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Respected teacher dies at 101

Published April 6, 2007


RIVERVIEW - Along with a sharp wit and mischievous chuckle, Lillian Symmes was known for a deep devotion to the many students she taught during her 30 years as a teacher in Riverview.

It has been more than 45 years, but Jeanne Bush still remembers her fifth-grade teacher, whom the students called "Miz Symmes."

"You respected her. You didn't do anything bad in her class," Bush, of Riverview, said. "She had so much patience with even the unruliest children."

Mrs. Symmes, 101, of Riverview, died Saturday. Born June 24, 1905, in Havana, Fla., she dreamed as a child of becoming a teacher. She began teaching in a one-room school in Wakulla County at age 18. In 2001, Hillsborough County named a Riverview elementary school after her to honor her decades of teaching.

While teaching elementary school in the Riverview area, Mrs. Symmes attended summer classes at the University of Tampa and graduated with an education degree in 1951. She was considered the oldest living alumna of the university.

Mrs. Symmes met her future husband, Fred Symmes, in 1926 while visiting her cousin, Kenneth Brandon, the son of Brandon founder John Brandon. Mr. Symmes, the son of Dr. G.W. Symmes, for whom Riverview's Symmes Road is named, died in 1990. They were married for 63 years.

"She was full of character, and she was a character," said the Rev. Sharon Austin, who presided over the memorial for Mrs. Symmes on Wednesday at Riverview United Methodist Church. Mrs. Symmes was a lifelong member of the church.

"She was on everyone's level. She made you feel at home," Austin said.

Mrs. Symmes is survived by her son, Lewis F. Symmes; a grandson; a great-granddaughter; and several nieces and nephews.

Amanda Palleschi can be reached at 661-2454 or

[Last modified April 5, 2007, 07:23:10]

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