by Joe Courter
Most people simply knew her as Granny, a tall skinny older woman who had lived on the streets of downtown Gainesville for many years. All of us were shocked, after not seeing her around for a few weeks, to learn she had been killed while on her bicycle on January 30. As it was a hit and run, and she had no family to notify, word did not get out until March 2 when the police ran her picture in the paper trying to track down the hit and run driver who had killed her.
By that afternoon Jenn Martz put a notice out on Facebook that there would be a candlelight vigil in her memory at Bo Diddley plaza that next night, Tuesday, March 3. That invite was shared and shared, and that night over 230 people came out. Turns out Granny had a family, hundreds of grandchildren with whom she had shared a everything from a brief conversation to a supportive relationship. This humble, wise woman could comfort someone who was sitting alone and upset. She would walk someone to their car late at night. She would ask nothing but for a little money and always be grateful whether you chose to or not.
She found a final resting place out at Prairie Creek Conservation Burial after a two-day fundraiser netted well over the $2,000 needed for that. Prior to her burial on March 6, a service was held at Bo Diddley Plaza, and the wicker casket top was there, and ended up with notes from many dozens people tied to it. The one that is etched in my brain read “Thank you for walking me to my car and convincing me to sleep in it rather than driving home drunk. You may have saved my life.”
At the service on Friday, Jon DeCarmine spoke, and mentioned two other people we lost in the past couple years, Pat Fitzpatrick, who longtime crusaded mightily for the poor and oppressed, especially against the meal limit St. Francis House had, and most recently Arupa Chiarini, who ran the Home Van and did support work for the homeless right from her front porch. They provided support for people like Granny, trapped in poverty with no way out. With Granny the giving went the other way, she gave love, smiles, wisdom to people who didn’t even know they needed it.
These three were unpaid volunteers who found purpose in fighting the good fight. Maybe they are the ones who should be honored on that blank cement slab where the confederate soldier was. Just an idea now, more perhaps next issue. Thoughts?