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The woman behind all those Great Brooksvillians

Yes, I know it's early.

The last politician, it seems, has just wrapped up reading the last "whereas'' clause from the final resolution at City Hall, where Dr. Paul Farmer was officially named 2008 Great Brooksvillian.

And maybe you've heard enough about Farmer and would like us to give the subject of him and his award a rest.


Because as I watched the community come together Saturday to give Farmer the recognition (as well as more than $50,000 in donations) he deserves, I thought of the person who started all this.

I thought about how she's often the first one to identify what's best about Brooksville, the first to find people or organizations in need and throw everything she has into helping them.

I thought about how she does it with a sense of humor and fun, and not with the intention of getting credit — or, heaven forbid, cash.

"You know when Julia comes knocking on your door, it's not for self-gain,'' said Lara Bradburn, Brooksville's vice mayor.

That's right. I want to be the first to nominate Julia Jinkens for 2009 Great Brooksvillian.

I know it's just a plaque awarded by a small town. So maybe it shouldn't be such a big deal. But it's got that grand name. And the honor isn't for one deed, but a lifetime of them. And it comes from people who know you best.

Even someone as famous as Farmer, someone who has received countless honors for treating patients in the world's poorest countries, someone who left Brooksville on Monday to confer with incoming Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, said the award was the most meaningful he has ever received.

So, it's become a big deal, which is okay. It's one of the few chances a community has to declare its values, and, in this case, whether it's more important to be "good'' or "great.'' Other than Farmer, who was both, the city usually has to choose among candidates who are more one than the other. The first recipient, Alfred McKethan, was a local banker with statewide pull, a man whose name is on parks, libraries and ballparks. He was great.

Jinkens doesn't have those professional accomplishments. She serves lunches at Brooksville Elementary School and helps out at the restaurant owned by her sons, the Red Mule Pub.

At 83, she didn't even do the heavy lifting for the Farmer events; that was businesswoman Tricia Bechtelheimer. But she did nominate him for Great Brooksvillian and helped Bechtelheimer as much as she could.

She was in the thick of the effort to build the Jerome Brown Community Center in the 1990s and to send sprinter John Capel's parents to the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

She has organized an alcohol-free graduation party for Hernando High seniors for more than 30 years and has held countless bake sales for youth sports and every other worthy cause you can think of.

So, she's about as "good'' as anyone I can think of in Brooksville. And, it's not to early to think about recognizing her for it.

• • •

A note on Friday's column. Turns out the U-pick tradition is not quite dead in Hernando County. There's no sign posted at Suzie McCrary's grove on Neff Lake Road, but pickers are welcome if they call her in advance at (352) 796-1035.

The woman behind all those Great Brooksvillians 12/15/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 2:16pm]
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