Vonell Schulte

  • "I miss her everyday, and miss our phone calls. She will..."
    - Tina Sirmans
  • "To my great Aunt Vonell, I love and miss you already. ..."
    - Kristi Sirmans
  • "My Aunt will be missed and we will miss stopping by there. ..."
    - Ann Sirmans
  • "Vonell, I've known you since I was 16. I loved admired and..."
    - Vinnie Crooks

Homosassa will never be the same again since my dear Aunt, the beautiful Miss (Dora) Vonell Schulte, age 76, of Homosassa Florida, passed from this mortal world into the loving arms of her Savior on Wednesday, August 24, 2016, at approx 10:30am. Vonell was preceded in death by her mother, Mrs. Mattie Mae Kidd Schulte of Homosassa; father, Mr. Frank Henry Schulte of Plant City; and step-mother, Mrs. Lillian Futch Schulte of Plant City. She is survived by her sister, Dana; brother, Frank (Michelle); nieces, Laura (Vinnie); Tina (Daniel); nephews, Ricky (Tracy); Frankie (Yanya); great-nephew, Kristopher Rhoades; as well as a host of other great and great-great-nieces, nephews, cousins, family members, and friends. Vonell's sudden and untimely death was quite a huge shock to all who knew and loved her - & I humbly implore anyone with any personal knowledge or information regarding her last two months on this earth (July-August 2016) to please contact the Citrus County Sheriff's Dept with any information and please ask to speak to Detective Bryan Vick). Her Mama, my Grandma, once wrote a letter to Vonell shortly before she herself passed, telling her to look up the definition of 'Integrity' in the dictionary, because it explained exactly who Vonell was. And believe me, truer words were never spoken! Now, some of you may not know this, but Vonell was a true 'pioneer' of Citrus County, coming to Homosassa with her mother, Mattie after reading a classified ad in the local newspaper back in the 1960's. They met with a realtor to view a 'secret hideaway' on a street that was aptly named at the time 'Paradise Lane' (now Premiere Ave off Cardinal Rd). Ultimately, they resolved that this little tract of acreage was to forever be their future homestead. Both single, and fairly fresh from divorces - yet filled with determination and gritty, all-American spirit, this mother-daughter team set out on their own to not just live life, but experience it and embrace it with both arms wide open… It was through their vision, courage, unwavering faith, and devotion to our close-knit side of the family, that Vonell and Mattie began a legacy of love…
And it all started with a little 5 acre tract of land that they came to live on for the first few years, 'roughing it' through all the elements with no water, electricity, or heat with no more than a prayer, a tent and a lean-to style plywood outhouse… (A few years later, when it was nearly completed, their actual first home would be struck by lightning and burned beyond repair. But they persevered. It would take several more years of tent living before the main home would be built and completed, but by the grace of God they were able to then afford to start digging the well and have a power pole installed - (This meant they could now use a hot plate to cook outside with!) - Although most of you well know these ladies were passionate nature and wildlife lovers with a deep respect for all things natural and simplistic, it was so much more than that - it was a life lesson. Vonell could make a life lesson out of a ball of yarn. You didn't buy things - you made them… or just 'made do'. As a child, there was no 'allowance', and if she did have to have someone come out and do a large job, like cut down a broken tree after a storm, typically they'd walked away with a whole $5 in their pocket after 4hrs of hard labor and swear she was Jewish – not German! But her way taught you to be creative and flexible. She lived the 10 Commandments, and breathed self-sacrifice for the sake of family. There wasn't a boastful, prideful bone in her body, and she would not tolerate bragging, lying, or theft. You didn't judge folks - you let God do that. You didn't stress or worry - you put things in God's hands. If it was meant to be, it would be. If it wasn't, that was His way of showing you how something better would come along. She definitely did not joke about salt and sand sifters and ''shaking things up to see what was left', or 'leaving things to chance', nor did she believe in fate, kismet, or anything other than God directing your steps; being humble, thankful, and true to others and yourself. Vonell was protective, steadfast, and sincere. And her ability to teach, guide and direct with compassion and unwavering love was astounding. You didn't waste things - you scrimped and saved and budgeted and did without in one area so that you could enjoy a different, more important pleasure or hobby in another area.
Most of all, these two women both shared an admiration in the simple beauty of all life and all things good around us that cannot be properly explained by words. Both Grandma and Vonell were avid gardeners and farmers, and from the very moment they decided to make that piece of 'Paradise' their home, they took pride in working every inch of the land they owned, filling it with lush, flowering vegetation and shrubs, fresh fruit trees, grape vines, blackberries, and saplings. Over the years, these would come to grow into towering thickets and forests of pine, cedar, and awe-inspiring great oaks and maples, all cut with paths lined by stepping stones, bird baths and benches. I can remember as a child, barely being any bigger than the tin watering can, making these seeming endless trips down the driveway lugging pail after pail of water to quench the dry earth around whatever we'd just planted. My favorite part was rinsing away the limestone dust that seemed to constantly swirl into the property from the original unpaved road on windy days and how it coated everything in its path with a fine, white powder. Families of squirrels, opossums, raccoons, foxes and even one time peacocks sought refuge on these grounds and called it home. I know it's hard to imagine now-a-days, but back then, we lived off the land, and we all kept blisters on our hands. But you didn't complain about it. Not at all that you didn't 'dare' complain about it - it's that somehow, you just sensed that all of that back breaking work, all of the blood, sweat and tears that went into that very soil - was how Vonell and Grandma felt they were earning their place at the Lord's Table in eternity - through honoring His beautiful Creations in Nature and natural serenity. So we toiled from sun up to sun down fulfilling their vision of 'Eden' on earth. And let me tell you, Vonell was tiny, but she was a force to be reckoned with! As a senior citizen, Grandma drew her little bit of SS income, naturally, but Vonell always worked 2 or 3 full time jobs at a time to support Grandma, Mama, herself, and me. This was a time in an impoverished area where a lot of people couldn't even afford a good vehicle - let alone solely support, house, clothe, and feed a family of four plus pets, as well as pay for Private School tuition for 7yrs… But in my childhood, Vonell did just that. After hours of yard work, she showered and rolled her hair before bedtime so it would be ready to comb out and style when she rose at 5am. Then, after breakfast, she would get me to school, and go on about her day until 3pm. During the 70's to the late 80's, Vonell was the Accountant / Office Manager and Receptionist for both Dr. Pablo Garcia and Dr. Gonzales at all of their offices in Homosassa, Crystal River and Beverly Hills. Mon-Fri, as soon as 3 o'clock rolled around, Vonell would take her 'lunch-break' from work, pick me up at school, and return to the office where I would sit patiently (unless I was put to work) until 5pm when we could go home. It was during these days I learned first-hand the true meaning of work ethic and integrity. At her 'office job', Vonell always wore heels, dress suits and jewelry. Vonell always took pride in her appearance and looked so important!
