Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Times – News Roundup

'Miss Kitty,' queen of everything country, stood at center of family controversy

DADE CITY — Not so long ago, Kathleen Stanfield and her husband rode through downtown on horseback to lead the Christmas parade. Her legs were wrapped around a Western saddle with inlaid silver, won years earlier by her daughter, a champion horseback rider.

The crowd waved back at "Miss Kitty," a fiercely independent woman who credited her Cherokee mother for her own affinity for horses, whom she may have trusted more than people. Dr. Wardell Stanfield, who delivered a chunk of the town's babies, rode beside her.

Mrs. Stanfield had a way of bringing diverse social groups together. She threw Sunday afternoon parties redolent with barbecue and her enviable potato salad. Laborers and lawyers, ranch hands and entrepreneurs all lined up at the same trough.

Miss Kitty entertained them all with stories from a lifetime of adventures, many of them involving horses. Her laugh got others laughing. She poured herself another Crown Royal on the rocks, and held court.

Then her flamboyant lifestyle changed course, beginning with Wardell Stanfield's death in 2000. Mrs. Stanfield began a relationship with a younger married man, who moved into the ranch and came to manage her affairs. Over the last decade, her bond with James Curtis and a country-and-western band led by his son has led to severed relations with her children, who are feuding with Curtis, and phone calls from both sides to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office alleging threats or exploitation of the elderly.

Mrs. Stanfield died Monday at HPH Hospice, 12 days after suffering a stroke, her family said. She was 87.

"She was feisty and independent about wanting things her way," said friend Margie Tingley of Dade City.

Born in Lexington, Ky., Mrs. Stanfield moved to Crystal River in the mid 1940s. A tumultuous first marriage lasted long enough to produce two children, Stephanie and Patrick. She married Wardell Stanfield in the early 1960s, and helped him run the nine-bed osteopathic hospital he founded in Dade City.

Between her interior design business and his role as team doctor for the high school football team, the couple seemed to know everyone in town.

Mrs. Stanfield looked after more then 40 horses on the ranch and rounded up stray cattle astride Big Chub, a show-winning Appaloosa and Mrs. Stanfield's proclaimed soulmate. A competitive rider herself, Mrs. Stanfield became a rodeo mom to her daughter, pulling a horse trailer to events across the country. Stephanie Stanfield would go on to win Miss Rodeo Texas and other titles.

Mrs. Stanfield also enjoyed country music, particularly JT Curtis and the Silver Eagle Band. She first heard the group at the Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club, said James Curtis, who is 64 and the lead singer's father.

Her bond with the band deepened after her husband's death. The band used a room in the house to practice, and parked at least one tour bus outside.

At least a decade ago, the elder Curtis moved in.

Mrs. Stanfield enjoyed the band so much, she traveled out of state to their shows, Curtis said, including to Nashville and several Western states.

"I treated her like a queen, 24/7," he said.

Asked whether the relationship with a woman 23 years his senior was ever romantic, Curtis, 64, replied, "Lord, no."

He is still married to Edwina Curtis, with whom he filed for bankruptcy in 1996 and 2001. Curtis said he and his wife are separated. In August, they got a new mortgage for a house in Wesley Chapel.

The relationship did not sit well with Mrs. Stanfield's children, who contended that their mother was writing checks regularly to Curtis and his son.

The Department of Children and Families got involved in 2004, passing on a report to its abuse registry to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office alleging checks and credit card purchases going from Mrs. Stanfield to Curtis. According to a sheriff's report, a DCF worker showed a deputy copies from Mrs. Stanfield's checkbook and purchase records for two cars totaling more than $30,000 each, with James Curtis listed as the co-owner.

In an investigation, the Sheriff's Office cleared Curtis of crimes against the elderly.

That case file, a deputy later wrote, "indicated there was some obvious evidence of James Curtis exploiting monies from Kathleen, but Kathleen was of sound mind and body. It further states she was a willing participant in the spending of her money."

Temple Drummond, a Tampa lawyer who has represented Mrs. Stanfield in estate planning, said he took a cautious approach. "We always tried to make sure that these were really her wishes, and that she was not being unduly influenced," Drummond said. "I believe that to be the case."

