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Over Coffee

At 84, She’s Still Juggling Community Projects and Work
Dec 18, 2008 - 9:33:44 AM

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Wilma Wood was born the same year as the company she works for was established: 1924. For when Wilma was entering the world in Pittsburgh, Penn., the Dickman family was establishing Paul B. Dickman Inc. Realtors in Ruskin and preparing to donate land for Ruskin’s first college.
At 84, Wilma Wood does more for business and her community than many less than half her age. She and her husband own a travel agency; she works as assistant to a busy South County Realtor; she stays busy with Elks Club projects and serves as president of the Ruskin Woman’s Club. But don’t let those “titles” fool you. They’re just like the tip of an iceberg. Penny Fletcher Photo

The two now are often spoken of in one breath, as Wilma has been with the Dickman group as assistant to well-known South County Realtor Kay Pye for 17 years.

Wilma and her husband of 57 years, Ray, also own and operate a travel agency, Just Cruising. Both licensed travel agents, they had a full service agency for 20 years in Virginia Beach before moving to Florida. They’d planned to give it up, but after moving here a friend wanted to go on a cruise, and well, after that- the rest is history.
Before venturing into the travel industry, Wilma had been a medical secretary at a children’s hospital while raising two children of her own. Her daughter now lives in Kansas. Her son is deceased and the couple has two grandsons and one granddaughter.

You’d think family, co-owning a travel agency and working in Ruskin’s busy Dickman office would be enough to keep a person busy 24 hours a day, but Wilma has two more large commitments she fits into her everyday life. She and her husband are both involved in Elks Club projects and Elks social life; and she is also president and working on many projects for the Ruskin Woman’s Club.

“Some people picture the Woman’s Club as a bunch of women sitting around drinking tea from china cups deciding whether to trade in our Mercedes-Benz for a BMW,” Wilma said when I interviewed her between tasks at the Dickman office last week. “But the club is all about service.”

In November for instance, she and her fellow club members worked on a dinner for the Florida Federation of Woman’s Clubs current project, “Heifer International,” which works to alleviate malnutrition and hunger world-wide by providing livestock (mostly females so they can give birth to more of the same species) and training in animal husbandry and farming. These gifts offer marketable- and edible- products including milk, eggs, meat, wool and many other benefits to starving people across the world, Wilma explained.

“We certainly don’t sit around drinking tea,” she continued. “The Heifer Project stresses giving something native to the country, whether its bees, or ducks or chickens- once we even gave a llama. The point is, we give them things they can use to help themselves.”

The club recently held a dinner that raised $5,000 and half the proceeds went to the Heifer Project. The other half was given to local charities, including the Mary & Martha House shelter for homeless and / or abused women and their children; Southeastern Guide Dog School (for the blind) and the Hacienda Girls Ranch (that operates as part of  the Children’s Home Society for older foster children that are usually not adoptable).

“We (the Woman’s Club) give $10,000 in scholarship monies (annually) to local students too,” she added. “That takes a lot of fundraising. Elks projects keep us (she and Ray) busy too. We recently held a Hobo Stew night. That’s where everybody brings in two cans, one goes in the stew and the other in the food pantry, and then there are the Elks Christmas baskets and oh, so many other things.”

After several more minutes of telling me about her favorite projects, Wilma couldn’t help but brag a little about her husband, saying he had been the one to start the Flags for Ruskin project, fundraising to buy American flags and having them hung on flag poles on special patriotic occasions and events. “He saw what Sun City Center does and just knew Ruskin had to have flags too,” she said, almost grinning from ear to ear. “We got money, not only from Elks but Eagles and other Ruskin groups to buy them. But then last year I didn’t know how we were going to get them hung, it’s expensive you know to get a truck and all, but I called Priscilla Mixon and somehow it just happened. I don’t know how, but she always seems to get things done.”

Now Wilma is hoping someone will come up with an idea that will keep the flags going up and coming down. Both a truck and volunteers are needed to do this.
People who want to find out more about Florida Federated Woman’s Club projects may go to Once there, they may also click on a link that explains the Heifer Project in detail.

As always, my visit with Wilma was a surprise. Like Wilma, so many people I meet with say, “Oh, I’m nobody special,” when I give them a call and arrange to meet. It was Kay Pye who first alerted me to Wilma’s community involvement. In an email Kay said, “As long as you’ve been around here writing, I’m surprised you don’t already know her.”

I always welcome emails like that. Meeting Wilma was a pleasure even though it was too late in the day for me to accept her offer of coffee, which as I remember it, is always pretty good in the Dickman building at any time of day.

*Perhaps you have something you’d like to share. Or maybe you’d rather tell the community about your favorite charity or cause: or sound off about something you think needs change. That’s what “Over Coffee” is about. It really doesn’t matter whether we actually drink any coffee or not (although I probably will). It’s what you have to say that’s important. E-mail me any time and suggest a meeting place. No matter what’s going on, I’m usually available to share just one more cup.

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