BROOKSVILLE — There's a reason why generations of kids growing up in Brooksville got to know Julia Jinkens simply as "Granny."
If you were a hungry Hernando High School football player, Jinkens made sure you ate a hot, nutritious meal before playing Friday night's game. If you were in the band and you needed money to get to a big parade, she organized a fundraiser for you. And if you were a kindergartner at Brooksville Elementary School and were having trouble opening your milk carton, she was always there, smiling and willing to lend a helping hand.
All of which is why when Jinkens, 87, was named this year's Great Brooksvillian, there was not a single person at Monday night's City Council meeting who disagreed with the selection.
"The generations of Brooksville owe her a huge debt of gratitude," said Vice Mayor Lara Bradburn, a longtime friend of Jinkens. "She is very much one of a kind."
As a teenager, Bradburn often worked alongside Jinkens, selling hot dogs at Hernando High sporting events, and got to know her as a community cheerleader who was always willing to get involved when it came to supporting the efforts of young people.
Jinkens and her late husband, Joe, and their three children moved to Brooksville in 1965. While always eager to help out in classrooms, Jinkens said she absolutely loved being around the excitement of high school sports. One day, while attending a football practice of her youngest son, Tim, she was approached by longtime athletic director Tom Varn.
"He said that coach (Jim) Gladden thought I would be a good candidate for his booster club," Jinkens recalled. "He was right. I fell in love with it."
Over the next several decades, Jinkens spent her Friday nights selling hamburgers, Cokes, T-shirts and raffle tickets. But she did plenty more throughout the community.
When the Hernando High Royale Regiment band was invited to march in President Jimmy Carter's inauguration parade in Washington, D.C., in 1977, she led the charge to raise money for the trip. She did the same in 1991 when members of the varsity basketball team were invited to play in a tournament in Ireland.
And when Army helicopter pilot Bobby Wayne Hall II returned to Brooksville after being held captive for 13 days in North Korea in the 1990s, Jinkens organized a community picnic in his honor.
To honor her for all of her volunteer work, when the Olympic torch came through Hernando County in 1996, Jinkens was among those selected to carry it.
Jinkens, who worked 40 years in the cafeteria at Brooksville Elementary School before she retired a few months ago, said she was drawn to do good deeds in her community because she is a "people person."
When asked about how it felt about be named Great Brooksvillian, Jinkens said she was humbled — and delighted to receive the honor while she is still around to appreciate it.
"I always thought they gave these things out after you've been gone a few years," she said with a laugh.