Charles Arnade used to drive to the post office dressed in a Speedo, mesh tank top and flip-flops. He'd emerge engrossed in his mail and begin to walk home, forgetting about his car parked nearby with the engine running.
That story about the venerable Dr. Arnade was shared by his son Tim, who returned to San Antonio last weekend with his siblings to pay tribute to their mother, Marjorie, who died almost a year ago. Dr. Arnade, a Fulbright scholar and charter member of the USF faculty, died in 2008, a year after the couple sold their stately white house overlooking the city park.
They left a remarkable legacy in San Antonio. They raised seven children, launched countless trips around the world and led the charge in Pasco County for civil rights, hosting the first local meeting of the NAACP, which drew gunfire. They were upstanding and quirky at the same time.
Their children, who are of course not children anymore, are all scattered now. In order, they are Frank, Tony, Stephen (who died three years ago), Tim, Jeanette, Peter and Chris. The remaining six returned for the annual Rattlesnake Festival, an event that, like the Arnades, has been a mainstay in this little town for many years.
Early Saturday morning, Tim set out on the course of the 5-mile Rattlesnake Run with a small plastic bag in hand. Along the way, he sprinkled his parents' ashes — a bit in front of the white house, a small dusting on the footbridge near the lake on Saint Leo University's campus, another at the finish line.
"Every square inch of that course, there's history for me," Tim said.
While he ran, his siblings manned the Arnade Hydration Station, handing out water to runners. Their mother ran this race many times, well into her 60s. After she couldn't run anymore, she worked the water stations.
And she loved the post office. Charles too. After the race, the siblings gathered outside the little building on Main Street, not far from the bouncy houses and craft vendors at the festival, to dedicate a bench to their parents.
"This post office is the tie that binds the community," Tim said during a brief dedication ceremony. "In a community like this, it's more than just checking the mail."
The Arnade kids know that well, having grown up running these streets and playing ball on these lots. On Saturday, though, they talked mostly about how San Antonio has changed.
"It's turned into a kind of historical town that people come to," said Peter, 50, who flew in with his wife from Hawaii where he is a university dean.
During Peter's childhood, the orange groves and cattle ranches didn't draw out-of-towners. "Eco-tourism" in east Pasco consisted of kids' roadside stands peddling oranges and Spanish moss to passing drivers. Now the Arnades wonder where the groves have all gone.
Chris, 48, spent part of the day driving around in his minivan to some of his old hideouts. One, at least, appeared untouched: a field off Williams Cemetery Road, empty save for a few cows, where the night sky is blacker than any city dweller could imagine.
After Chris left San Antonio, he earned a doctorate in physics, a course set by hauling his telescope out to that field as a kid to drink in the stars.
"This is still a part of Florida I love," he said. "How much more can it last?"
It's a good question. But some intangibles, at least, have not changed. Chris and his siblings couldn't walk 10 feet through the festival without being pulled into a hug.
Said Chris, a former Wall Street bond trader: "When you live in New York, you forget how friendly people are."
The Arnades scattered again after the weekend. They could depart knowing that here, the old timers know their family's legacy well and the newcomers will get a glimpse of it any time they stop for the mail, whatever they're wearing.
Molly Moorhead is the Pasco County editor of the Tampa Bay Times. Contact her at email@example.com.