesus, whose name crowns the roof of the house. “It’s not so much about all the decorations, but recognizing He is who he is and the reason for the season,” she states. “We should always remember that.” In 2015, Hunt stopped offering inside tours but still enjoys giving toys to children who come to visit the outside displays, which include nativity scenes, icicle arches, illuminated Santas, snowmen, reindeer, caroling mice and even Snoopy and Woodstock. When she sees “little heads bobbling along the fence line,” she walks out to mingle. She hopes to reopen inside home tours in the future because, “There are so many new people who have seen the outside but have no clue what the inside is like.” Until then, visitors can stroll by 1670 NW 73rd Terrace for Hunt’s seasonal spectacle.

On Christmas Eve, the Reverend Mary Delancey, like Hunt, will celebrate the birth of Christ. Delancey will do so at her church’s annual service. “Christmas is a time of love,” she says. “We celebrate God’s great love for us in His gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The Christmas Eve service contains for me all that is Christmas—worshipping God with thanksgiving and praise alongside the people in Ocala who mean the most to me.”

December ‘21





wanzaa is observed from December 26th through January 1st each year, but the tenets often imbue the lives of participants every day of the year. Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga, professor of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, in 1966. The name is from matunda ya kwanza, or “first fruits” in Swahili. The seven principles, or nguzo saba, are values of African culture that contribute to building and reinforcing community. They include umoja (unity), kujichagulia (selfdetermination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics),

nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith). There are symbols associated with each principle. Kwanzaa ends with reflection and recommitment. “It’s about self-empowerment and upliftment of understanding more cultural awareness of the history of African Americans,” offers TeSha Jackson, a senior club director of the Boys & Girls Club of Marion County. “Though we acknowledge it during December, it’s something you instill in your everyday life. It’s how you deal with people, look at yourself and handle circumstances and situations. It has given me deep personal examination of myself.”

Jackson began observing Kwanzaa with her children in the early 1990s. “As soon as Christmas ended, Kwanzaa started,” she recalls. “I had my Kwanzaa display and when they woke up, I would say ‘Habari gani?’ or ‘What is the news?’ and the answer was the principle for that day and what it stands for.” As Jackson began to share Kwanzaa through community presentations at the three local Boys & Girls Clubs, Lillian Bryant Community Center and the E.D. Croskey Recreation Facility, she became known as “the Kwanzaa Lady.” She says it’s important for youth to understand the principles and symbols, including hearing words spoken in Swahili. At the Boys & Girls Club, one key element is teaching children to make gifts, or zawadi, to share. She encourages them to use their hands to make things like paper boxes that can be colored with the bright red, green and black hues of the African flag. “I’ve also done quilts, where kids learn to sew,” she recalls, “as well as painting, crafts, beads, bracelets, earrings… things they can give to others. They always have fun.” And, she adds, “We don’t overshadow

any holiday over another. At the Boys & Girls Club, we acknowledge many different areas of cultural awareness so kids are not biased.” Marcy Owens has observed Kwanzaa for many years in Ocala, sharing her knowledge through family, her sorority and churches. She believes it is important younger generations know about “the significant life sacrifices that were made by their African American ancestors.” “Many of the freedoms they enjoy now were not always available to Black Americans,” she offers. “Knowing your history gives you a greater sense of pride and respect, not only for yourself but for those around you. Kwanzaa is a time for renewal, focus, reflection and evaluation in one’s own life and your community.” “The principles allow me to reflect over the past year and see if I followed through in my life’s mission to make this world a better place. When I say world, I speak of what makes up my world, where I live, work and play,” she adds. “I have often asked myself, ‘What am I really doing to make my community better?’ Kwanzaa gets right to the core of what I need to do on a continuous basis in my daily life.”

December ‘21


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Christmas Cheer Ocala Gazette columnist Sadie Fitzpatrick prepares a holiday classic fit for a queen. By Nick Steele | Photography by Meagan Gumpert December ‘21




f you found a recipe that called for a dash of Jennifer Garner, a sprinkle of Reese Witherspoon, a cup of columnist Julia Reed and a healthy scoop of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you would likely end up with a Southern classic like Sadie Fitzpatrick. Like Reed, a charismatic chronicler of politics and the quirks of Southern life for the likes of Newsweek, Vogue, The New York Times Magazine and many other publications, Fitzpatrick is making a name for herself as a writer focused on the unique character and quirks of her hometown. She left Ocala to attend college and thought she might never move back, but returned because her boyfriend, who is now her husband of seven years, was living here. The two initially met on a blind date, have since traveled the world together and now have two beautiful children and a golden retriever named George Bailey. She is a passionate advocate for the issues she champions through her column, which include topics such as politics and social issues but also celebrates the many charms and good people of the town she once thought she had permanently put in her rearview mirror. She explains that it is “our ability to make everyone fall in love with Ocala whether they’ve been here 20 years or 20 minutes” that makes this such a special place to live. “We also do a good job of honoring traditions and places—like Light Up Ocala,” she offers, before adding with a sly smile, “and the institution that is



