APOLLO BEACH — When she moved here from the outskirts of New York City in the 1970s, Anne Gebbia had more than a little trouble adjusting.
She had grown up in Yonkers and married a police detective. Her husband's dream of retiring to Florida was not one she shared. The almost rural lifestyle of Apollo Beach in that era wasn't exactly what she was used to.
The family had come to visit relatives in Apollo Beach, and during the visit they saw a man putting a "For Sale" sign on his front lawn. That man was another retiree from up North, and his wife hated life in Florida. Mrs. Gebbia and her husband, Dominick, bought the house immediately and lived in it the rest of their lives.
"She was very brave to make that move," said her daughter, Donna Gebbia. "The closest grocery store was in Ruskin. The thing she missed most was fresh Italian bread. She was shocked the first time she bought Cuban bread, and they folded it when they put it in her shopping bag."
It didn't take long before Mrs. Gebbia learned to love Florida and Apollo Beach. In fact, just four years after the family made the move, she was named Woman of the Year because of her volunteer work at the Apollo Beach Rescue Squad.
Mrs. Gebbia died of lung cancer on Feb. 27, just a few weeks shy of her 75th birthday.
At the time the Gebbia family moved here, Apollo Beach was so remote that its medical emergencies were handled by a volunteer ambulance service. Mrs. Gebbia offered her services as a dispatcher for that organization, the Apollo Beach Rescue Squad, and soon was one of its most active volunteers.
"She was very involved, always there to do whatever they needed," her daughter said. "She helped organize all their fundraisers."
It wasn't unusual for Mrs. Gebbia to devote herself fully to any activity she undertook, her daughter said. Mrs. Gebbia had always been vibrant and energetic, and always did even menial tasks perfectly.
"To her, vacuuming the floor meant moving all the furniture," Donna Gebbia said. "Her sister used to say that by 9 o'clock in the morning, she had already cleaned the house, done her shopping and had a pie in the oven."
Besides her volunteer work, Mrs. Gebbia held a couple of jobs after she moved here, and retired after working as a manager for Kmart. But her real career was as a homemaker and mother, and that's where she really excelled.
"She was a great mom," her daughter said. "She was always happy to have our friends over. She accepted everyone. If you were a guest in our house, she always made sure she knew what you liked to eat, even what kind of soap you used, because she wanted you to feel at home."
Besides her daughter Donna, Mrs. Gebbia is survived by her husband, Dominick, to whom she was married for 58 years; her sons, John and Michael; her sister, Eileen Kelly; and a grandson.
Marty Clear writes life stories about area residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.