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Maria Ybor, a granddaughter of man who developed district

Published October 2, 2003

TAMPA - Few descendants of Vicente Martinez Ybor remain, 117 years after he developed the now-historic neighborhood that once bustled with cigar factories and immigrant workers.

His granddaughter, Maria Julia Ybor, was one of those last living family members.

She died Tuesday (Sept. 30, 2003) after a lengthy illness. She was 96.

Born in Ybor City, Maria Ybor and her sister, Mercedes were rarely separated throughout their lives.

Maria Ybor shared many commonalities with her sister who, at 92, now lives at Tampa Baptist Manor.

Neither married. Both were born in Ybor City. Both loved and performed music, especially opera.

Because travel was a key factor in her father's occupation as a diplomat for the Cuban Council, Maria Ybor lived in different places, such as Europe, Cuba and New Orleans.

While living in Miami during World War II, she worked in civil censorship, which censored mail.

Named after her mother, Maria Ybor also worked as the director's executive secretary for the New Orleans Historic Collection.

About 25 years ago, Maria Ybor and her sister returned to their roots in Tampa.

Maria Ybor's nephew, Rafael M. Ybor, 74, had fond memories of his aunt. He was born in the sisters' house in 1929, when they were living in Havana, Cuba, with their parents.

"They were both like sisters to me instead of aunts," the retired banker said.

He remembered Maria Ybor and her sister performing their music together at the Tampa Women's Club in Ybor City. Maria, an avid pianist much like her mother, played while her sister sang.

"Aunt Maria was extremely intelligent. I used to call her the historian of the family. Her death brings the passing of a fine lady," he said.

Even in recent years, she remained active in the Ybor City Museum Society. She also was a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Other than two cousins, Rafael Ybor said, there are no other related Ybors alive.

He never met his great-grandfather, Vicente Ybor, but honors his memory.

"Wealth is no longer in the family, but it's the name that's left behind, which is very respected (at least I hope), and you can't buy that with money," he said.

Survivors include her sister, Mercedes M. Ybor, Tampa; nephew, Rafael M. Ybor and his wife Cecilia, Temple Terrace.

A private service is planned for Friday, with arrangements by Gonzalez Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Sacred Heart Church in Tampa and the Ybor City Museum Society.

[Last modified October 2, 2003, 02:49:35]

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