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The story of a dynamic industry that dominated Lake County for more than 125 years
One of the common traits for Clyde, Billy and Donald was: all were quiet. Some of us do not exhibit that trait! I know Donald’s twin Ronald better than I knew him. Both were raised in the citrus business. Most of my understanding of the family citrus business I gained at the memorial service. I am sure I could have extracted this information after several lunches with the boys. The family had a store in Pennsylvania where they would market their fruit. This is what Dr. J. R. Greenman, the Ag Econ prof called ‘vertical integration’. Produce and market directly to the consumer. Take out the profit from the middle folks. So Donald spent time going back and forth from Eustis to Pennsylvania.
His career was in appraising. Do not know that story, but I do know he was extremely knowledgeable and respected all over the state. Donald worked for Mr. Ted Cassiday the Lake County Property Appraiser for many years. Donald was then elected when Mr. Cassidy retired. Donald was an appraiser, not a politician and was not re-elected (someone with a big mouth, glib tongue and many fantastic promises was elected). We have gone from officials that knew something about their office to folks that know how to get elected. Remember when the School Board members were successful business men that ran the system like a business and selected a superintendent that ran the schools. Now we have politicians running government that may or may not have any idea how to run a business. What a mess. How did I get side tracked onto politics?
Donald knew every grove in Lake County, probably as well as the owner. He was a grower and did all he could to help growers. Can not say that same philosophy exists today. Citrus was Lake County for many years, now it is just part of history. Very few folks have any idea how citrus trees dominated the landscape, how the industry employed thousands to grow, harvest. pack, process and market the fruit. Donald did.
His daughter did a magnificent job letting us into the family. Her comments revealed a fantastic family led by the quiet patriarch. Donald was a man of strong faith, it was his foundation. Our society needs more men like Donald to take charge of their family by example and love. Donald Stephens leaves another example of the quiet leaders in our industry and community.
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