|Birth: ||Nov. 22, 1912|
|Death: ||Dec. 29, 2005|
CITRUS TRAILBLAZER THELMA RALEY PASSES AWAY
Thelma Cornell Raley, a noted Polk County citrus grower, died of heart failure Dec. 29, 2006 at age 94. During her long life, she made innumerable contributions to both the industry and her community.
A Tallahassee native, Mrs. Raley came to Polk County in 1940 and founded a citrus operation with her first husband, Ed Cornell. After his passing, she stepped in to manage the groves. Among her many accomplishments, Mrs. Raley earned a bachelor's degree in English at age 80.
She served in many organizations including Florida Citrus Mutual and the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. She was also a longtime board member of Dundee Citrus Growers.
Raley was preceded in death by her husband, William L. Raley, who died in 2003. Survivors include sons George Kirtley and Lindsey Raley; foster son, Kalung Riang; daughter, Donna Class; and a brother, two sisters and seven grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations to be made to Good Shepherd Hospice and Boys & Girls Clubs of Winter Haven.
January 15, 2007
ISSUE 1149-Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
Thelma Raley is living a wonderful life
By VELMA DANIELS
Thelma Raley, by all popular standards, should be known as the First Lady of Florida -- and especially of Winter Haven. She has the gift for meeting seemingly insurmountable obstacles -- and overcoming them with indefinable ease. Her newest challenge has been the writing of a beautiful hardcover book, "Once A Farmer Always A Farmer."
Her host of friends would not have been the least bit surprised if Thelma (Mrs. William L. Raley) had written a romance novel equal to Barbara Cartland, or a best-seller perhaps titled "The Art of Gracious Living," or an inspirational book maybe bearing the title "Hope Is Where My Heart Is." But she has chosen to write a book of motivation, a book of encouragement -- an outstanding business book. She says this is an autobiography. It is. But it is much, much more than that. It is her story -- how she was widowed and, even in her grief, made up her mind to become one of the largest and best citrus growers Florida has ever known.
There is much more before her marriage she shares with her readers and much more after her grit and determination lifted her to heights that seem impossible in these days, much less in times when money was tight -- but faith was the winning ingredient.
Thelma Raley's life is a series of challenges. She has a special countenance -- she doesn't look like anybody else but herself, with a soft face and blondish hair that curls gently around her face. If an artist were choosing a subject to paint in porcelain, it would be Thelma Raley, who has a Victorian presence. She is a stunning woman. You can not even imagine her with a bit of grove dirt on her shoes or a smudge on her perfectly coiffured hairstyle. Thelma Raley not only thinks her plans, she works her plans, and this is what has made her such a phenomenal success.
Together, let's begin as she did her book -- with her early life: "I was born in 1912 on a peanut farm near Marianna. The first school I attended was in a one-room building in the country about a mile from our home. I was so small that I sat in a little rocking chair in the front row... I was sickly in the winters and had to miss almost one year of school due to bronchitis. In those days, we had only calamundin, Castor Oil, Grover's Chill Tonic and Wampole's Cod-Liver oil."
The author was the fourth of six daughters in the Daisy Dean and Julius Hollister family and there were two sons.
"When our six weeks were over at Summer School and we returned home, our farm duties continued during the rest of the summer... we filled six outside woodstands, chopped stovewood for the big iron wood stove in the kitchen, gathered eggs, fed chickens and turkeys, did endless hoeing of vegetables and picked pecans -- but it was the shelling of peanuts by hand that was one of the hardest and endless chores." The Hollisters were a devoutly religious family and were taught the strong ties of love that have been shared throughout their adult lives.
Let's now skip to Thelma's first marriage to Harold Edward Cornell, president of Glen St. Mary Nurseries and a citrus grower. They were married on July 15, 1940, and on September 18, 1943, Ed died suddenly, but in this short time he had taught his bride well in the knowledge of the citrus industry.
"Every Sunday afternoon Ed and I would drive over the nursery and grove acreage. He kept a map of the groves in his car and insisted that I learn the name or number of each block. I found this experience fascinating, as it stimulated my interest and made me feel part of his operation. Studying and knowing the varieties of each orange, grapefruit, and tangerine and their rootstocks motivated my interest in purchasing a grove of my own."
Ed also gave her the best advice for business dealing -- at that time. "There is a way to purchase a grove without having to put up the cash for the initial down payment. See if you can figure it out." She explains how each step was a growing and financial experience -- eventually putting her in the citrus industry news as she had already acquired holdings, in citrus alone, well in excess of one thousand acres! The daughter of a peanut farmer had made her mark in the citrus history of the South! Her detailed story here is an encouragement to women everywhere. Her second marriage ended in divorce, a heartbreaking experience for the author, but this union produced two wonderful offspring.
On June 8, 1958, Thelma married William Lindsay Raley, at her elegant home on Lake Eloise "Orleans." At age 48, Thelma and Bill had a son, William Lindsay Raley Jr., who has become the family business partner, and the three children of Lindsay and Jennifer, have become the apples of their grandparents eyes.
Is this book merely a magical story of living-happily-ever-after?
No. It is filled with joys and sorrows and losses and gains. It is life at its fullest -- and how the single life of Thelma Hollister Raley has touched the lives of so many, many people, for good. If you miss reading "Once A Farmer Always A Farmer" you will miss one of life's richest reading experiences. It is brimming with photos.
Specifically: Burial info unknown.
Created by: Vera Mikell Sodek
Record added: Jan 29, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 24238722