Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chester LeGrange was one of a kind, and he'll be missed by all who knew him

Chester LeGrange, left, with Skip Glasson at Terra Siesta in December.
JAMES A. JONES JR./Bradenton Herald
We met William A. "Chester" LeGrange, 99, while working on a neighborhood feature in December. He lived in Terra Siesta, one of the 55-plus communities along U.S. 301 North in Ellenton.

You knew right away that Chester was something special. He was beloved by his neighbors for his kindness and his concern for others, and his  sprightly sense of humor.

The day we met him, he was with Skip Glasson in a golf cart, and had just picked up a statue of a gnome that he was going to repaint for a neighbor.

Unfortunately, Chester, the oldest resident of Terra Siesta, fell and broke his hip some weeks later. But he lived to see the Bradenton Herald story, and was happy with it, we're told.

You know that the folks in Terra Siesta, and his family members are missing him terribly.

"In the 1950s and 1960s, we lived on 16th Street in Samoset. Each year he would put up a Christmas display that was a block long, He cut every piece out of lumber. The display was animated, and set to music," said his daughter, Norma Kennedy, who is now a civic leader in Parrish.

"People came from miles around to see the display. The ones who knew my family would stop by for coffee and the fruitcake that my mother baked," Kennedy said. "Christmas was always his thing, and when he was older, he would just decorate his golf cart."

In his younger days, Chester's home was on what is now Skyway Memorial Gardens, where was laid to rest.

Charles Lee Howell, property manager at Terra Siesta, says that Chester was the "happiest guy in the place."

Chester looked after his neighbors, and they looked after him, too.

"He was a heck of a carpenter, and there wasn't anything that he couldn't do," Howell said. "I always liked to drop in to see Chester. Some times I would see him napping in his golf cart."

When Dave Warner bought in Terra Siesta 15 years ago, Chester was his neighbor.

"He was pleasant and charming; just a very good neighbor," Warner said.

"Chester was a very active volunteer in the community, and over the years his activities changed as he got older, He used to lead all the golf cart parades. Chester was going great guns until the day he went down," Warner said.

Chester passed away Jan. 10, 2015.

He was born in Princeton, Ind., on Oct. 22, 1915. On December 23, 1936, He married Ruth Saunders LeGrange in 1936.

He was a carpenter at Miller's Trailers and Rasmussen Construction until retirement.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his honor to Emmanuel Baptist Church, 8305 US 301, Parrish, FL 34219.

In case you missed that Terra Siesta feature, you can read it here, and learn a little more about Chester and his neighbors:


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Parrish residents come together to clean up their historic cemetery

Parrish residents gathered to tend the graves at Parrish's historic cemetery on Saturday.

An awesome day.

That's what Iris McClain calls Saturday, Jan. 17, when 65 black and white residents of Parrish got together to clean up the historic Parrish Cemetery.

"It was a community thing," said Floyd Dozier, who has many relatives buried there. "I think it was a good idea."

The cemetery, which opened in 1876 with the burial of an infant, Rose Lee Turner, belongs to all residents of Parrish, and is historically important to  Manatee County.

Major William Iredell Turner, a Seminole War and Civil War veteran, was a Parrish pioneer and Bradenton's first postmaster, when it was still called Braidentown.

Also interred there are World War I and World War II veterans.

Originally, blacks and whites were buried in separate parts of the cemetery.

But, that was many years ago.

"We took that fence down a long time ago," McClain said.

"What a wonderful day we all had on Saturday. It turned out to be a beautiful day with at least 65 people showing up to help make this old historical cemetery look beautiful again," she said.

"We all got to see people that we have not seen in awhile. When stopping long enough to rest a few minutes, we would visit a little and then get back to work," McClain said.

Prime movers in rallying the community to cleanup the cemetery were longtime pillars Vivian Boice and JoAnn Rogers.

"Our cemetery was just going down, down," Rogers said of her decision to personally recruit neighbors to come to the cleanup.

"We are all God's children. I asked the Lord to let me live a bit longer until we got the cemetery cleaned up," said Rogers, 86.

In addition to locals, some volunteers came from outside the county to tend to relative's graves.

McClain spent her day weeding around the graves of infants and children so that their names and other poignant information could be read.

"We plan to have another work day when the old leaves fall and the new leaves come in," she said. That should be some time in the spring.