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HERNANDO - One night Joan Graves returned from a trip to Ocala to find then-Citrus County Sheriff B.R. Quinn waiting at her front door.
It was some time in the 1950s and Graves had worked as a freelance photographer for the Chronicle and The Tampa Tribune.
Quinn told her to grab her camera and they sped off to raid an illegal moonshine still. Graves took photos as Quinn broke every jar, jug and bottle.
“I never rode in a car so fast in my life as I did with B.R.,” Graves told the Chronicle in 1988 upon her retirement from the Citrus County Clerk of Courts Office.
Joan Graves died Feb. 17. She was 84.
An only child, Graves’ father was an attorney in Tampa. After he died in 1935 at age 35, Graves and her mother came to Citrus County and moved into the Orange Hotel (later the Crown Hotel and now Crown Court assisted living facility) in downtown Inverness.
“She loved growing up at the hotel,” said Evelyn Westerhouse, Graves’ longtime neighbor and friend. “Her mother worked at the courthouse and the people who worked at the hotel took turns taking care of her while her mother worked.”
Graves told the Chronicle Citrus County had only 6,000 people and on Saturday nights all the farmers in the area would come into Inverness and sell peanuts in the courthouse square.
“Come Sunday morning, Main Street would be full of peanut shells,” she said. “It was a big place for northerners to come down. The wives would sit around and play bridge and the husbands would go hunting and fishing.”
Graves graduated from Citrus High School in 1947. At the time, hers was the largest graduating class in the school’s history — 33 students. She was on the basketball team, in the glee club and in the band.
Graves took photos of school and community events, using a Speed Graphic camera, which she had said weighed almost as much as she did, which wasn’t much. Joan Graves was tiny. She took photos of local events, local newsmakers and everyday citizens, church choirs, school classes and now-gone buildings and landmarks.
In 1948, she went to work for the county at the Tax Collector’s Office. She took a 15-year hiatus from Citrus County, moving to Tampa in 1954 to work for Hillsborough County in the auto tag office. She returned to Citrus County in 1969 and resumed working for the county, including in the child support and marriage license departments.
Westerhouse said Graves never married and never had children. She was an avid golfer and boater and loved to fish the local waters.
She was also a history buff, avid gardener, painter and ceramicist, teaching ceramics to her neighbors and their kids and grandchildren in a studio she made out of a shed next to her mobile home in the Apache Shores area of Hernando.
“She outlived a lot of her friends and family,” Westerhouse said. “Hopefully, the historical society can make use of the photos she took.”
In that way, Joan Graves will live on.
Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or email@example.com.