CARROLLWOOD — She came of age in an era when society expected women to be demure, even subservient. Lucille Rabuano was anything but.
"She was a petite, short woman, but she'd stand on tippytoes and get right up in your face," said her grandson, Ira Bryant Jr. "If she had her mind set on something, you might as well make way, because she was coming through."
Mrs. Rabuano passed away Dec. 15 at age 95. She suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had been in declining health in recent years.
She was a fifth-generation Floridian — her ancestry includes one of the first families to come from England to Jamestown in the 17th century — and grew up in the Wauchula area, where her family raised cattle.
"Florida was open range back then," her son, Ira Bryant, said. "You built fences if you wanted to keep the cattle out of your garden because the cattle weren't fenced in."
As a girl, she helped herd cattle from Wauchula to Punta Gorda, where the cattle were loaded onto barges and shipped to Cuba.
She met her first husband, a military man named Blaine Bryant, shortly before World War II. That marriage lasted only a few years. She married another military man named Michael Crum. They had two children together, both of whom died within a few days of birth. The strain of losing two babies broke that marriage, her son said. A third marriage to Ed Searcey also lasted only a few years.
If there was stigma attached to being a thrice-divorced young woman in 1950, she didn't care, her son said. The marriages were unhappy, so she went looking for a more fulfilling life.
She found it when she met John Rabuano. They married in 1952 and remained together until his death in 1992.
Her fourth husband was also in the military. When he retired in 1962, the couple moved to the Tampa area because her family was scattered throughout west-central Florida.
She had lived all over the United States and Europe during her life as military wife, but once again found herself being something of a pioneer, living in one of the first homes in the Carrollwood area.
"There was only one other house on North Boulevard," her son said.
In her later years, she went to school and became a certified nursing assistant. The work didn't pay much, but that wasn't the point.
"She just liked it because she was helping people," her son said.
She also crocheted and raised canaries and cockatiels in her home. But that didn't mean she was becoming a softie in her old age, her son said.
"My mother was ahead of her time," he said. "She was rough and tough and stubborn and ornery. That wasn't socially acceptable for a woman of her time, but that didn't matter to her. She was so strong-minded. She lived a full and complete life, believe me."
Besides her son and her grandson, Mrs. Rabuano is survived by several other grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Marty Clear writes life stories about area residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at email@example.com.