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Thelma White celebrates 104th birthday with party

Thelma White, a resident of Morton Plant Rehabilitation Center, 400 Corbett St., Belleair, celebrated her 104th birthday there with a party Sunday.

She was born Thelma Faulkner on April 12, 1905, in Leeds, Ala., the second youngest of 12 siblings. Her father was a landowner and her mother was a midwife.

She wed Herman White in 1924 and never remarried after his death in 1964.

She came to the area in 1928, first living in Tampa, then moving to Clearwater.

Her occupations included seamstress and assistant to an interior decorator, but her main focus was homemaking and raising two daughters. She also has six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Mrs. White has been a fan of detective stories, in print and on television.

She never drank or smoked, and attributes her longevity to a love of sweet potatoes.

• • •

Morton Plant Hospital volunteer Ella Mae Crow has been voted by viewers as Bay News 9's Viewers Choice Hero of the Year.

Mrs. Crow, 93, works in the sewing room, making items for patients. She also assists with other tasks like helping with the young patients in pediatrics, making up stretchers, fashioning heart pillows and stocking the "comedy cart" with items for patients to keep them occupied. She also is a smiling face at the admissions desk.

During her 30-year association with the hospital, she has put in 23,000 hours of volunteer time.

• • •

Palm Harbor Library has announced that Betcinda Kettels, library assistant 4, has received a $1,000 scholarship from the Florida Library Association. Mrs. Kettels began working at the library in 2002, first in technical services and currently at the adult reference desk. She teaches computer classes, hosts the library's twice-monthly "Socrates Cafe" and is well versed in desktop publishing software, producing most of the library's marketing materials, brochures and flyers.

She is enrolled in the program for experienced learners at Eckerd College and attends night and weekend classes while pursuing a bachelor's degree in organizational studies, with an emphasis on nonprofit organizations. Her goal is to earn a master's degree in library science.

Mrs. Kettels will be presented with her award at the Library Association's annual conference in Orlando in May.

She and her husband, Steve, live in Clearwater.

• • •

Master sponge boat builder George Saroukos of Tarpon Springs was one of five Florida Folk Heritage Award winners who received recognition at the Florida Heritage Month Awards ceremony March 25 in Tallahassee. Secretary of State Curt Browning, who presented the awards, said, "The work of these talented individuals illustrates the extraordinary depth and diversity of Florida's traditional cultural heritage. They are recognized for their remarkable artistic achievements, as well as their role as teachers and preservers of Florida's folk cultural resources."

According to Dr. Kathleen Monahan, director of the City of Tarpon Springs Cultural and Civic Service Department, Saroukos is the only builder of traditional Greek sponge diving boats in the Western Hemisphere. He is the third generation of the Saroukos family to master Greek sponge boat building and continued the tradition of building boats without using any printed plans. He even fashioned some of his own tools.

During the sponge industry's heyday there were more than 200 Greek sponge boats in Tarpon Springs; now there are only four. Three of those are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the three is owned by the city of Tarpon Springs, and the two others are still used in the sponge industry.

"Representing a continuation of the 2,500-year-old Phoenician boat design, these boats connect us not only with a historical epoch of Tarpon Springs, but with ancient history as well," said Monahan. "Without the skilled boat builder, the tradition has no chance of surviving. Not only does Mr. Saroukos build new boats, he repairs surviving boats."

Thelma White celebrates 104th birthday with party 04/14/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 6:15pm]
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