Friends were not convinced. "Our friendship ended when she finally showed me her checkbook," said Tingley, 75.

The Sheriff's Office also fielded a complaint from Mrs. Stanfield and Curtis against Patrick Stanfield, who they said had threatened them and demanded money.

"It's just torn friends apart," said Patrick Stanfield, 58, who denies he threatened anyone.

Curtis for years has also held power-of-attorney responsibilities for her care, both Curtis and Mrs. Stanfield's family said. He still lives on the 91-acre property, and denied her family's claims that he ever cut them off from their mother.

"They just kind of resent the fact that I'm in the picture," said Curtis, who added that almost all of Mrs. Stanfield's money is gone.

Whether Mrs. Stanfield was really victimized or simply spent her time and money as she chose depends on whose side you are on.

"She was her own person," Curtis said. "She didn't let nobody tell her what to do."

Patrick Stanfield, who runs an auto repair business out of his home, said he had last seen his mother a few weeks before the stroke. He visited her again at HPH Hospice. He whispered in her ear that Big Chub, her Appaloosa who died 20 years ago, would be coming along soon to pick her up.

Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

Comments
How to optimize your college football bowl-watching experience

How to optimize your college football bowl-watching experience

Game-day guide to watching bowl games over the next few weeks: Five locals to watch Toledo WR Diontae Johnson (Lennard High): Only two players in the country average more yards per touch than Johnson (19.1), who could light up Appalachian State in ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top 5 at Noon: Struggle, taxpayer subsidies continue at Tampa golf courses; Why the Bucs need a Dungy, not a Gruden; Submit your Festivus grievance

Top 5 at Noon: Struggle, taxpayer subsidies continue at Tampa golf courses; Why the Bucs need a Dungy, not a Gruden; Submit your Festivus grievance

Here are the top stories on Tampabay.com today. THE STRUGGLE, AND TAXPAYER SUBSIDIES, CONTINUE FOR TAMPA GOLF COURSES Tampa's golf courses are often a bargain in terms of cost versus quality, but for taxpayers, golf has become more expensive due to...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

TAMPA — For the half of the year that Harry Nichols lives in Oldsmar, he plays 18 holes several times a month at Rocky Point Golf Course. On a good day, Nichols said he shoots close to par on the Dana Shores course. And if he’s really lucky, it’ll on...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

In 2010, Florida was in the throes of an unprecedented housing crisis. One in every eight homes was in some stage of foreclosure. Today, the foreclosure rate is one in every 83. Because of that enormous drop, Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund will s...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

By ELAINE KURTENBACHTOKYO — Global inequality has stabilized at high levels in recent years, a report said Friday, despite gains among the poor in China and much milder disparities in incomes and wealth in Western Europe. The World Inequality Report ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Festivus 2017: Submit your grievances and complaints here

Festivus 2017: Submit your grievances and complaints here

Here's your chance. Tell us what annoyed you in 2017, and we'll share it with our readers.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Cannon Fodder podcast: Let’s revisit Monday night games in Bucs’ past

Cannon Fodder podcast: Let’s revisit Monday night games in Bucs’ past

Times Bucs writer Greg Auman has injury updates on Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy and a nostalgic trip through the Bucs’ history on Monday night, including the current three-game win streak and yes, that infamous 2003 Colts game where the Bucs were u...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay girls swim teams

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay girls swim teams

Hillsborough County Swimmer of the Year: Morgan Tankersley, Sr., PlantTankersley defended her state title in the 500 free (4:44.75) and placed second in one of the country’s fastest 200 free races in 1:46.75, 2.07 seconds behind Buchholz junior Isa...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Love of science is the goal, now that every Pinellas elementary school has a lab

Love of science is the goal, now that every Pinellas elementary school has a lab

SEMINOLE — It was hard for the second-graders at Orange Grove Elementary to resist the urge to rush into the school’s science lab and tinker with the colorful objects neatly arranged on each table.Thursday was just their second time in the lab this y...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, later found in swamp

Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, later found in swamp

DOVER — Two Plant City men, with several outstanding warrants, face additional charges after Hillsborough County deputies said they were driving a stolen car when they fled an attempted traffic stop on Thursday afternoon.The men ran away from deputie...
Updated: 3 hours ago