Tas-T-O Donuts!” Fitzpatrick says Christmas is her and her husband’s favorite holiday and is only getting better as their children are getting older. “The holidays were always big occasions at our house growing up and still are,” she explains. “Thanksgiving meant my mom’s amazing stuffing. She calls it dressing—this remains a huge debate. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner 365 days a year. Christmas decorating started shortly after Thanksgiving, never before—sacrilege!” she continues. “Mama always made sure to showcase our ornaments no matter how hideous they were. Christmas music played around the clock. We always made a birthday cake for Jesus to remember why we celebrate the season, which is a tradition I’ve started with my own children.” She also recalls another special tradition. “On Christmas morning, we would wait at the top of the stairs to get the ‘all clear’ from daddy that Santa had, in fact, visited. It was a race to get down the stairs,” she recalls. “We followed the German tradition of looking for a specially placed pickle ornament hidden in the tree. Whoever found it first got to open the first gift of Christmas. This was definitely competitive…and I usually won.” She isn’t competitive about cooking though. “My husband is definitely the chef in our relationship,” she offers. “He is always coming up with new recipes to try or will adapt a recipe to become his own. I’m always amazed at how he can take random ingredients and make it into something delicious. I am his sous chef when he’s at the helm.” But she can hold her own in the kitchen and loves to whip up a delicious and decadentlooking dessert for guests that is relatively simple to prepare. “I’ve made the Mixed Berry Trifle off and on for holiday gatherings since I found the recipe for it in Parade in high school,” she shares. “I first made it for the Fourth of July because it has such patriotic colors. As an admitted novice in the kitchen, this recipe was easy for me to follow and all of the ingredients are readily available.”


The holidays were always big occasions at our house and still are. Mama always made sure to showcase our ornaments no matter how hideous they were.

December ‘21



There are many variations on the basic trifle recipe and Fitzpatrick was delighted to learn that it is a traditional English dessert at Christmastime and a favorite of the royal family, for whom she has a passion. “I think my love of the royal family was passed down to me by my mom. I remember her stories of a party she and some friends hosted in the wee hours of the morning to watch the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles,” she explains. “They had tea, mimosas and scones to be on theme. I really got into the royal family when Kate and William got married. I woke up early to watch their

Mixed Berry Trifle 1 angel food cake, cut into cubes (make your own or use premade) 1 3.4-ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix 2 cups cold milk 1 cup powdered sugar 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature 8 ounces Cool Whip, thawed 2 pints blueberries 2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced 2 pints blackberries

wedding, just like my mom did all those years ago. I’m fascinated by the outward grandeur and pageantry of the monarchy. I also admire the Queen—she sticks to her guns but can also poke fun at herself.” The same could be easily said of Fitzpatrick, who broke out in fits of laughter during our photo shoot as she described a photo session from her childhood where she was wearing a long black dress with a massive lace collar. “I resembled a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” she offers with a hearty laugh. “I guess there are worse things, right?”

In a small bowl, combine the vanilla pudding mix with the milk and whisk for two minutes; set aside. > In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. > Gradually add the powdered sugar as you beat the mixture until combined and smooth. > Add the prepared pudding to the cream cheese mixture and gently fold and stir until completely combined. > Add Cool Whip to the bowl and fold it into the

mixture until no white streaks appear. To assemble the trifle, alternate layers of angel food cake, berries (either in single layers by kind, or mixed), pudding mixture, berries and so on. > Add a final layer of pudding mixture and arrange the remaining berries in a decorative pattern on top.> Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Special thanks to Agapanthus Ocala and Dillard’s in Market Street at Heath Brook for providing seasonal decor items. On this page, above: Lenox French Perle Decorative Centerpiece Runner from Dillard’s; Vietri Old St. Nick Dishes/Bowl from Agapanthus. At left: Vietri Incanto Stone Lace Cereal Bowl from Agapanthus. On the opening page: Viva by Vietri Bohemian Linens Tree Apron (seen throughout); Vietri Foresta Blanca Swirl Tree; Himalayan Trading Post Fleur de Lys Candle; Vietri Holiday Salt and Pepper Shakers, all from Agapanthus Ocala.

