TAMPA — To explain Mary Ellen Germany, her family points to a Bible verse.
She looks well to the ways of her household and doesn't eat the bread of idleness. — Proverbs 31:27.
She was a whirl of domesticity, a Martha Stewart before Martha Stewart existed, they said. She poured her energy into caring for her family.
To her, they were everything.
"She couldn't stand it if people laughed at that traditional role," said her daughter, Jan Gruetzmacher. "That was her greatest calling in life."
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Mrs. Germany, wife of noted Tampa lawyer and library namesake John F. Germany, died Friday in her sleep after suffering a massive stroke. She was 82.
She lived her entire life in South Tampa. She attended Gorrie Elementary, Wilson Middle and Plant High.
She went to a women's college and taught elementary school before having children. In 1948, she became a Gasparilla queen, representing the city all over the country at festivals.
"We were the ambassadors of Tampa," she told the St. Petersburg Times in 1989.
Almost 60 years ago, she met Mr. Germany, then a young Harvard grad from Plant City, on a blind date set up by Red Pittman, former publisher of the Tampa Tribune. Their connection was strong from the start.
"They were just very devoted to one another," said Gruetzmacher. "My mom thought my dad hung the moon until the day she died."
The couple had four children. Mrs. Germany sewed clothes for them, and their dolls. She volunteered at their schools and saw all their sporting events. She made dinner every night — pot roast was her specialty.
As years passed, her children had children, giving Mrs. Germany eight new causes for devotion.
She carried their photos to show off. Everyone who came to the house watched a video of her granddaughter, Kate, singing in the Plant High chorus. Two weeks ago, she learned her grandson, a football player, would receive a special award on television.
She wasn't allowed to spill the beans, but she carried the e-mail announcement everywhere.
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Until the end, Mrs. Germany filled her days with activity.
She took immense pride in her garden. When she moved from a house into a condo, she uprooted her prize daylilies and agapanthus and took them with her.
She volunteered with the Junior League of Tampa, Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary, the Children's Cancer Center, the University of South Florida and the University of Tampa. She served on the altar guild of her church, St. John's Episcopal.
She still took aerobics classes. Just over a week ago, she hosted a dinner party for 10 guests. Each weekend, she went to a beach house with her husband. Recently, they stopped for breakfast after church. By chance, they had both worn seersucker suits that day.
"Someone in the restaurant was saying what an adorable couple they were and how handsome they were together," said their daughter, Sue Ellen Lucas.
As Mrs. Germany lay ill in the hospital, her family surrounded her. She was overjoyed to have them there. "My cup runneth over," she kept saying. "This is heaven on Earth."
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.