Hernando neighbors | Gail Cleaves, 70

Through volunteering, Gail Cleaves shows veterans some TLC

Gail Cleaves and her husband, Duane, live in Brooksville. Gail Cleaves helps veterans as the veterans chairwoman for Elks Lodge 2582 and as a member of the American Legion Auxiliary 186.

MICHAEL C. WIEMAR | Times

Gail Cleaves and her husband, Duane, live in Brooksville. Gail Cleaves helps veterans as the veterans chairwoman for Elks Lodge 2582 and as a member of the American Legion Auxiliary 186.

How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?

We've been here in Brooksville for 14 years. Before that, we lived in Maine.

Who are the members of your family?

My wonderful husband, Duane, and I have two sons, one daughter-in-law, and we will have a second daughter-in-law after the wedding in September. We also have two grandchildren. The sad thing is that the kids and grandkids all live in Maine.

Tell us about your career.

I was a telephone operator for 11 years. After Duane and I married, I raised potatoes, hay and oats for many years while holding down a couple of sideline jobs like a clerk at the Hallmark bookstore and a rural mail carrier.

When we moved to Florida, I worked at Campers Holiday for four years. But what I enjoyed most of all was raising my two wonderful sons with my husband.

What kinds of activities are you involved in now?

I am a member of Brooksville Elks Lodge 2582 and serve as the veterans chairwoman. I am also a member of American Legion Auxiliary 186.

Tell me more about those activities.

As the veterans chairwoman at Elks Lodge 2582, I organize entertainment for veterans in the form of luncheons and ceremonies. We have held events for World War II, Battle of the Bulge, Vietnam, Korean and submarine veterans, as well as a Medal of Valor presentation ceremony that honored two local young men killed in Iraq.

The members of the veterans committee invite veterans living at local nursing homes to the lodge for Friday night dinners. We also visit a nursing home each Thursday and play bingo with the residents. Committee members also visit the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans Nursing Home in Land O'Lakes and entertain the residents with parties, ice cream socials and other activities.

When the Elks hold a luncheon or dinner for the veterans, all of the meals are provided by the lodge and the wonderful kitchen crew. The next luncheon is April 26 to honor Purple Heart veterans.

I also hold the position of veterans chairwoman for American Legion Auxiliary 186. We recently held a stand-down for the homeless and less fortunate veterans in our area, and visited the James A. Haley VA Medical Center and three local nursing homes with crafts and cookies.

For the past five years, we have helped put together 30 to 45 care packages for the troops serving overseas. Residents of Campers Holiday help by donating items and goodies, and Dee Mills' Lea's Prayers and Postage pay all of the postage costs.

Do you have any special hobbies?

I enjoy reading, pinochle, cribbage and bingo.

What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?

Going to the theater, movies and eating out. I also enjoy going to the youth softball games.

What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?

I think it is pretty neat the way it is, and I wouldn't change a thing.

Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

One day, back when I was a rural route mail carrier in Maine, I was driving the 73-mile route and went through three vehicles in one day.

The first vehicle lost its brakes, and I plowed into a field. They gave me a second vehicle to finish the route with, and this one quit and wouldn't restart. They brought me out a third vehicle, and I finally finished the route.

I never lost a piece of mail, and was only 40 minutes late that day.

Hernando Neighbors is an occasional feature of the Hernando Times. Do you know someone who would make a good profile? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Jean Hayes, community news coordinator, at jhayes@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1438.

Through volunteering, Gail Cleaves shows veterans some TLC 04/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 18, 2009 11:24am]

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