As an almost lifelong resident of St. Petersburg, Mary Gardiner Evertz was passionate about helping newcomers learn about their community and giving back to it.
As a reporter and columnist for 47 years with the St. Petersburg Times, she chronicled the social comings and goings of a city that grew with her. Mrs. Evertz had one of the longest careers of anyone in the company, according to her daughter, Wendy Hunt, and the longest of any woman.
Mrs. Evertz died Saturday night at the age of 87 from central nervous system vasculitis at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, her daughter said.
Hunt recalls how she and her brother would sit in the smoke-filled newspaper office of the Times while their mother wrote, or her jaunting out three or four nights a week to cover events in the area. She remembers their Thanksgiving table lined with not only family, but with new residents of the city or Times employees with nowhere else to spend the holidays.
The job was a perfect fit for her mother, who knew everybody and never forgot a personal detail, Hunt said.
“Mom just really was a people connector,” Hunt said. “If you moved to town, she made sure you knew people, so that St. Pete was a great experience.”
Mrs. Evertz’s friends were multigenerational and widespread, Hunt said. Until recently, when a friend died, she would write his or her obituary, despite not working at the newspaper since her retirement in 2002.
After retiring, Mrs. Evertz threw herself into volunteering, raising millions of dollars for the Boy Scouts of America and receiving their highest honor, Hunt said. She also worked with the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg, served on the board of The Florida Bar Foundation, the Stuart Society of the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg and the Florida Blood Services Foundation. She had been president of the Snell Isle Foundation and was named Sustainer of the Year by the Junior League of St. Petersburg.
Paul Tash, chairman and CEO of what is now the Tampa Bay Times, said Mrs. Evertz was someone you couldn’t say no to. She even charmed him into a blind date, despite his resistance, where he met his wife, Karyn.
“I would say Mary kept a lot of people in her heart, and she made connections between other hearts,” Tash said.
At a time when the Times was growing into more of a regional force, Mrs. Evertz remained rooted in the local community, Tash said.
“Mary knew everything that was going on around town,” he said. “In fact, sometimes she seemed to know what was happening before the people involved knew what was going to happen.”
Mrs. Evertz was nearly 30 years her senior, but Wilma Norton said she never thought of her as an older friend. She was just as vibrant and social as anyone Norton’s age. Norton is vice president of community connections at Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.
Norton said Sunday that she was sad to lose her friend, but she hated seeing how the illness had made Mrs. Evertz feel her age.
The two met at the Times in the features department. Long after both left the paper, they’d get lunch at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club or go to church together — though Mrs. Evertz would joke that with the number of church weddings and funerals she attended, she hardly needed to attend on Sundays.
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With coronavirus still rampant, Norton said, they can’t have the sendoff for Mrs. Evertz that her friends hoped for. The true fit would be a parade down Central Avenue, Norton said.
“She was just always so vibrant, and if you were one of her people, there was no one who was more staunchly loyal and on your side than her,” Norton said.
Mrs. Evertz’s husband, Harry Alexander “Bud” Evertz III, died in July after a short illness. They met at Stetson University in DeLand and were married for 63 years.
“Mom and Dad have been reunited in Heaven,” her daughter posted on Facebook Sunday morning. “Her mind was still sharp as ever until the end, despite what she has been through these past few weeks, and for that we are so very thankful.
“We love you, mom, and are so proud of the wonderful, funny, generous person that you were to so many people.”
Mary Gardiner Evertz
Born: Dec. 25, 1932
Died: Dec. 5, 2020
Predeceased by her husband of 63 years, Harry A. “Bud” Evertz III; her parents, Judge William and Mary K. Gardiner; sister Wendy G. Lewis; and niece Mary Elizabeth Tucker. Survived by her son, W. Gardiner Evertz; daughter Wendy E. Hunt and son-in-law Randy Hunt; and grandchildren Matt, Mitch and Madeleine Hunt.