For many years, Vonell also continued her education and obtained numerous degrees during night classes, as well as working a second evening job at Burger King in Crystal River. In the late 80's, she was Secretary and Executive Director of the Crystal River Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce, a Public Notary, and through her years of furthering her education had earned both Masters and Bachelor's in Business Administration, Accounting, Finance, as well as several other fields. I swear the only thing this woman didn't do was fly an airplane!! Eventually she became the full time Office Receptionist for Willard, along with Art and Carol Haight at ERA Reality. Most days, I would go along and sit there too, waiting for her work day to end. Yet, work never ended, for it was during the times where she worked so many extra hours and shifts, that so much extra time would have to be spent tending to the gardens and landscape on the weekends. The fruit and vegetables would have to be picked, lest it over-ripen and go to waste; and for all my years, her hands stayed as calloused and rough as a mechanic, tempered like steel by her determination to always do more than what was expected. She taught me at a very young age that idle hands are the devils playground…
And while yes, Vonell Schulte is also an unsung hero in having been the person who would many years later donate the parcel of land on Cardinal Rd where the Food Bank Warehouse now stands, she was also the type of person who wanted zero recognition. Vonell drew her pleasure from assisting and giving back to the community as a whole; and anyone who knew her knows that she would no more be inclined to give an able-bodied individual a nickel than she would curse God's name in vain. Vonell embodied pure simplicity, grace, and diligence. Her favorite parables were about strength, faith and character and contained 'ants', and 'mustard seeds'. Vonell lived what she believed regardless of how anyone may have thought her to be a 'recluse'. Quite simply, in her later years, she enjoyed her 'little Paradise' and felt the world had changed and lost its values and morals, and she told me quite often, "I am IN this world, but Lamb-chop, I'm not OF this world. I don't understand it… and I refuse to conform to it." And I knew what she meant. Honestly, I guess when you have this certain ideal in your head of the way the world should be, and the way people should be kind and good and loving to one another - yet that isn't always the case… It can hurt. It can be disappointing when you're a dreamer and a visionary and strive so hard to see the best in situations... Sometimes you can get so hurt, so disenchanted, that you withdraw. Sometimes, especially if you are constantly taken advantage of and hurt by those you care about or trust, you get tired of trying to understand and tolerate and relate, and you just close yourself off. Vonell was an extremely private person to begin with, and in her later years, even more so - But only because she was strong and never wavered in her own beliefs, self-discipline, and values. Vonell's standards were simply set excruciatingly high. But it wasn't like you'd think - She raised that bar for HERSELF - Not for anyone else. People were drawn to Vonell in the professional world like a magnet - Not because she had a fast, slick, used-car-salesman style - but because she was independent, brutally honest, and not easily impressed - You could not 'impress' this woman. Over the years, I accompanied her to countless public functions and observed people from all walks of life attempt it. It could not be done! Vonell truly didn't care what anyone else did, who they were, what they thought, or said - as long as they respected her, her family, and her values. She was a devoted daughter who cared for her mother til the very end, her entire life - and her motto was to work hard and earn, and never have things handed to you. I sobbed when my sister and I stood by her casket and touched her tiny gnarled hands - so wrought with arthritis that in her last year she'd been unable to even write… She was a friend to many because she was tough, direct, genuine, and above all, she lived by 4 very simple Rules:
1) OBEDIENCE is essential. Do all things God's way.
2) FAITH and trust in God are essential.
3) We must be PATIENT.
4) Never give up. Never forget your mission in life.
(Now, most of you long-time Citrus County residents will also remember my Grandma from way back in the day for her years with the Times and Chronicle newspapers, writing short stories and humorous columns, as well as "Mattie's Cooking Corner", where she delighted in sharing her weekly Recipes and home remedies... Sadly, Grandma passed back in Nov 2005) - Vonell and Grandma's 'little Paradise' is still filled with birds, beauty, and wildlife. I guess in a way it is a 'Garden of Eden' to them. Vonell was laid to rest beside my Grandma Mattie on Monday, August 29th between 3-4pm at Fountains Memorial Park Cemetery in Homosassa. For those who knew her/them and would like to pay their respects, you are welcome. Vonell, I miss you every day that passes. I miss your laughter, your wisdom, and your voice… Signed with Much Love, Admiration, and Respect for your lifetime of Devotion and Integrity. Love, your sister, Dana, nieces, Laura and Tina, and great-nephew, Kris.
Published in Citrus County Chronicle on Sept. 14, 2016