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Hal Brewer: Remembered for Helping Others

By DAVE NICHOLSON | The Tampa Tribune
Published: November 06, 2012
Updated: November 06, 2012 – 10:32 PM

PLANT CITY –Hal Brewer, a family physician who delivered 5,000 babies in a career spanning nearly four decades, died Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 85.

Brewer died about 3 p.m. at his Plant City home, surrounded by the family he loved so much.

Known affectionately as “Dr. Hal,” Brewer hung up his stethoscope in 1995 but kept on giving back through public service. He was active in organizations that ranged from First United Methodist Church of Plant City to the Boy Scouts to Plant City Entertainment community theater.

Brewer, who was diagnosed with cancer a year ago, left a legacy that touched thousands beyond his medical practice.

“When he retired, I worried that he wouldn’t find enough to do, but he was busier than ever,” said his daughter, Cindy Gutowski. “He loved Plant City, and he kept giving and giving.”









Aside from being a wonderful father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Brewer taught his children to give back.

“The biggest gift he gave us was the idea that you always needed to help others,” said his son, Rodney.

“He taught us to put people first,” his son Les said.

Brewer endeared himself to generations with his humor, grace and charm. His accolades included the Plant City Photo Archives and History Center’s Heritage Award and the Plant City Outstanding Citizen of the Year.

“He was a Godsend to this community,” said Marsha Passmore, a longtime friend and former city commissioner. “We all loved him, and we’ll all miss him.”

Brewer grew up in Mississippi, served in World War II and received his medical degree from the University of Mississippi in the late-1950s. He did his residency at Tampa General Hospital and started practicing in Plant City in 1960.

Brewer is also survived by his wife, Lynn; son, Daniel; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

There will be a visitation from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Wells Memorial and Event Center, 1903 W. Reynolds St. in Plant City. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Saturday at First United Methodist, 303 N. Evers St.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the Bruton Memorial Library, Plant City Photo Archives and History Center, Plant City Entertainment, South Florida Baptist Hospital Foundation and Madison’s Mission.



Fox 13 News interviews owner of mystery photo album found

By: Gloria Gomez, FOX 13 News


The faces and the stories behind the black and white pictures were a mystery, but to the owner of the album they were in, they are treasured memories.

For months, Candy Owens with the Plant City Photo Archives & History Center has been trying to connect someone to the photos.

The pictures were discovered in an abandoned mobile home in February and turned over to the history center for safe keeping.

After our story aired, Candy was bombarded by a lot of false alarms.

“We got letters, we had people coming through the door left and right saying, we want to see that. That’s my aunt so and so,” Owens said.

But suddenly, the owner of the photo album walked in and Candy knew it.

“I said, that’s got to be her, because she had the beautiful shaped almond eyes,” Owens said.

The album belongs to 50-year-old Regina Marsico.

Sadly, she was separated from all of her belongings years ago after she suffered three aneurysms and a stroke.

Her fragile medical condition left her in a nursing home, unaware that everything she owns was being repossessed, including all of her precious memories.

“When I lost my home, I thought I had lost everything,” she said.

Regina is practically paralyzed and has limited movement of her arms and legs, but her mind is strong.

Each picture takes her back to her childhood and the adopted parents she so treasures.

“Somebody didn’t want me, but they did,” Marsico said.

Regina is also grateful that a group of strangers had the heart and patience to recover her past for her.

“Somebody that didn’t even know me, and they cared about something for me,” she said, through tears.

Source: My Fox Tampa Bay

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.


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 and

“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.” (813) 259-7124


Photo archives officials attend conferences


Plant City Photo Archives and History Center staff members, Executive Director Gil Gott and Administrative Assistant Tim Grzelczyk, recently attended a pair of conferences in Virginia and Tampa.

The American Association for State and Local History conference in Richmond, using the 150 years since the Civil War as a theme, focused on history and changes and how today's modern museum conveys controversial historic information to its audience. Gott serves on the organization's Small Museums Affinity Group Committee.

Gott and Grzelczyk reported that a particularly interesting session at the conference was taught by James Loewen, based on his book, “Lies My Teacher Told Me; Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong.”

At the Florida Association of Museums meeting in Tampa, the staff members attended educational sessions and participated in discussions.

The photo archives and history center, 106 S. Evers St., includes thousands of photographs and documents on the area's history.

Staff report



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