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'I'm fortunate to have lived this long'

By Times Staff Writer
Published December 13, 2007


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Everett James Nelson celebrated his 100th birthday on Nov. 10 at his Clearwater residence with family, friends and neighbors.

Mr. Nelson was born on Nov. 10, 1907, in Superior, Wis., one of Andrew and Emma Nelson's six children. A brother, Bob, who also attained centenarian status, died in 2006.

Mr. Nelson attended the University of Iowa, where he studied education and school administration and received a master's degree. He also played college football.

After graduating, Mr. Nelson worked as a teacher.

He married for the first time in 1938 and has outlived three wives.

An Army veteran, Mr. Nelson was awarded the Silver Star and retired from the service as a lieutenant colonel. He served with the Veterans Administration as an assistant personnel manager in Milwaukee, and during summers trained reservists at Army camps.

Mr. Nelson came here in 1967 after retiring at age 60.

He didn't stay retired, however. He worked several more years with the Civilian Conservation Corps in conjunction with the Army.

Mr. Nelson believes in exercise and furthering one's education. To that end he still enjoys dancing, playing cards and coin collecting. He's taken many cruise ship vacations and particularly enjoyed traveling in Europe.

Of his longevity, Mr. Nelson simply says, "I'm fortunate to have lived this long."

Mr. Nelson has four daughters, Michelle Oswald of Odessa; Rita Olson of Tampa; Alice Finger of Florida's east coast; and Mary Knight, now deceased. There are 11 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

***

John and Virginia "Gina" Santosuosso of Clearwater recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. They were married Dec. 5, 1942, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Roslindale, Mass., followed by dinner and dancing with more than 150 guests at the Hotel Kenmore, Boston.

A month after their wedding, Mr. Santosuosso, who was a Navy ensign, had to ship out for training. During World War II, he served as a communications officer aboard the USS Tangier (AV-8) and wasn't able to return home for three years. When he finally returned, he was able to meet the daughter he'd never seen.

Mr. Santosuosso was a professor of secondary education at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Mrs. Santosuosso was a housewife and former executive secretary.

They came here in 1986 from Plymouth, Mass.

The Santosuossos are fans of square and round dancing, and participated as advanced dancers for 30 years.

The couple have two children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

***

William "Bill" and Del-Ann Wenzelburger of Largo celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Their children took them on a family vacation to Williamsburg, Va., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., and a party was held Oct. 21 at the Sirata Resort Hotel, St. Pete Beach, with family and friends.

A St. Louis native, Mrs. Wenzelburger moved to St. Petersburg in 1955 and graduated from Northeast High School two years later. The same year, she was Miss Missouri in St. Petersburg's Festival of States.

The Wenzelburgers were married Oct. 16, 1957, at Grace Evangelical Reform Church, St. Louis, and came here in 1959.

Mr. Wenzelburger was hired by the St. Petersburg Times in 1970 and worked as the production maintenance manager. He retired in 1997.

Mrs. Wenzelburger has worked for the city of St. Petersburg as a school crossing guard since 1973. She's been a supervisor since 1989 and is still working.

Mr. Wenzelburger is a member of St. Petersburg Masonic Lodge 139 and Egypt Shrine Temple, Tampa.

The couple has four children, David, Jeffrey, Denise and Robert, nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

***

St. Louis natives Ray "Goose" and Dorothy "Dot" Gilliam of Clearwater began dating in 1950 when both were playing soccer, she with the Bobby Sockers of the Craig Club League and he with the Craig Seniors, who won the overall title that year.

Mrs. Gilliam worked at Edison Brothers Shoes and Mr. Gilliam was studying to become an investment broker. He was drafted into the Army in June 1951 and the couple were married at the post chapel at Camp Chaffee, Ark., by Catholic Chaplain Capt. Michael P. Owens, a family friend.

After a tour in Germany, Mr. Gilliam returned to St. Louis where he continued to compete in soccer and he and his wife started a family.

In 1976, the couple became politically involved, running a successful campaign for Democratic Congressman Harold Volkmer of Missouri. They spent 10 years in Washington, D.C., as part of the congressional staff. Mrs. Gilliam functioned as Volkmer's personal secretary while Mr. Gilliam worked in the JFK Performing Arts Center theater and continued to campaign part time.

Mrs. Gilliam was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1997 and went through months of chemotherapy. The following year, the couple bought a condo in Clearwater to help her recover in a warmer climate. Ten years later, Mrs. Gilliam is considered a cancer survivor.

In 2001, Mr. Gilliam fell ill with Myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease related to leukemia, and was given a year of treatments at St. John's Cancer Center, St. Louis, with no improvement. He was referred to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center on the campus of the University of South Florida, Tampa, where he has undergone treatment since December 2002 while hoping for a cure.

The couple have six children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, all of St. Louis.

***

Eighteen-year-old Peter Kowalchuk of Palm Harbor achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and was acknowledged at a special Court of Honor Ceremony on Nov. 10 at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Tarpon Springs.

A member of Troop 422 in Dunedin and former member of Troop 4, Palm Harbor, Peter earned 33 merit badges, served as a leader in both troops and completed a major community service project.

For his Eagle Scout project, Peter raised the funds, executed plans for irrigation and led his troop and leaders in planting eight trees at the North Pinellas Historical Society Museum to create a memorial tree garden.

Peter is a freshman majoring in engineering at the University of Central Florida, Orlando.

He is the son of Matt and Joanne Kowalchuk of Palm Harbor.

[Last modified December 12, 2007, 20:57:00]


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