A remarkable woman and a remarkable life.
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Henriette Marie "Sophie" Amerson died at Haven Hospice in Lake City surrounded by her loving family on November 6, 2011. She is survived by: six children and their spouses, John François and Ellen Amerson, Pat and Linda Amerson, Gary and Linda Amerson, Bridgett and Tom Singleton, Paul and Kim Amerson, and Phil and Kelly Amerson; 16 grandchildren, ages 20 to 39: Chad Amerson (39), Cynthia Gaston (36), Rachel Campbell (35), Michael Amerson (35), Micah Amerson (33), William Broward Roberts (31), Colin Amerson (30), Emily Amerson (27), Jennifer Amerson (27), Hayley Singleton (25), Lauren Amerson (25), Ryan Amerson (25), Alicia Amerson (24), Lindsey Kanzler (23), Grey Singleton (21), and Thomas Amerson (20); and eight great grandchildren, ages 6 months to 14: Nicholas Amerson (14), Morgan Gaston (13), Sarah Campbell (12), Madison Gaston (10), Lucas Amerson (10), Hannah Amerson (3), Remington Hipp (2), and Ethan Amerson (6 months).
Born in La Rochelle, France, Sophie was a remarkable woman that lived a remarkable life. She was the daughter of a wealthy shipping magnate, a graduate of the Sorbonne University in Paris, and an eyewitness to the travesties of WWII. She watched the German troops marching through the streets of Paris; her brother, John François, arrested and placed in a concentration camp; and her parents lose everything when Hitler confiscated the family's estate.
Sophie met her husband, William Broward Amerson of Lake City, while working as a war-time interpreter for the American Red Cross. He was assigned by the Army to be her driver and body guard, and as life's good fortune would have it, she would become his beloved wife.
Determined and strong-willed, she married Broward against the wishes of her parents. As the son of a sharecropper, they considered him to be beneath her in social rank.
With courage and conviction, she left her home in Paris, for a place she had never been, to be part of a family, she had never met.
Her journey to the United States took Broward nearly four months to arrange. As a member of the French Underground and Resistance, Sophie had to be spirited out of the country, disguised as a Navy sailor, escorting a group of American war brides.
She arrived at Broward's farm outside of Lake City in the dark of night. As she would tell her new family many years later, the moss in the trees, lit by the moonlight, nearly scared her to death.
With the comfort and luxuries of her former life behind her, she embraced the hardships and realities of farm life. She learned to hand and string tobacco and to live off the land. And over the next ten years she gave birth to six children: five boys and a girl, named Bridgett.
There are many funny stories from this time. These include:
Sophie's attempt to ride a horse, without first tightening the girth; her one and only attempt to ride a motorcycle, which ended badly when she crashed into the family car; Sophie being stopped by a policeman for driving without a driver's license, and talking her way out of a ticket by refusing to speak English; and learning to make grits for the first time, and making way more than the family could possibly eat in a week.
As she would later say, she learned a lot of things in the country, but she never learned to like grits.
Tragically, Broward died an accidental death in 1962, four years after the birth of Phil, their sixth child. Broward had just sold the family farm to purchase a larger farm and had moved the family to a temporary home on two acres.
Unable to farm and wanting to keep the family together, Sophie moved the family to Gainesville, where she could get a job, and John François, her eldest son, could go to college. As a school teacher at the Catholic high school and later as a manager at the Florida Book Store, she worked for the next 25 years to raise her children, as a single mom. She did this at a time when women were not a common sight in the workplace, let alone the principal provider.
After she retired, Sophie suffered a stroke that limited her mobility. Although that was almost 20 years ago, she remained active and continued to volunteer at the Hope Lodge in Gainesville, where she provided support to other stroke victims.
To all her friends at Still Waters, where she has lived for the past five years, and at Haven Hospice, she was "Sweet Sophie." The family wishes to thank them all for their kindness and generosity.
As the matriarch of the ever-growing Amerson flock, which today numbers 41, Sophie has steadfastly watched over her family.
Determined and strong-willed; with courage and conviction: these are the words that best describe Sophie and the values she instilled in her children.
These are the lessons of life Sophie has bestowed upon us all. She will be remembered as a remarkable woman, who lived a remarkable life.
Visitation will occur on Friday, November 11, from 10-11 a.m., followed by a service celebrating the life of Sophie Amerson at 11:00 a.m. at the Guerry Funeral Home in Lake City, 2659 SW Main Blvd, Lake City, Florida.
In recognition of the loving care provided to Sophie by Still Waters Assisted Living Residence, a non-profit Christian organization, friends and family are encouraged to make donations, in lieu of flowers, to Still Waters at 507 NW Hall of Fame Dr., Lake City, Fl 32055, 386-755-6560. Please sign the guestbook at www.guerryfuneralhome.net
Guerry Funeral Home In Lake City - Lake City
2659 SW Main Blvd Lake City, FL 32025
Published in Lake City Reporter on Nov. 9, 2011