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Zephyrhills, Florida Gators lose a devoted fan in Owen Gall

ZEPHYRHILLS — The day before the University of Florida crushed South Carolina by a whopping 50 points, the Gators lost a devoted fan.

Owen Gall, 96, died Friday (Nov. 14, 2008) of complications from a recent stroke.

"He followed all their games," said his son, Douglas Gall, 58, of Asheville, N.C. "When he was a little bit younger, he used to go to all of them."

Mr. Gall attended the University of Florida after graduating from Zephyrhills High School in 1930. His passions for his alma maters were so intense that in 2007, he set up a scholarship to help Zephyr­hills High grads attend UF.

"He wasn't born blessed, but he certainly shared whatever he could give," his son said.

Gerri Painter, principal at Zephyrhills High, met Mr. Gall two years ago when he first approached her about the scholarship.

He seemed embarrassed when he told her it took him an extra year to graduate college, she said. He told her he couldn't afford all the books he would have needed each year to finish on time.

" 'Sometimes when I didn't have money for books, I would take the course my roommate was taking and use his book,' " Painter said he told her.

"I think he remembered how it was to struggle," she said.

Books weren't the only thing he and Painter talked about that day.

"After we discussed the scholarship, he just started talking about Zephyrhills. It was the most wonderful talk, I wish I had a tape recorder."

Mr. Gall told her that his family landed in Zephyrhills (population 700) after a potential landlord in Lakeland said she didn't want the family's four young boys living in her home.

"Mother had a time with all men around," Mr. Gall told the Times in 2003.

Mother Lola Gall was the Zephyrhills postmaster for 25 years and ran a restaurant called Orange Blossom Cafeteria on Fifth Avenue.

His father, Walter, is the namesake of Gall Boulevard, the main north-south artery running through the city.

As a boy, Mr. Gall swam in Crystal Springs, a swimming hole now closed to the public. He hitchhiked the dirt roads of the city.

Always social, Mr. Gall made it a habit to meet his buddies downtown for coffee as long as his health permitted.

"He lived a full and adventurous life up until his last week," his son said.

A celebration of Mr. Gall's life will take place at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Elizabeth Episcopal Church in Zephyrhills.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

Zephyrhills, Florida Gators lose a devoted fan in Owen Gall 11/17/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 21, 2008 7:40pm]

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