SEBRING — One of Highlands County’s wisest and most gracious ladies died Saturday.
“Anne Reynolds was a very special lady, so thoughtful and generous, and wise too. She was one of those unique individuals who contributes so much to a community,” said Norm Stephens, who met Anne Reynolds when he was interviewed for the presidency of what was then South Florida Community College. She was 72.
Anne Driskell Nichols was born Sept. 30, 1944, in High Point, North Carolina. She received a degree from Gulf Park Junior College for Women in Long Beach, Mississippi. She transferred to Florida Southern College in Lakeland, where she received a bachelor’s of arts degree and met her husband, Charles.
She served on numerous boards and committees. The Reynoldses, along with three other couples, started Interlake Academy, a Christian middle school in 1978, where she taught English for 14 years. It continues as Lake Placid Christian School.
“I made $1 a year salary,” Anne Reynolds said in an interview. “I am probably one of the only teachers in America that paid to teach. It was a rewarding experience; I loved to see the kids learn and gain confidence.”
She served on the Highlands County Historic Preservation Commission and three terms on the South Florida State College Board of Trustees.
“Extraordinary would be the first word to come to my head,” said Kimble McKay, who served with her on the SFCC board. “She came from a good education, she was an authoress of multiple books, she was the prime mover in the development of the archeologic conservatory we developed 20 years ago. She was a history buff of Florida. She was a very gracious lady, well read, talented in a lot of ways.
“She was studious about the makeup of the college and the various curriculums,” McKay said. “She was one of the best board members.”
Reynolds repeatedly stepped out of her comfort zone and into adventures. She and her husband traveled, camped, canoed and studied lobster genealogy. Her paintings are displayed at the Off Circle Gallery in downtown Sebring.
She wrote four books that are listed on Amazon.com, “A Will of Her Own,” “Mast Island,” “Winter Harvest” and “Shadow of Death.” “Winter Harvest” won first place in the Royal Palm Literary Awards in the romance genre; “Mast Island” won second place in the thriller-mystery category. She wrote for “In The Field,” Heartland’s agriculture magazine, and “Homegrown Farmers and Cowboys.”
One of the most significant archaeological finds in South Florida, the Blueberry Mound, happened almost by chance. William Marquardt, curator of South Florida Archaeology for the college, said in 2012 that museum workers collected more than 100 boxes of artifacts, including ancient pottery and tools.
Blueberry Mound, Marquardt said, “is a very important archaeological site in an area that’s not well understood. They did a great service, not only for archaeologists, but also your county.”
“Anne worked tirelessly to create that archaeological exhibit in the Museum of Florida Art and Culture,” Stephens said. “I just recall the hours and hours and hours she spent, all volunteer. She didn’t even want the recognition. She did it because she was that kind of a person.”
Reynolds didn’t plan to become involved in a dig that would last more than two decades. She said artifacts were found near the blueberry site and brought to her. When the site went up for sale in the early 1990s, Reynolds and her Charles bought the site and preserved it.
At Blueberry Mound and another dig on Lake June-in-Winter, a Native American village was discovered; archaeologists who got involved found pottery produced by the Spanish, most likely from the 1600s. Since the Spanish never made it this far inland, Indians who traded with the Spanish must have brought it to what is now Lake Placid, Reynolds said then.
Digging further, they found a pre-Columbian village inhabited by Belle Glade natives. Little was known about the Belle Glade culture, so the sites shed light on prehistoric natives. She spent a month on an archaeological dig at Caesarea Maritima in Israel and rented a car to take her to Acre and other places not on the tourist trail.
Merry Cresswell was a Lake Placid librarian. “She used to come in a lot. In those days, I bought audiocassette books. She would get five every other week.”
Cresswell twice invited Reynolds to speak at library events. “Everyone enjoyed her talks.”
Reynolds joined the garden club and, in her first foray into community service, organized a litter committee. Cleanup efforts won a state award for its efforts.
During an interview last year, Reynolds was open about acute myeloid leukemia: “I am doing better than expected. I attribute that to the prayers of so many people that have been praying for me daily.”
Stephens described Reynolds as a polymath, a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning. “She was interested in so many things: music, science. She would organize lectures. She would bring in people to the college. She would attend so many of the programs. She wanted to continue to learn.”
“Mrs. Reynolds was a tremendous lady who had multiple impacts,” said Ray Royce, executive director of the Highlands County Citrus Growers association. She and her husband made their living in agriculture.
“She certainly will be missed,” Royce said. “She made a huge impact, not only on Lake Placid, but Highlands County. She and Charles and their family, they are caring, giving people. She was fun to talk to, and you just enjoyed being in her presence. Maybe that’s the best thing someone can say about her. She was nice.”
“She was well respected by everybody,” Stephens said. “I don’t recall ever hearing a bad word about Anne Reynolds. I don’t think I ever will.”
Arrangements are under the direction of Michael A. Brochetti Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hearts for Missions, Memorial United Methodist Church, 500 Kent Ave., Lake Placid, FL 33852 or St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
She was preceded in death by her son, Rob Reynolds. She is survived by her husband of 51 years, Charles Reynolds Jr.; son Greg Reynolds, daughter Leigh Anne (Reynolds) Taylor, sister Betsy Berrier Nichols, and four grandchildren, Eden, Jadena and Finnigan Taylor, and Ana Regin Taylor.