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Faithful voter 'Lola' Bitare, 101, dies

By JOUNICE L. NEALY

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Today would have been a serious day for Patricia "Lola" Bitare. Today would have been the day she would do her duty. Today would have been the day that the centenarian voted.

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[Times photo: Fred Victorin]
Patricia "Lola" Bitare, 101, was planning to vote in today's election. She died March 22.
But the 101-year-old died March 22, less than a week before she could cast her vote, something that the naturalized U.S. citizen had always loved to do.

"She was planning to vote in the election," said Nick De Jesus, Mrs. Bitare's son-in-law. "To her, voting was not only a privilege, but as a citizen of this country, it was her duty. So maybe this will inspire people, you know. Really, I feel in my own self (that) not so many people are practicing this inalienable right."

The registered Republican last voted in November's presidential election, when she was featured in a St. Petersburg Times story about her voting record. She was too weak from a stroke to vote in last month's primary city election, he said.

Mrs. Bitare immigrated from the Philippines in 1982 and became a citizen four years later. De Jesus and his wife, Estela, wanted her to be closer to family.

Mrs. Bitare, who read without eyeglasses and played handheld computer games to keep her mind sharp, was a registered nurse and an administrator at a Manila hospital before she moved to the United States. Family members said she voted in every presidential election since she became a citizen. In today's mayoral election, De Jesus said Mrs. Bitare was leaning toward Kathleen Ford because she thought that "women are sometimes incorruptible. Women are more sincere as far as making a decision."

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