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Hernando historian Virginia Jackson, 84, dies

BROOKSVILLE — Virginia Jackson always loved old photographs because when she looked at them it made her feel like she had been invited on a journey back in time.

"I've always felt that knowledge of the past is key to the future," Mrs. Jackson once said. "If we ignore who we are and how we got here, we miss out on a lot of good things in life."

For more than three decades as perhaps Hernando County's best-known historian and community volunteer, Mrs. Jackson lent her expertise and knowledge to the Hernando County Historical Society and Heritage Museum, where she served as executive director for more than 20 years.

Mrs. Jackson died Saturday (July 12, 2014) at HPH Hospice Care Center in Spring Hill after a long illness. She was 84.

To friends and family members, Mrs. Jackson was tenaciously dedicated to every undertaking with which she was involved. Her daughter, Joy Jackson, said she "threw everything she had into a project."

"Mom wanted to give back to the community that had become dear to her heart," Joy Jackson said. "If you got involved with her on something, you knew you were going to either be pushed along or trampled and left behind."

A native of St. Petersburg, Mrs. Jackson moved to Hernando in 1970 with her late husband, John Henry Jackson, a fifth-generation Hernando County resident. She quickly became fascinated with learning the history of the area, she told the Times in 2004.

"Back when I first moved here with my husband, many of the direct descendents of pioneer families were still alive," she said. "I could sit and listen to them talk all day."

Mrs. Jackson began volunteering at the historic Little Rock Cannery and library northwest of Brooksville. When she caught wind that the pre-Civil War May-Stringer homestead downtown had been condemned by the city and was about to be torn down, she helped to rally support and raise money to buy and restore the home.

The Hernando County Heritage Museum, as it became known, was "Virginia's baby," said her longtime friend Jan Knowles, who served with Mrs. Jackson on the museum's board of directors.

"She devoted her heart and soul into getting it completed," Knowles said. "And a lot of people are forever thankful that she did."

Much of Mrs. Jackson's interest in local history also found its way into articles, including an occasional local history column for the Hernando Times. In addition, she compiled genealogical data on many of the area's founders, which is permanently housed in the museum's archives.

Mrs. Jackson also oversaw the revival and restoration of the Russell Street Train Depot in south Brooksville and was instrumental in gathering many of the artifacts displayed there.

Joy Jackson said her mother was notorious for doing things by herself.

"She could be stubborn," Joy Jackson recalled. "I would often walk in there and look up to see my 80-year-old mother standing on a ladder 10 feet above the ground."

Mrs. Jackson's survivors include a son, Hank Jackson of Weeki Wachee; daughters Rita Pelham of New Port Richey and Joy Jackson and Gerry Sowder, both of Brooksville; 12 grandchildren; 29 great-grandchildren, and six great-great-grandchildren.

Services are set

Visitation for Virginia Jackson will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Merritt Funeral Home, Brooksville Chapel. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at First United Methodist Church of Brooksville. Burial will follow at Lake Lindsey Cemetery. Afterward, the family will receive friends for a luncheon in the fellowship at First United Methodist Church.

Hernando historian Virginia Jackson, 84, dies 07/15/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 9:11pm]
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