January 25, 2009 - The Lake City Reporter

By H. Morris Williams

In January of 1988—21 years ago this month— significant events of passage happened to four of our prominent citizens. One died, two retired, and one turned 100 years old.

*Coach Hobe Hooser, 82, died. He had coached all sports at CHS from 1931-42 and during that time achieved legendary status in our community.

One evidence of his popularity was that 40 years after he left Lake City, some 400 of his former players and friends held "Hobe Hooser Night" at the Lake City Country Club (now Southern Oaks) to honor him.

Mayor Gerald Witt officially proclaimed that day in 1982 as Hobe Hooser Day in Lake City.

*Joe Blewett retired after 23 years as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer of the Lake City Reporter. In Joe's tenure here, he proudly trumpeted Lake City's many virtues and also bravely exposed corruption in high places.

A quiet, unassuming man, he said he wanted the epitaph on his tombstone to read simply, "He wasn't a half-bad reporter."

The truth is that Joe was an outstanding, courageous editor, reporter, and all-around journalist.

*Kenneth Havird (CHS 1943) retired after 40 years service with the local Department of Transportation (DOT).

A soft-spoken man, Kenneth started out with the DOT in 1948 as a rodman, the low man on the totem pole of a survey team, and rose step by step to the positions of levelman, instrumentman, professional engineer, resident engineer, and, finally, district location supervisor.

A strong family man, church man, and World War II veteran, Kenneth's family roots went back to the days of the Seminole War.

*Vashti Parnell turned 100 years old and was said to be the oldest black woman in Columbia County at that time.

Born to farmers, she graduated from Richardson High School, took the required teacher's exam, and became a public school teacher for over 20 years.

When asked the secret to her long life, she said, "Work hard in the day, get a good night's sleep, eat plain food, dress warm when it's cold, stay out of the sun."

At her birthday party, she reflected on her past life as a black woman: "We were freed in 1865, but we were still trampled under foot a long time. They turned us loose with nothing but the clothes on our back. No education, no nothing. We took whatever the white man gave us. We've come a good piece but we still have a long way to go."

She would have been astounded, of course, if someone had told her that just 21 years later an African American would be elected President of the United States.


An informal drop-in reception will be held on Wednesday, February 11, at 5 p.m. at Tucker's Restaurant inside the Blanche Hotel building for Francis McNeil (CHS 1950) and his wife Miriam.

Francis' life work with the U. S. Foreign Service kept him from attending many class reunions, and he hopes many of his old friends and school mates will drop by to say hello.

Francis once served as the United States Ambassador to Costa Rica, and he is the only CHS graduate to hold an ambassador's post.

He was President of the CHS student body in 1949-50.

Please email or call me to RSVP so we will know how many to expect.


When the CHS classes of 1949-53 held their December reunion, a moment of silence was held to honor those who had died since the May reunion: Marvin Coats, Sam Bradshaw, Buddy Goodbread, Jimmy Brown, Ormond Meeks Feagle, and Donna Jean Johnson Ellis.

Thanks were extended to Julia Osborn for making all the preparations, to Ed Milton for handling all the email correspondence, and to James Clayton for providing the delicious chicken pilau.

It was noted that six of those attending held earned doctor's degrees: Hoyt Horne and Barney McRae (medicine), Ed Milton (physics), Ike McDonald (theology), George Ferree (philosophy), and Richard Adicks (English).

The next reunion will be held on Saturday, May 9, at 11: 30 a.m. at the Mason City Community Center.


When the cannibal ate the missionary, he got his first taste of religion. square

H. Morris Williams is a local historian and long-time Columbia County resident.