December ‘21


Art Education

With every stroke of his paintbrush, Ocala-based artist Charles Eady records a bit of Black history unknown to many. You could count Eady among the latter until he began doing research on his family roots. What he discovered first surprised him and then inspired him to become the mixed-media artist he is today. By JoAnn Guidry | Portrait by Jenny E. Photography




alk into Charles Eady’s house and you are immediately greeted by the vibrant oil paintings that live there while in progress and those that come home after being exhibited. All are large paintings, ranging from 36 inches by 48 inches to 43 inches by 70 inches, and are in color schemes of bold rust, deep reds, subtle greens and rich golds. Each commands a wall, insisting that you look at it. And when you do, that’s when the history and art lessons begin. Black Jockey of 1790, the master of the hall entryway, exemplifies Eady’s mixed-media historical art. The 36x48-inch painting features an abstract jockey and racehorse in oil, a photographic silkscreen of an old newspaper article of the time titled Negroes As Jockeys and an impressionism-styled cotton field scene. As with all his paintings, each element is part of a story. “My initial research in 2008 into court documents, county records, tax records and such was to provide my father with historical information about our family roots in South Carolina,” explains Eady, 56, who grew up in Fairfax, South Carolina and graduated in 1988 from Claf lin University with a bachelor’s in art education. “I did find Eady on a transcribed copy of the first U.S. Census in 1790, St. Johns Parish, Berkeley County, South Carolina. But there was also a column titled ‘All Other Free Persons,’ which included free Black people living in the county. Eady embarked on a historical journey, leading him to discover that federal census documents from 1790 to 1860 revealed there were more free Blacks living in the South than in the North during that time period. According to Eady’s research, by 1860 there were nearly 10,000 free Blacks and mixed race persons living in South Carolina. “Through county and tax records, I learned that there were nearly twice as many free Blacks owning property in the South than in the North during that time. In St. Johns Parish, Berkeley

Black Jockey of 1790

Hidden Freedom

December ‘21


Cotton Rose

County, I verified through property tax records that free Blacks owned a $1 million in property in that time period,” notes Eady, still amazed at the uncovered history. Eady was diligent and meticulous with his research. He scoured through the Library of Congress, county and state archives, land grants, as well as census records through 60


the decades, discovering more of this hidden history of free Blacks. “Any lead that I found had to be verified by three sources before I considered it authentic,” asserts Eady, a man perpetually energized by his artistic passions, including teaching art education at Belleview High School since 2014. “I began to believe that if this information

I was so surprised that there could’ve been free Blacks prior to the Civil War. And I wanted to find out more. could be made available to people, particularly to children growing up, that it would have a profound impact on their ideas about Black history in this country. But I wasn’t sure yet how I was going to do that.” FINDING HIS MUSE Although he had drawn since he was a child, Eady was still struggling to find his own unique artistic style a decade after graduating from Claflin University. He got married in 1989 and his son Quinn was born in 1990. Eady attended the Art Institute of Atlanta for a year before moving to Jacksonville in 1991. Then one night, exhaustion and frustration delivered Eady his muse. “In 1998, I was doing some part-time teaching but also working other odd jobs at night. I got home late one night, tired and frustrated. I needed to create,” recalls Eady. “I grabbed a painting that I had been working on, but that was going nowhere. I turned it upside down and just started painting on top of what was already there. What emerged was a painting from a picture that I had taken of a cotton field in South Carolina. In that moment, I knew I had finally found my artistic style.” Eady titled the impressionistic-styled painting Cotton Rose and it became his muse. I used it as a reference for a whole series based on it, which became my best sellers,” reveals Eady. “Those cotton fields series paintings are incorporated into many of my historical paintings. But when people ask me about buying Cotton Rose, I tell them it’s not for sale.” With his art on track, Eady attended a teachers’ recruiting conference in Orlando in 2001. He applied for and soon accepted an art teacher position at Sunrise Elementary School in Ocala. "One of my jobs while I lived in Jacksonville was being the Florida sales rep for an education

Afros and Banjos

American Jockey


sales company,” shares Eady. “Ocala was part of my territory, so I had become somewhat familiar with it. I was delighted to get the job at Sunrise Elementary and the plan was to move my art forward while I taught.” ART FLOURISHES All of that historical research Eady had done became boxes of documents, which would then be transformed into his first exhibit in 2013. Aptly titled Hidden Freedom, the 35 oil paintings, all 28x30-inches in size, featured historical silk-screened documents layered on oil canvas. The collection was on exhibit at the Arthur Rose Museum at Claf lin University.

