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Brooksville loses historian Virginia Jackson

Hernando Today correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: July 17, 2014 at 02:45 PM

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Brooksville’s cobblestone streets and preserved historical homes hint at a history grounded in classic conservative southern charm. And its intrigue is only intensified with a trip to the Heritage Museum or the Historic Train Depot in downtown Brooksville, where authentic pieces of a historic and exciting past provide a colorful walk down memory lane.

Both the Heritage Museum and the Historic Train Depot were projects of Virginia Jackson, Hernando County’s most knowledgable historian, 2004 winner of the Great Brooksvillian Award, and a classic figure who was loved by many in the community.

Jackson died on July 12 at HPH Hospice Care Center. She was 84. Yet her spirit is legendary for those who knew her as a passionate link to Brooksville’s historic charm.

She was a mentor and a teacher whose shoes were difficult to fill. Virginia Rusk, who is vice president of the Hernando County Historical Society and in charge of the volunteers, said learning under Jackson was an amazing experience.

“She never asked anyone to do something she wouldn’t do herself,” Rusk said.

Rusk remembered a time she and Jackson lowered a moonshine still that was on the second floor of the Heritage Museum. “She wanted it for the Train Depot,” Rusk remembered. The two women supported the still with a “humongous rope” and lowered it two stories into a waiting pickup truck.

“She kept saying it would be all right,” Rusk said, chuckling at the memory. “I would never have done it if she hadn’t been right there with me.”

Rusk joined the Hernando County Historical Society about 12 years ago to free Jackson who wanted to focus more time on the Train Depot. “Everyone called her ‘the Virginia’ and I was the ‘other Virginia.’”

Jackson was an authority on Florida history and very active in the history of Brooksville. She wrote several pamphlets and books, lectured at USF and was the driving force behind many important projects in the county.

Even toward the end when Jackson’s mind became fuzzy, Rusk said she was still very clear about her facts.

Jackson’s resume is extensive and connected to the history of Brooksville where she moved in 1970 from St. Petersburg. She was Hernando County Historian for 30 years, served as the director of the Hernando County Historical Society for more than 20 years and was active in the Hernando Heritage Museum, Brooksville Historical Train Depot and the Hernando County Extension Program and Cannery, according to an obituary from Merritt Funeral Home.

While the community mourns her passing, it will also celebrate the countless contributions made by Virginia Jackson that will impact generations to come.

“She will be missed,” Virginia Rusk said. She paused a moment, took a deep breath and tried to control the emotion in her voice. She was well loved, she said. “And she has such a wonderful family.”

Jackson is survived by her son, Hank Jackson of Weeki Wachee, daughters Riota Pelham of New Port Richey, Joy Jackson and Gerry Sowder of Brooksville, 12 grandchildren, 29 great grandchildren and six great-great grandchildren.

The community will gather today at Merritt Funeral Home Brooksville Chapel for a visitation from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the First United Methodist Church of Brookville, 109 S Broad St.The burial will follow at Lake Lindsey Cemetery and a gathering of friends and family will take place at the Fellowship Hall of the First United Methodist Church.

Email Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame at

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