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Every year Citrus County says goodbye to many of its citizens.
From business people and artists to doctors, lawyers and county pioneers, each one has contributed to the fabric of the community, making it and us richer and better for having known them.
Although we can’t print everyone’s name and contribution, here are some of the people of Citrus County who have died during 2012:
* Leonard “Lenny” Damron III, 61, longtime Crystal River resident and businessman, died
To the community, the name Damron was synonymous with auto parts and repair in Citrus County. Damron grew a small salvage yard into a family business of regional note. In 1981, he opened Damron’s Auto Parts Inc. on County Road 486 near Crystal River. Eventually, he expanded his company to other locations, such as Gainesville, Melbourne and Atlanta, Ga.
In 1998, Damron, along with sons Chad and Casey, sold the auto salvage business to Illinois-based LKQ Corp. Damron served as senior vice president managing LKQ’s self-service and heavy-duty truck divisions until his death.
“There were quite a few of us that started out in the salvage business back in the ’70s and ’80s, and we all had a certain amount of vision and drive. Lenny had a boatload of both,” said Barney Thompson, a 30-year friend, at Damron’s memorial service.
* Irene DeLaby, 90, dedicated and enthusiastic volunteer for the Florida Parks Service, died Oct. 6.
DeLaby volunteered more than 27,000 hours to the park system that she loved, and was the first Florida parks volunteer to contribute 10,000 hours, which was recognized by the governor.
In 2000 she received a national volunteer service award and in 2004 was awarded the national Take Pride in America award for volunteerism.
During the 1940s, DeLaby played professional baseball for the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. During World War II she worked in a defense plant. Later, she went on to teach high school in Fox Lake, Ill. She moved to Florida in 1989.
“She was a dynamite lady and the consummate advocate for volunteers in trying to be a champion for volunteers,” said Tom Linley, former Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park ranger, at DeLaby’s memorial service. “She was very much a leader at a time when there weren’t a lot of women in leadership.”
* Shawn Fitzpatrick, 31, Inverness attorney who, in 2007, took over the family law firm his late father and grandfather built, died Oct. 22 of an undisclosed illness he had battled for at least a year.
Born and raised in Inverness, Fitzpatrick received his law degree in December 2006 – just seven months after cancer claimed his father, Richard “Spike” Fitzpatrick. Spike Fitzpatrick had hoped to live long enough to practice together with his son at the Fitzpatrick & Fitzpatrick office on North Apopka Avenue where he had practiced law there with his father, Charles B. Fitzpatrick.
Shawn Fitzpatrick practiced law with his sister, Megan Fitzpatrick.
“He was a fantastic mentor. He was following in my dad’s footsteps,” Megan told the Chronicle shortly after her brother’s death. “He was the most caring person I’ve ever known. He was my brother and my best friend.”
* Nola Gravius, 74, the woman who was the compassionate face of CUB for many years, died at her Floral City home June 10.
She came to Citrus County in 1979 and went to work for CUB in 1989 when it was still in the basement of the historic courthouse.
“One of Nola’s strongest attributes was her love for children,” said Deborah Rossfeld, current CUB executive director, shortly after Gravius’ death. “She was gentle and went out of her way – above and beyond to help people.”
* James Franklin “Doc” Hudson, Sr., 90, longtime Crystal River resident, teacher, coach and school principal, died Dec. 5.
One of Hudson’s claims to local fame was coaching a six-man football team at Crystal River High School that won a state championship in the late 1940s. He was also known for his keen memory of people and events in Crystal River.
In the 1980s Hudson recorded the oral histories of local “old timers.”
“My parents spoke of him, something akin to a movie star,” said Jack Dumas, Crystal River fire chief, shortly after Hudson’s death. “He was a wonderful person who will be missed.”
* Shawn Kersh, 41, father of three, dedicated family practice physician, both as a partner in private practice at Inverness Family Care and as a physician for the county school board employees at Citrus County Health and Wellness Center, as well as a coach for the Inverness Storm Pop Warner football league, died May 25 at his home in Inverness after a sudden illness.
“Kids played their best because they believed in Shawn and wanted to please him. He inspired the players – and he inspired the other coaches,” said Jim Bergman, fellow coach and Kersh’s best friend at Kersh’s memorial service.
* Gary Maidhof, 54, operations and projects officer for Citrus County, died May 27, in Council, Idaho, while visiting with family.
Among his many contributions to the community: Maidhof’s regulation involvement included: mining, impact fees, billboards, septic tanks, land development code, manatee protection. As the county’s development regulator, he appeared in news stories involving some controversial names: Florida Rock, SunCruz, Brown Schools at Beverly Hills, the Freezer bar and Sen. Charlie Dean’s barn.
He was a board member of Citrus 2020 and prime organizer of Save Our Waters Week, as a Scoutmaster he helped oversee numerous Eagle Scout projects and he was the 1998 Chronicle Citizen of the Year. He was well known for his years of problem solving.
“Gary had a rare combination of intellectual and historical knowledge of our county,” County Administrator Brad Thorpe told the Chronicle in May. “He touched many lives. He loved his family, the environment and the people he worked with and served during his 32 years with the county.”
n Don Mayo, 71, well-known waterfowl and marine artist died Oct. 18 at his Crystal River home after a year’s battle with bladder cancer.
Some of his works are in the personal collections of former President George Bush Sr., baseball legend the late Ted Williams, singer Anne Murray and the late Gen. Norman H. Schwarzkopf.
In April, Mayo was honored as Citrus County’s only person to be named a lifetime member of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.
In October, Mayo’s wife Sue Mayo told the Chronicle, “He has always appreciated and studied in depth the many aspects of nature. He was extremely well-known for his expert fly fishing, saltwater sport fishing along with duck and marine guiding.”
* Phil Price, 75, former Crystal River city councilman, former chamber of commerce president and 1992 chamber “Person of the Year” and the first CPA in Citrus County, died Dec. 2. As a council member he was known for his fiscal conservatism — saving money and cutting costs.
“He wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in,” former Crystal River mayor Ron Kitchen told the Chronicle after Price’s death. “He was a good advocate for the taxpayers. He was one of those guys who made a huge impact on the community, and I don’t think a lot of people know all the good things he did.”
* Kay Tolle, 86, lifelong, fourth-generation resident of Citrus County, died Aug. 3 at her home in Crystal River.
From Crystal River to Inverness, Kay Tolle impacted the community. She grew up as Beulah Katherine “Kay” Barco in Inverness and moved to Crystal River when she married Ed, her husband of 66 years.
The personification of Southern charm and grace, her daughter Laura Lou Fitzpatrick said at Tolle’s memorial service, “Mom showed us that you can be told the worst news in the world – ‘You have cancer and there’s nothing we can do’ – and handle it with dignity and grace.
* Eloise Tindale Van Ness, 89, lifelong Citrus County resident and much-loved local treasure whom many called “Grandmother,” died Feb. 14.
Decades ago, Van Ness started Ease’s Rough Riders 4-H horse club and volunteered with 4-H for 49 years, teaching generations of kids how to ride – and how to live.
She led local Christmas parades on horseback, drove a school bus, served with many local organizations and earned many honors and accolades. Up until two years ago, she rode in the annual cattle drive as part of the Hernando Southern Heritage Days — and she could pop a mean cow whip.
“The legacy she left and the greatest tribute to her are the generations of children she impacted,” said Hal Porter, president of the Citrus County Fair Board who grew up being loved and mentored by “Grandmother” Van Ness. “I’m a different person for having known her.”
Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-564-2927.