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Gloria Bohannon of Dade City being inducted into Florida 4-H Hall of Fame

Gloria Bohannon works with youth at the Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center on 4-H projects like gardening.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Gloria Bohannon works with youth at the Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center on 4-H projects like gardening.

A 4-H Club leader never knows when she or he might touch a life, and be remembered for it years later.

Such is the case with Gloria Bohannon of Dade City, who has been involved with Hernando County 4-H endeavors for 29 years and who today will be inducted into the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame.

Some time ago, Bohannon was driving home from an evening meeting of the Hernando 4-H Club Foundation in Brooksville.

"It was late, probably 10 o'clock," she recalled last week.

Crossing Ayers Road, "I saw a car sitting on the side of the road and it was really dark, and I just felt something was wrong."

Bohannon pulled up alongside.

The woman, who had two young children in the back seat, cracked her window and blurted out that she was a member of AAA and told Bohannon she would call for aid, though she made no move to do so. So Bohannon called AAA on her own cellphone, then decided to wait till a tow truck arrived.

"It was a big tall guy in the truck," which Bohannon said made her glad she stayed at the scene.

When he stepped out, he said, "You're Miss Roller."

It had been years since Bohannon's last name had changed, and she apparently looked puzzled.

The tow truck driver said, "You don't know who I am."

He then told Bohannon that he had once been a member of a 4-H Club she led.

The two chatted briefly. Then the tow truck driver began talking with the woman behind the wheel of the disabled car.

Bohannon said the woman said she would be okay, so Bohannon left.

"I guess since he and I were talking, she felt she was okay with him," she said.

"To this day I don't know who he was," Bohannon said. "I run into lots of kids who know me."

Her lasting impression on so many is one reason county 4-H agent Nancy Moores nominated Bohannon for the Hall of Fame. Bohannon, 61, who will be inducted at the state 4-H convention in Gainesville, will become only the second person from Hernando 4-H to be so honored.

"She's been a driving force behind (4-H) as long as I can remember," Moores said. "She's constantly looking for ways to 'Make the Best Better,' " the motto of 4-H'ers. "She doesn't go shopping without asking for a donation to the (annual fundraising) auction. She never meets a kid she doesn't mention 4-H to."

At a recent meeting of the local foundation, newly renamed Hernando County 4-H Association, Bohannon shared a table with the county's other Hall of Famer, Helen Fleming, 82, of Brooksville. Fleming was among the first class of inductees when the honor roll was established in 2002, on the 100th anniversary of the birth of 4-H.

Also at the table as president of the association was Bohannon's daughter, Torina Schmidt of Brooksville. Torina, now a leader and livestock judging team coach, joined 4-H at age 7. As they came of age, Bohannon's other children — Michael Roller, Valarie Singer and Amy Roller — signed on as 4-H'ers.

Bohannon first joined 4-H at age 9, she estimates. Her project was arts and crafts, learning and doing macrame, crochet and needlepoint "with a very blunt needle." She "sort of got out of it" for a while, she said, and didn't get involved again until young Torina joined, pursuing steer production.

With all of her children eventually taking part in animal projects, Bohannon followed along while maintaining her arts and crafts interest.

Bohannon served as the first leader of the Steer Stuffers 4-H Club in Hernando.

"The boys thought that was a ridiculous name, so the next year we changed it to Future Cattleman 4-H Club," she said, a name that continues to resound from loud speakers when winners are announced at the annual Hernando County Fair and Youth Livestock Show.

Asked about her greatest satisfaction through her years with 4-H, Bohannon paused, then said, "Oh, my goodness gracious. … Watching the children grow, when kids do something special or get an award, the smiles on their faces."

Of course, she experienced difficult times.

"I had a little boy, 10 years old, who had a steer," she recalled. "It was rambunctious. We worked and worked with it. It died.

"He was devastated. He thought he did something to kill it."

Bohannon shepherded the youth through his guilt.

"Those things happen. That's life," she told him.

"He became my little helper," Bohannon said. "I got him to come to meetings. He came to the fair and became the runner for all the 4-H kids. "It took almost six months to feel like it was not his fault. He overcame it by helping others, and the next year he showed again, and he was fine."

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

Anyone interested in joining one of the 16 4-H clubs in Hernando County, or joining the 91 volunteers helping with 4-H, may call Nancy Moores at (352) 754-4433.

Gloria Bohannon of Dade City being inducted into Florida 4-H Hall of Fame 08/01/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 7:32pm]

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