Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando mental health activist Evelyn DeHart dies at age 92

Evelyn DeHart took a lead in bringing a chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness to Hernando County.

Special to the Times

Evelyn DeHart took a lead in bringing a chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness to Hernando County.

BROOKSVILLE — Evelyn DeHart dedicated her life to serving others.

She had a sister who suffered severe depression and a child with autism. Both shaped her passion for helping those in need.

Mrs. DeHart is largely credited with bringing a chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness to Hernando County. She was also a veteran of World War II, a public school teacher and a political activist.

Each chapter of her life was marked by advocacy.

Mrs. DeHart died at home on Friday (March 6, 2009) at age 92. Her funeral was Tuesday.

A passionate activist for the mentally ill, Mrs. DeHart spent years serving as the local president of NAMI.

"A crusader would not be too strong a term," said her daughter, Lisa O'Neill.

"She was ferociously independent," O'Neill added. "She lived life on her own terms."

Mrs. DeHart was able to bring to fruition the dream of a drop-in center for those with mental health needs. She was intent on having the center, the Beautiful Mind on Spring Hill Drive in Spring Hill, run independently by those who use it.

"She said they don't need (anyone) running it for them and telling them what to do," said longtime friend Deron Mikal.

In an August 2007 letter to the editor in the Times, Mrs. DeHart railed against "fat cats" in county government, frustrated by what she saw as bloated salaries, particularly compared to many county residents who lived hand to mouth.

"Can you imagine how much and how long we will have to keep feeding this greedy bunch?" she wrote. "Their retirement is based on last year's salary, so we will have them feeding at the public trough for a long, long time to come."

A passionate Democrat and former chairwoman of the Hernando Democratic Executive Committee, she would often call her close friend, Dr. B.J. Tipton, for assistance typing letters to local newspapers.

"She'd dictate it, and I'd type it," Tipton said. "She'd proofread and sign it."

"We were true blues no matter what," said Tipton. "People were switching parties left and right — it wasn't going to happen to us."

Mrs. DeHart was delighted when Barack Obama became president.

"She was glued to the TV set," O'Neill, her daughter, said.

Born in Alabama in 1917, Mrs. DeHart spent her early years working at the Pentagon during World War II as a member of the Women's Army Corps.

After the war, she took advantage of the GI Bill and studied education at Cornell University, where she met her husband and fellow activist, Ralph DeHart. They settled in New York, and she taught elementary school.

After retirement in 1982, they moved to Hernando County and became politically active.

After her husband died in 1993, Mrs. DeHart continued her activism. She was a person of faith, and friends considered her to be very open-minded.

"Above everything, Evelyn tried to practice her Christianity and be a good person," said Tipton.

Mrs. DeHart's guiding philosophy was simple and service-oriented, her daughter said.

"(She believed) you can't be an island. You can't live within yourself. You do what you can for your community — those are the best rewards you can get."

"She really soared in her retirement," O'Neill said. "At 92, that's pretty good. Her story is pretty amazing."

Hernando mental health activist Evelyn DeHart dies at age 92 03/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 7:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Encounters: Trial by storm for a rookie principal

    K12

    DUNEDIN — When he nodded off to sleep, the hallway lights outside Michael Vasallo's office were on, so the sudden darkness woke him.

    The glow of his desk phone dimmed.

    Michael Vasallo, right, the first-year principal at Dunedin Highland Middle School, talks with the school's head plant operator Clint Case near the back-up generator on campus. The generator failed just as Hurricane Irma passed through Pinellas County, making for a stressful night. The experience made Vasallo long to return to his regular job, educating middle schoolers. [COLEEN WRIGHT   |   Times]


  2. Who is in charge during a hurricane? Hillsborough County and Tampa still can't agree

    Hurricanes

    TAMPA — Who has the authority to order an evacuation during a hurricane?

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he has evacuation authority.
  3. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31

    Blogs

    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  4. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win

    Blogs

    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  5. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.