Nancy Kennedy / Citrus Chronicle
“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” ~ Proverbs 31:10
It’s been said that a woman eventually turns into her mother, taking on her mannerisms, using her favorite expressions, passing on to her children the same values she received from her mother before her.
For the three generations of women in the DeVane/Brown/Bollin family of Crystal River, it means passing down a legacy of Southern charm and hospitality, of a love of children, a strong faith in God.
“My mom was a very patient woman and a staunch Christian,” said Patricia DeVane, 88. “She was also a complete invalid from the time I was 9 until she died when I was 30. She taught me patience. She taught me to sew, and I remember making my Easter dress and being aggravated and ripping the stitches out.
“Laying in her bed, the sewing machine near her, she never said a word until I was done ripping it, and then she said, ‘Now, Patricia, sit down and you’re going to sew that dress...’ and I did,” she said. “That was my best lesson in patience.”
Patricia and her husband, Donald, moved to Tampa from Tifton, Georgia, in the 1950s and then to Crystal River in 1967, where they owned DeVane Electric.
Mrs. DeVane’s middle child, a daughter named Donnie, grew up to be Donnie Brown, the current principal at Crystal River Primary School.
“Donnie’s my God-given child,” Mrs. DeVane said. “When my other daughter was a year old, I had cancer and the doctor said I shouldn’t have any more children. But before the year was out, I was pregnant with her. My mother told me that God gives you the number of children you’re supposed to have. I had a son, too.”
Growing up in Crystal River, Donnie (DeVane) Brown, 61, loved living in the small town, but once she graduated high school, she couldn’t wait to leave.
She moved to Atlanta to attend Agnes Scott College, met her husband, Mike, and got married.
They moved back to Crystal River so Mike could work with Donnie’s father in the electrical business, which Brown owned until recently.
“I never thought we’d come back here, but when we did — I was pregnant with my daughter, Leslie — I couldn’t think of a better place to raise a family,” Mrs. Brown said.
She worked at the business, which was right around the corner from Crystal River Primary School, and every afternoon kids would stop by the business and she would give them sodas.
“I started having a sense that I wanted to make a difference in their lives,” she said, and began a cohort program through St. Leo College, earned a teaching degree and taught at Crystal River Primary School.
“My kids were still there and they’d come to my classroom in the afternoon,” she said.
Her daughter, Leslie, 35, and herself the mother of two daughters (plus one due in July), grew up in the footprints of her mother — same schools, same desire to leave small-town life and eventually the same desire to return.
After college at both Florida State University and then the University of Florida, she returned with a degree in events planning. After working for a time at the Plantation on Crystal River, she’s now the special events coordinator for the city of Crystal River.
“Growing up, my grandparents lived next door to us, and I got to learn things from both my mom and my grandma...like loving your children unconditionally and faith in God. My mother definitely has a patience and grace that is to be envied.”
Mrs. Brown added that her mother has a “special Southern grace” and a “true gift for hospitality.”
“I inherited that from her — I love to entertain,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but that didn’t stop her from having class. She’d say you didn’t need fancy clothes to be clean and neat and presentable.”
Bollin said she also inherited both her grandmother’s and her mother’s passion for entertaining, which she has honed into a career.
“My mom is very detailed and likes to plan parties,” she said, adding, “I think when you become a mom yourself, you revert back to the way you were raised, and the values, especially of your mom, that you try to instill in your own children.”
Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.