Elfriede Rapp's eyes sparkle, recalling good times with Rosalie Johnson, giving her an elbow nudge that brings laughter from both. The women know the value of friendship: Elfriede is 90 and Rosalie will soon be 93. They've been friends for 23 years and have spent most of their lives helping others.
They have a combined total of 77 years of service — 54 years for Rosalie and 23 for Elfriede — with the General Federation of Women's Clubs, most of it with the Lutz/Land O'Lakes Woman's Club.
Rosalie, who now lives in Trinity, bakes cookies for veterans at Baldomero Lopez State Veterans' Nursing Home in Land O'Lakes. Elfriede, from Lutz, will help with recruiting at the upcoming Woman's Club-sponsored Lutz Arts and Crafts Festival on Dec. 7-8 at Lake Park in north Tampa. Elfriede intends to convince anyone who'll listen how important it is to give back to the community and that joining the Woman's Club is a good way to start. She has even brought her daughters, Liz Iaconetti and Gabrielle Hansen, into the group.
Elfriede was born in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1923. In 1950, she arrived in New York, a 28-year-old war widow with a child. She took work helping with children. She soon married again and had two daughters and a son.
That marriage didn't last, but Elfriede met Robert Rapp. Following open-heart surgery in 1975, Robert's doctor gave him orders to escape the brutal cold of New York.
"We had a choice of Arizona or Florida. My daughter was here, so we moved to Quail Hollow," Elfriede says. Robert died in 1989 and Elfriede stayed where family was close.
In 1990, Elfriede and Rosalie met at an AARP meeting where Bill Johnson, Rosalie's husband, was president. Before long the two found themselves together in the GFWC Lutz/Land O'Lakes Woman's Club. Rosalie had been GFWC club president in Aston, Pennsylvania in 1964-65.
Rosalie was born in Philadelphia in 1920. She married Bill. They had two daughters and a son and lived in several places, including Birmingham and then Brandon, before moving to Lutz in 1987. Along the way Rosalie was volunteering, including at Brandon Hospital, before moving to Lutz. She is quiet about the good work she's done during her years here.
"Rosalie, you're so good at doing the work but you're not good at tooting your own horn," said Pat Serio, fellow member of the local Woman's Club.
Elfriede shares some of what Rosalie has done. Most noted is her work with the veterans. She started at Baldomero Lopez State Veterans' Nursing Home when it opened in 1999, conducted monthly bingo and bake sales, attends Mass and continues to help with monthly cookie time.
"The veterans there are like Rosalie's boys," says Serio.
Rosalie's also been a strong supporter of the Farmworkers Self-Help in Dade City for many years, delivering food and supplies. She's also been a volunteer with the St. Vincent DePaul Society at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Tampa, another common meeting place with Elfriede.
Elfriede and Rosalie have their separate interests too. Elfriede is a CARES telephone reassurance program volunteer. She also supports the Pasco Animal Shelter and is an avid hockey fan.
Each is quick in offering support of the other's work. As they talk, sitting side by side, frequently their hands reach out to touch one another. It's a friendship rich with giving and warm with caring.
"I love these women," says Serio. "The older women in our club have so much to offer and these two never look for attention or the limelight."