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Sun never sets on this club's reach
By BETH N. GRAY, Times Staff Writer
Published August 14, 2007
SPRING HILL - The lilting English speech is engaging. So much so that a foreigner - meaning stateside born and raised - wants to keep her mouth closed and just listen.
It's a conversation with members of the newly formed War of the Roses Chapter, Daughters of the British Empire. They patter on in musical tones.
Julia Peterson, born in Sussex, England, has spearheaded the effort to bring the daughters together here. Twelve are on board.
The worldwide organization is open to any woman of British descent, who is married to someone of like lineage, or who has lived in any of the colonies when they were part of the British Empire, she said. She mentioned Bermuda, Pakistan, India, Australia and New Zealand.
All of these nations now have their freedom, and Peterson, 66, pointed out, "There really isn't a British Empire anymore."
Still, the roots are alive.
At their monthly gatherings, of course there is talk of geography, "Where are you from?" and history, "How long were you there and how long have you lived in the United States?"
Politics is a forbidden subject. The group's main purpose is to support their adopted country.
They take orders from a national headquarters and a state office in Sarasota. There are chapters in Lutz, St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach and Sarasota, noted Maria Adams, who has helped form the local chapter.
The London-born 65-year-old said, "We have our own badges and little notebooks. It's all very official."
Headquarters has assigned the War of the Roses Chapter to support a retirement-nursing home in Texas. The home is open to all, not just those of British origin, Peterson pointed out. "It's part of our charter," she said.
The main topic of discussion at gatherings, whether they are potluck suppers at a member's home or an official meeting, is fundraising. The nonprofit group has held yard sales and is planning a crafts event to raise money to send to the home for Christmas.
Peterson came to Florida by way of Germany, where she met her future husband, Everett, at a U.S. Air Force base. After he left the service, the couple and two sons moved to Seattle, where Everett worked for a logging and paper manufacturing company. She became a buyer of electronic parts for the aircraft company Boeing. One son moved to Florida. "And we decided we'd like to retire here," she said.
Adams is a globe-trotter, too. She was a fashion designer in Surrey County, England. She retired in 1986 to Cyprus, where she painted. Her oils were shown in Cyprus and London galleries.
After she established a Web site with her artwork, Douglas Adams of Ohio, tapped into it. "He sent me a cheeky message and I sent him a cheeky message back," she said. They married in 1999 and came to Florida.
Always looking, Peterson has found recruits through "adverts" and frequenting British Fish and Chips, a restaurant on State Road 52 in Pasco County.