Her many years as a nurse did not soften the blow for Lee Wilson when her only daughter became ill and died just over a year ago. The pain of it still visibly moves her and it was shortly after when she began making plans to move into The Fountains at Orlando Lutheran Towers.
A large photograph of her daughter holds pride of place on the still mostly bare walls of her comfortable, light-filled apartment. She moved in on June 8.
“She suffered tremendously,” Lee said of her daughter, Mary. “So my life has changed from the standpoint that, before she became ill, I lived down the street from my daughter and her husband. I miss her terribly and her husband, I’m sure, misses her more. They had a most marvelous marriage for more than 20 years.”
In addition to her daughter she has two sons: Arthur lives in Jacksonville and Tom lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Lee was born in the 1930s (she would not be specific) on May 29th in Roanoke, Virginia, to Mary and Henry Gwynn. She was an only child and, growing up during the height of the Depression and World War II, left her with some habits that are carryovers from that hard time, she said.
Her father was in the typewriter business but, although he had a shop filled with typewriters, he could not sell them during the war because such sales were frozen in case the government needed the typewriters, she said.
“So he made a living selling typewriter ribbon and carbon paper, and doing typewriter repairs,” Lee said.
Although a child, she knew that everyone had a duty to pitch in and help. So, along with her young friends, she scavenged for scrap metal that could be turned in to help support the war effort.
“I had a little red wagon and I would cover the neighborhood on Saturdays trying to pick up any aluminum and steel that I could for the war effort. All the other children were doing the same thing.”
One day in particular is still a vivid memory. She came across a piece of railroad track and asked if she could have it. “This man said ‘you can have it if you can get it out of here.’” She laughed as she retold the tale. “Well, I tried and I tried but I couldn’t move it and I couldn’t find someone who would pick it up so we could take it to the recycling place…it was that heavy.”
At age 12 her family moved to Orlando and she attended Memorial Junior High and the old Orlando High School. She has discovered that many graduates of the high school live at the Orlando Lutheran Towers residences.
“We do have a fairly active alumni club here,” she said.
After high school she headed to Florida State University for a year to complete prerequisites, and then went on to nursing school in Atlanta. She returned to Orlando and worked for another year before going to the University of Virginia for a Bachelors Degree in nursing. Back in Orlando, she took a job with Orange Memorial Hospital (now Orlando Health) and met and married a physician. The marriage ended after 12 years. She also taught nursing at Valencia for many years before retiring in 1996.
“The first year I was retired I felt like I was on spring break,” she said.
She has found people she already knew living at The Fountains.
“There are a couple people I know from my church on this floor. Before I moved here I heard this is a much more gregarious place than a lot of similar places and I’m finding that to be true. I’m taking part in things here and I’m beginning to make new friends,” Lee said. “I’m blessed with a lot of friends both here and outside…some of whom I’ve known since high school. I’m still very new here, but I’m beginning to settle in.”