Little Wooden Bowl – By Robert F. Vason

The Mount Dora Citizen occasionally hears from longtime Mount Dorans with memories to share about the community and its residents.

You certainly don’t have to be a longterm resident to appreciate a good story.  The relationships and connections made among clients, neighbors and friends can be amazingly intertwined in a small town.  Attorney and resident Robert F. Vason has offered us the opportunity to share a story or two. That generosity, from our readers, is one of the great benefits of running a small, local, online publication that the Mount Dora Citizen relishes.

Here is an introduction – and the Little Wooden Bowl, a memory from Mr. Vason:

After my mother died in 2010 I discovered among her personal belongings 9image1 file boxes of letters and photographs dating back to the 1880’s.

I am in the process of organizing and preserving this family heritage, but when discussing this with my older sister, Pat, during a recent visit, she suggested that I also record my own memories.  I am recording those now, in addition to those of my grandparents, parents, children, and siblings. Well, maybe. We’ll see how this goes.

In the mid 1970’s I represented a young couple from Miami, Mike and Ann Matheson, who purchased acreage with a home and a cottage on Lake Beauclaire in Tangerine, near Mount Dora.  There was an existing mortgage on the property which they assumed and agreed to pay (a common practice in those days).  The holder of the mortgage (or his attorney) did not think that the mortgage was assumable (even though the Mathesons never missed a payment) and so sued to foreclose the $100,000 plus mortgage. I tried the case for the Mathesons in the old Orange County Courthouse and won….. foreclosure denied.

In the summer of 1978 or 1979 my then wife, Susan, and young daughters, Lisa, Emily, and Cristi, visited the Mathesons at their summer home on Lake Hiwassee in Murphy, N.C. I remember the Matheson home as very unique with things like a full-sized dory (row boat) and stuffed critters (squirrels, skunks, woodchucks, etc., not trophies) displayed on the ceiling beams or on top of the cabinets. We had grilled chicken and avocados by the lake for lunch. Ann somehow rounded up some ill-fitting adult bathing suits so the little girls could swim in the lake. I continued to represent the Mathesons over the years and still do as of this writing, more than 40 years later.

In 1982 my marriage to Susan (but not the friendship) had come to an end; I moved out of the family home on Lake Gertrude and rented the cottage in Tangerine on the Ann and Michael Matheson property from 1982 until April 1987. When I moved there in ’82 I planted a sapling sycamore tree for shade, because the cottage was in the middle of a pasture with no trees. In 1987, having regrouped,  I finally built a new home off of Wolfbranch Road that I moved into with my then wife, Linda.  Linda and I had married in 1984 in the Matheson’s boathouse upstairs apartment, on Boathouse Row, on Lake Dora in Mount Dora.

About 10 years ago the Mathesons gave my wife, Joyce, [not a misprint] and me a vase handcrafted by Martin Cushman. It is a wonderful piece of Florida art.

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And then in the early Spring of 2014 there appeared an article in the local paper that Martin Cushman was having an open house at his home and studio in Mt. Plymouth, east of  both Sorrento and Mount Dora. Joyce and I took the tour: here are a couple of pictures of the house.

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I had spent the night in this house several times as a guest of a school mate, as it was owned back in the 1950s-1960s by James and Ellen Bryant, whose son, Jim, was a classmate of mine in elementary and high school at Mount Dora.

The father, James Bryant, was a grocer who owned a grocery store in the neighboring community of Eustis.  He was killed in an automobile accident on his way to work in the late 1950s in the early morning hours before daylight. His widow, Ellen, sued the City of Mount Dora for his wrongful death. Excerpt from the case.

Vaughn Snell was an auxiliary policeman of the Town of Mount Dora. While on duty as a traffic patrolman on the night of November 29, 1957 he gave chase to an automobile driven by one Larry Gnann through the streets of Mount Dora at excessive speed. Snell was unable to overtake Gnann within the corporate limits of the town and, after signaling another patrol car for assistance, he proceeded to pursue Gnann into the country with the siren and red blinker light of the patrol car in continuous operation. At one point Snell fired four shots into the air in a further attempt to halt the speeding Gnann.

Gnann refused to stop and the chase became a protracted one covering approximately 16 miles within the same county. While driving at speeds up to 100 miles per hour, Gnann swerved from side to side across the width of the road, preventing Officer Snell from pulling alongside. In a further attempt to lose his pursuer Gnann intermittently turned off the headlights of his automobile for short periods of time. It was during one of these blackout periods that a pickup truck driven by James S. Bryant approached from the opposite direction of the pursued Gnann’s automobile and the pursuing police cruiser then trailing about 500 feet to the rear, Gnann, travelling at that time on his left side of the road, suddenly turned on the headlights of his automobile and instantly collided headon with the Bryant truck. Both Larry Gnann and James S. Bryant, the respective drivers and sole occupants of the colliding vehicles, were killed.

My parents, Fen and Genevieve Vason, who came to Mount Dora in 1945 after the War, were divorced in 1964, and in December of 1972 my father married the James Bryant widow, Ellen. They attended a cocktail party at the Yacht Club in Mount Dora on December 7, 1974, and afterwards went to dinner in Orlando.

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Fen Vason was killed in an automobile accident at Freddie’s Steakhouse in Orlando on December 7, 1974. Ellen lost both of her husbands in automobile accidents. She died of lung cancer in 1991.

Almost Full Circle

When I came to work late on the morning of Christmas Eve in 2014 this was setting  on my desk:

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A Bowl  Full of Memories.

Robert F. Vason, Guest Columnist