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Lutz settler kept friends, family, area tied together

Elizabeth Delaney faced her share of difficulties. But she provided for her family and stayed active in the community. Delaney died last week at 86.

By BILL COATS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


LUTZ -- The year was 1925, and 10-year-old Elizabeth White moved with her parents from Tennessee to join the Florida land boom.

"She was totally disappointed when she got here," said her son, Brian Delaney. "She expected to see the post card, with the palm trees and the white beaches. Instead, she saw this stuff hanging from the trees -- Spanish moss."

Yet soon, the young woman chose a home on Crystal Lake in Lutz. She spent seven decades immersed in Lutz as naturally as Spanish moss, and lived here until a month before her death last week at 86.

Her sons still live on the family land. Her funeral on Monday amounted to a reunion of local pioneers.

"She was helpful in all kinds of things in the community," said Elizabeth MacManus, Lutz's leading local historian. "She was a community person."

Her three grown children described a life in which dreams quickly gave way to difficulties. But Mrs. Delaney overcame them with energy and soft-spoken Southern grace.

"Through it all, she managed to persevere," said her son Lance, 54. "She never gave up, and she made sure the things we needed were provided for us."

She dreamed as a girl of becoming a fashion designer in New York. But the value of the family's extensive land investments, like most in Florida, soon collapsed. The family's log cabin retreat in Lutz, deeded to young Elizabeth for helping her grandfather at the office, became home.

"When the bottom did fall out, they moved here to stay," Brian Delaney said.

She married Clarence Delaney, a California serviceman stationed in Tampa during World War II. They had four children. Melinda, the third, had cerebral palsy and died in adolescence. Mrs. Delaney also cared for her ailing parents.

Amid the burdens, she plunged into Lutz's small-town life: PTAs, the garden club, the woman's club, the Presbyterian church, the Crystal Lake Association and Party Line, then Lutz's community newspaper.

She helped organize the Lutz Bit & Bridle Club for horse riders.

"They wanted some social kind of thing to keep us out of trouble," recalled Lance Delaney. "There weren't a whole lot of fences. There wasn't any traffic to speak of, and we rode and rode and rode."

"She was pretty happy, given all the stuff she had to deal with," said the youngest child, Eleanor "Camille" Echols, 49.

"Mom was a great anchor," Brian Delaney said. "She kept people tied together, the place tied together."

- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 226-3469.

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