Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Evelyn Oszmianski

Longtime director Evelyn Oszmianski helped shape the Strawberry Festival

Times Staff Writer

PLANT CITY — Evelyn Oszmianski chose motherhood over a career, had dinner on the table every evening and taught Sunday school at First Baptist Church.

She also was a leader. She was one of the first women to chair the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce and to direct the Florida Strawberry Festival. She served as president of the Strawberry Ball, an event she and her husband, Joseph, decorated like no one else.

Mrs. Oszmianski, who directed the Strawberry Festival for 30 years, died Friday at a Lakeland nursing home, where she had lived since doctors discovered a brain tumor a year ago. She was 93.

"She was very influential in the development of our festival," said Bill Vernon, 85, a director emeritus as was Mrs. Oszmianski. "She was a keynoter, no doubt about it."

Mrs. Oszmianski assumed leadership of the festival in the 1970s, her family said. At one time, she sat on committees with Plant City luminaries such as businessman Joe E. Newsome and strawberry grower Roy Parke.

In the early days, the grand stage that hosted the Charlie Daniels Band in early March was a low platform off the former Plant City High School football field. But under Mrs. Oszmianski's watch, performers such as Garth Brooks, the Oak Ridge Boys and a young Billy Ray Cyrus found an important audience as country music and the festival grew together.

Mrs. Oszmianski was born in Hazelhurst, Ga., and moved to the Turkey Creek area at age 1. She graduated from Turkey Creek High School, and was working at a McCrory's dime store when someone arranged a blind date with an Army Air Corps man named Joseph Oszmianski.

"They couldn't stand each other, is what they told us," said Linda Jo McDonald, her daughter. But soon they were married.

Mrs. Oszmianski threw herself into motherhood, volunteered as a pink lady at South Florida Baptist Hospital, and served as president of her American Legion Auxiliary post. When holidays approached, she set the table two days in advance. There was a playful side as well. She taught her children how to cheat at cards, such as stashing away extra cards during gin rummy games.

For several years, she and Joseph decorated an exhibit hall into the setting for the Strawberry Ball, a formal affair that packed in more than 600 people the last week in January. They picked their colors and went to work. One year they chose blue and silver, and hung stars from the ceiling.

"It just seemed so special whenever they did it," said Ellany Johnson, an office manager at the Strawberry Festival. "It was such a transformation, from just a room to a beautiful ballroom."

Joseph Oszmianski died in 1995. About a decade ago, Mrs. Oszmianski moved to the Estates at Carpenters, a Lakeland retirement home. A year ago she moved to the Manor, a related nursing facility.

"She was ready to go see Jesus and see my dad," said McDonald, 63. "That made it easier for us."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248.

.Biography

Evelyn Oszmianski

Born: Dec. 1, 1918

Died: May 25, 2012

Survivors: daughters Linda Jo McDonald and Kathryn Ann Pou; five grandchildren; four great-grandchildren.

Longtime director Evelyn Oszmianski helped shape the Strawberry Festival 05/30/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 7:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. VIDEO: Obamacare is "death,' President Trump says

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is calling Obamacare "death," as he urges Republican senators to "do the right thing" on an overhaul effort.

    President Donald Trump speaks about healthcare, Monday, July 24, 2017, in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington.[Alex Brandon | Associated Press]
  2. Dragon ride in Harry Potter section of Universal closing for new themed ride

    Florida

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019 — sending wizard fans into a guessing game with hopes for a Floo Powder Network or the maze from the Triwizard Tournament.

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge on Sept. 5 for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019. The ride, originally the Dueling Dragons roller coaster, was renamed and incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when the hugely popular area opened in 2010.
  3. CDC changes Zika virus guidance for pregnant women

    Federal health officials are changing their testing recommendations for pregnant women who may be exposed to the Zika virus through travel or sex or because of where they live.

  4. Necropsy confirms drowning as Snooty the manatee's cause of death

    Human Interest

    BRADENTON— The South Florida museum aquarium will re-open Tuesday and grief counselors will be available after the untimely death of beloved manatee Snooty.

    Snooty, the Manatee County mascot, turned 60 in 2008. Hundreds of people came to the Parker Manatee Aquarium to see Snooty at his birthday party. He was the first manatee to have a recorded birth date on July 21, 1948.

 [Times (2008)]
  5. Charlie Gard's parents withdraw legal action over their sick baby

    World

    LONDON — The parents of critically ill baby Charlie Gard dropped their legal bid Monday to send him to the United States for experimental treatment after new medical tests showed it could no longer help.

    Chris Gard and Connie Yates, the parents of critically ill infant Charlie Gard, arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice in London ahead of the latest High Court hearing in London Monday July 24, 2017. They  returned  to the court for the latest stage in their effort to seek permission to take the child to the United States for medical treatment. Britain's High Court is considering new evidence in the case of Charlie Gard. The 11-month-old has a rare genetic condition, and his parents want to take him to America to receive an experimental treatment. [Jonathan Brady | PA via AP]