“This first exhibit was huge for me. Through my art, I was so excited to finally be able to share the little-known history of free Blacks in the South before the Civil War,” says Eady. “The exhibit was very well received. But I kept feeling like I needed to do more.” And do more he did. In 2018, Eady published a historical fiction book titled Hidden Freedom: The South Before It Was Racist. The book’s characters were free Blacks who lived in Eadytown, which was an actual town that Eady found through his research. “I wrote the book to bring life in some way to the free Blacks of that time,” says Eady. “As an educator, my thinking was the book could

help people look at that history in a different way. I wanted to bring to light history that opens up dialogue to uplift all of us.” The book’s cover was inspired by a 43x70 inch painting, which Eady also dubbed Hidden Freedom. It was the first painting Eady created that featured a free Black person and not just historical documents. The Black man, a real estate owner wearing a top hat, was inspired by a document that Eady came across titled Charleston Free Negro Real Estate. Hidden Freedom, the painting, would be accepted into the ArtFields Festival in 2019. Based in Lake City, South Carolina, the community nonprofit ArtFields Collective hosts the annual ArtFields Festival every April. Local businesses display hundreds of artworks and artists compete for $100,000 in prizes. “Being accepted into ArtFields that first year was a very big thing for me,” says Eady. “I realized adding people to my historical paintings made what had been a missing connection.” Eady’s first national exhibit was in 2020 at the Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie, New York. In 2019 and 2020, Eady’s American Jockey and Black Jockey of 1790 were selected, respectively, as Best in Show at the College of Central Florida’s Webber Gallery exhibits. American Jockey is now on permanent display at the Appleton Museum of Art, where Eady has taught summer art workshops for youth. "Artist and educator Charles Eady epitomizes how to create unique works of art that elucidate untold stories from history,” says Jason Steuber, director of the Appleton Museum of Art. “His artwork is accessible, visually striking and very much relevant to our everyday lives.”

the present. “In the book, Anna was determined to read and secretly learned from a boy who would visit her on Sunday afternoons. He taught her by writing alphabet letters in the sand with a stick,” explains Eady. “When the boy asked Anna why she wanted to learn to read, she said, ‘I want to read myself free.’ I often wondered what Anna looked like, so I decided to bring her to life on canvas.” Anna did indeed take on a life of her own. Accepted into the 2021 ArtFields Festival, she won the Grand Prize and is now on permanent display as part of the ArtFields Collective at the Crossroads Gallery in Lake City, South Carolina. “Charles Eady’s Anna tells an important story that we’re proud to help share,” says Jamison Kerr, the art director of ArtFields. “Charles’s storytelling through his artwork is stunning. With Anna, he does a great job of showcasing strength in her eyes and stance. The portrait captures you and holds your attention because you immediately get a sense of who Anna is.” Now that Anna has found a new home, Eady has painted Polly, yet another character from his book. Polly is described by Eady as “the voice of reason.” In the 38x48 inch oil painting titled Afros And Banjos, Polly is holding a small banjo as a symbol of the joy of music in her community. Afros And Banjos may be part of Eady’s 20-piece solo exhibit in 2023 at the Appleton Museum of Art. And Eady will soon be chronicling some of Ocala’s Black history. He’s been invited to paint free-standing art panels at the Heritage Trail Park in West Ocala. “I am so honored to have been chosen for the Heritage Trail project and a solo exhibit at the Appleton Museum,” says Eady, whose art studio is in the garage of the Ocala home he shares with his 18-yearold son, Alex. “I still haven’t wrapped my mind around everything that has happened with my art since I first began researching my family history 13 years ago. I am so grateful and humbled by it all.”

They were bold people who went about everyday living and conducted their business in town without fear. They were free Blacks.

ANNA AND PAINTING FORWARD Eady’s work shifted again when he painted Anna, a character from his book. Anna, the painting, does not include any historical documents, it only depicts a young Black girl with a resolute stare bringing her history to

December ‘21


Day in the Life By Dave Schlenker

In observing the beauty that exists in the here and now, we can find the extraordinary revealed within the ordinary. We invite you to see our community with fresh eyes through the lens of one of our talented photographers. A professional journalist and photographer with a long history in community theater, Dave captured this magical behind-the-scenes moment during a local holiday production. “The showstopper for [the now defunct] Marion Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker was the snow scene, when snow fell to the stage and tiny angels joined senior snow queens. I caught this moment at Ocala Civic Theatre when the little angels were lining up backstage.” 64


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