HCC professor presented with Plant City Heritage Award

By DAVE NICHOLSON | The Tampa Tribune
Published: March 30, 2012

When Mary Davis heard that her former professor, Maribeth Mobley, was going to be honored with the prestigious Heritage Award, she knew she had to be there.

In the 1990s, Davis was a single mother with five children and struggling with her classes at Hillsborough Community College’s Plant City campus.

“She was my mentor and supported me with a lot of encouragement. She helped keep me focused,” said Davis, who after her 1998 graduation from HCC earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of South Florida.

Davis, a Plant City business owner, credits Mobley with putting her on the path for success.

Davis was among dozens of friends, family members and others on hand Thursday as Mobley was presented with the award from the Plant City Photo Archives and History Center.

The nonprofit group selects the award winners based on their community involvement, work on historic preservation and other factors, including a requirement that they be widely beloved in the community, archives founder Ed Verner said.

Mobley was the honored at the 10th annual gala sponsored by the history center, which has thousands of photographs, negatives and historical documents in its collection at 106 N. Evers St.

Mobley, who has taught English, humanities and world literature at HCC, has been a board member at the photo archives since its 2000 founding.

Mobley, 59, was born in Bartow and moved to Plant City as a child. She left after she got married and held various jobs, including at a convenience store and shrimp processing plant. The Plant City High School graduate decided to go back to school when HCC opened a Plant City campus in the early 1970s.

After graduating from HCC, she earned degrees from USF, including a doctorate in 1991.

She began teaching at HCC in the mid-1970s.

“She always kept one foot on the Plant City (HCC) campus,” said Jodi Smith-Stevens, a former student who helped present the award to Mobley.

Smith-Stephens said she took every class Mobley taught because of her skill at making classes interesting and informative.

“She took students all over the world without ever leaving their seats,” she said.

Mobley has won numerous awards, including the 1991 Woman of Achievement honor from the Plant City Business and Professional Women’s Club.

HCC Plant City campus President Felix Haynes called Dr. Mobley “a tremendous professor and educator.”

“She has made major contributions to the Plant City campus and all of HCC for many years,” said Haynes, who said the Heritage Award was very much deserved.

When it was Mobley’s turn at the microphone, she said she was the one who felt thankful.

“I have been so blessed to have had your lives interwoven with mine because it has enriched my life,” she said.

During the evening, Verner also presented Bill Parolini Awards for Meritorious Service to city Library Director Anne Haywood and photo archives information technology director David Patton.

Source: TBO.com

Photo discovery in empty home sparks intrigue

By GEORGE WILKENS | The Tampa Tribune
Published: March 09, 2012

The search continues to intensify for anyone connected to family photos recently recovered from an abandoned Plant City home.

So far, no one has turned up a solid connection to the photos Mary Ellen Gottlieb salvaged from an abandoned mobile home in Plant City; but the search, spurred by media reports, has generated widespread interest.

Candy Owens at the Plant City Photo Archives & History Center, where the photos are in safekeeping, said she has been overwhelmed by calls and e-mails about the mystery pictures, along with people stopping by to look at the old photos.

“That’s probably the biggest response to just about anything we’ve done,” Owens said. “We had people waiting to see the photo album.

“We’re thrilled to death, but it was almost like we had to put in another phone line.”

Gottlieb discovered dozens of black-and-white photographs while documenting the condition of the dilapidated mobile home, which is long-abandoned and has suffered a roof collapse.

Hoping to find someone who might recognize the people in the photos, Gottlieb brought them to the Tribune & Courier, which published a story on Feb. 8. A local TV station aired a report a week later.

That’s when the calls started pouring into the Photo Archives & History Center.

Some callers thought they might be related to the people identified by name in the snapshots, which are mostly from the 1940s and ’50s.

Others, wanting to help, got online and typed in the names of the people in the pictures — Winnie and Jim Gribble, Rinda and Pink Hill, Mollie and Harris Black and others, Owens said.

Leah Millard, 80, a Plant City winter resident who began genealogy research 15 years ago, joined the quest soon after reading the Feb. 8 article, using free websites such as www.findagrave.com and www.myheritage.com.

“I just dig for everybody because you never know when you’re gonna run across something of your own,” she said. “I guess if you’re interested in your own ancestors you’re hoping someone else will find theirs.”

Like Owens, Millard searched online cemetery records, finding a headstone photo of the Georgia grave of James B. Gribble, who died in 1955.

Linda Rakita of Tampa, who provides genealogy services or searches for clients’ long-lost friends and family members, found Census Bureau records and obituaries for some of those pictured and their descendants.

Pinkney “Pink” Hill died Nov. 20, 1974, at age 88 in Georgia. His wife, Rinda, died five months later at age 93. The couple’s two sons are dead, too.

Meanwhile, the search continues for the owners of the photos, or their heirs.

Those following the mystery await an outcome, Owens said.

“People have asked to be on a call list to inform them if we find the owners.”

gwilkens@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7124

Source: TBO.com

Plant City museum will host Smithsonian exhibit

The Plant City Photo Archives & History Center will host a Smithsonian exhibition later this year.

The traveling exhibit, “Journey Stories,” chronicles America’s history from colonial immigration to westward expansion and the abolition of slavery. Museum visitors will learn what it took for American ancestors to pack up, say goodbye to loved ones and reinvent themselves in a new setting. Through photos, audio stories, artifacts and firsthand accounts from travelers, “Journey Stories” documents true American tales.

Plant City will be the first of six Florida communities to welcome “Journey Stories” in 2012. The free exhibit will go on display May 26 and remain through July 7 at the museum, 106 S Evers St. Tour groups and field trips are welcome to attend.

Also, members of the community are invited to share their own journey stories by prerecording them, submitting them in written form or contacting a Photo Archives staff member for an oral interview.

For more information about the Plant City Photo Archives & History Center, call (813) 754-1578 or email info@plantcityphotoarchives.org. Visit www.plantcityphotoarchives.org.

Sarah Whitman, Times staff writer

Source: Tampa Bay Times

Plant City Photo Archives on Fox Tampa Bay

PLANT CITY – Candy Owens is like a detective. She likes solving mysteries and usually breaks out her special tools to look for those elusive clues.

“Some of the pictures look like they were made in a different state, because the trees and the flowers and the buildings do not look familiar,” Owens said.

But this mystery has been a hard nut to crack. Ten days ago, a photo album filled with family photos was brought to the Plant City Photo Archives and History Center.

It was found by Mary Ellen Gottlieb. The company she works for was cleaning up abandoned mobile homes, when she found someone’s hidden treasure.

She knew the album meant a lot to someone, but she didn’t know who that someone was.

“I could have just thrown them out, and I just thought, you know, if somebody found something like this that belonged to me, boy would I ever be grateful and want it back,” Gottlieb said.

Mary Ellen asked around, but no luck. Since then, Candy has been on a mission. She knows some pictures were taken in the 40s and 50s. Others appear to be from out of state.

And while most don’t have information on the back of the photograph, a group picture has the name Winnie and Jim Gribble. Could they be the owners?

“They didn’t point out exactly which one was in the picture, so it is still kind of a mystery, We are at a loss,” Owens said.

Museum Director Gil Gott says sometimes displaying the mystery leads to the owner.

“We’ve had photos and put them on our window because we don’t have a clue what this is about, and we’ve had people come in and say, that’s me,” Gott said.

Until that happens, Candy continues the hunt. She knows the album is a treasure of memories and stories that need to live on.

“The younger generation won’t have these photos unless someone comes forward,” she said.


Whose family is this?: MyFoxTAMPABAY.com