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2 victims known for service
By BILL VARIAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 30, 2000
CITRUS SPRINGS -- Rowena K. Hill Pendergast and Addie Bertine spent Wednesday at an Ocala hospital, praying with friends of a fellow Gulf to Lake Church member who was having surgery.
Friends say it was a fitting way for the women to share their last afternoon. The pair, both former public school employees, had spent their retirement years feeding, visiting and praying for others, say relatives of both.
As the group left the hospital, the Rev. Lloyd Bertine, pastor of the Crystal River church and Mrs. Bertine's son, reminded everyone heading back home about the weather.
"I said, "Everyone drive carefully,' " the Rev. Bertine said. "There's a storm in Citrus County."
Investigators with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office say wet roads may indeed have contributed to the accident that left both women dead Wednesday afternoon.
The two women were heading south on County Road 491 in Mrs. Pendergast's Mercury Grand Marquis around 4:30 p.m. when an oncoming car began to lose control just north of North Deltona Boulevard. Authorities think a Nissan Sentra driven by Jennifer Napolitano, 19, of Beverly Hills briefly left the road as she was driving north. Attempting to bring her tires back onto the road, Napolitano instead lost control of her car, sliding broadside into the path of the Grand Marquis, said Deputy Mike Kanter. The collision sent Napolitano's car into a 360-degree spin before it came to rest in the center of the road. Mrs. Pendergast's car bounced onto the western shoulder of the road. Mrs. Pendergast, 76, and Mrs. Mrs. Bertine, 78, were pronounced dead at the scene. Napolitano was flown to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, where she was in fair condition Thursday afternoon. Attempts to reach her in her hospital room were unsuccessful.
Mrs. Pendergast was a retired bookkeeper for Crystal River Middle School. A native of Woolmarket, Miss., she moved to Crystal River 32 years ago from St. Petersburg. She was active in the Gulf to Lake Church's Shepherd Ministry and the Florida Power Pioneers Club. Widowed twice within the past 15 years, she devoted her time to helping others, said her daughter, Cheryl Carmon of Inverness.
More often than not, she worked as a team with Mrs. Bertine, who is part of a longtime Citrus County family active in the Crystal River area for years.
Mrs. Bertine was born in Red Level and spent her life in Citrus County, except for two trips to Israel, where she spent nearly two years as a volunteer for the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board doing missionary work. She retired as the cafeteria manager at Crystal River High School with 26 years of service. .
"She was the mother and friend of half of Citrus County," said Sid Kingry, a family friend.
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