Eunice Gault Albritton was the oldest daughter of four children, and her family moved to Placida from Gasparilla Island in the 1940s. She was the daughter of Walter Gault and Louise Cole Gault. Eunice took on a lot of the chores at a young age at her father’s fish house in Placida. Her Dad did construction, farming, fishing, anything that needed to be done. Eventually, her Dad’s business, the Gasparilla Fish House, became the most profitable. It was located in Placida, near the Coral Creek Bridge. It was recently demolished to make room for the new development, Village & Marina at Boca Grande.
She had a younger brother (GW), but, sadly, he drowned when he was sixteen. She and her two sisters (Pat, and LaVohn) were all they had left, and Eunice, being the oldest, did what she could to help her Dad. She was a self-described “tomboy,” always with her Dad, learning the business. The area around the Fish House also included an IGA grocery store, and the post office. It was a busy place, but provided amenities for the families of the fishermen and women.
Once ice machines were available, the fishing business took off. Fresh fish were in high demand and were much easier to ship out to larger towns. Her dad arranged electricity for the area so they could make ice. The business grew, and with the help of her cousin Louise and her husband, Luther, Eunice learned to keep track of the fish and the fishermen, keep the books, and pack the fish in ice at night. She did all that after she caught the ferry to the island, and then took the bus to school each day.
Later, her dad sent her to high school in Arcadia. She had to take the train every day of school, and to dances on the weekends. That’s where she met John Albritton. They married, and had two sons, Greg and Gary. John and the boys worked along with her and “Mr. Walter,” as her dad was known.
It must have been a tough life, and also a great one—in a character building way, because the Eunice I knew exuded kindness, strength and generosity. That comes from a grateful attitude, I think.
I loved her laugh, it was heart-full, and from the gut. She was shy though too. If she caught you watching her laugh, she quickly would look away, seemingly embarrassed. She was soft spoken, and always willing to help.
Nancy Wille was her friend, and is also one of our local historians. She remembers that Eunice was well versed with the history of the area, and she loved sharing stories. When Nancy gave presentations to civic clubs, she relied on Eunice for background information. “Even though Eunice didn’t want to speak, she would stand up next to me, and add information as needed.”
I remember Eunice would sit very quietly in group meetings, and listen for the longest time. I would start to think she didn’t have an opinion to offer, and wasn’t going to speak at all. Then, after the conversations started to repeat themselves, she would present her opinion clearly and succinctly. But also in a very gentle manner. Her opinions were often well thought out, and respected by others.
After discussing the Bitcoin system with her one day, she laughingly told me that the Fishery had actually developed their own monetary system, for the fishermen many years before checks were used at banks. When the fishermen would bring in fish, she and her dad would give them a ticket, and they could use it at L.A. Ainger’s grocery store like money. Then L.A. would bring the tickets to her dad, and he would give L.A. the cash for them. They did what they had to do to keep the local economy going.
She and her family lived a life that made people tough, but also grateful. We have so many conveniences today, thanks to people like the Gaults and Albrittons who paved the way. I’m grateful our paths have crossed.
This year, we lost a true pioneer of the Englewood area.