The Way We Were: Ann Stiefel Joiner Brewster

The Way We Were: Ann Stiefel Joiner Brewster

Brewster_05Ann Stiefel Joiner Brewster will celebrate her 90th birthday in November. She grew up on Avondale’s Hollywood Avenue with her father Clarence, a pharmacist with a Forsyth Street pharmacy and her mother Amy Stiefel. She lived near many friends who all attended school together. She and her friends could not wait to enter junior high at John Gorrie Junior High School.

“One of the best things that happened while I attended John Gorrie was the Dance Cotillion and dance lessons,” she said. “Mr. and Mrs. Pratt gave ballroom dancing lessons every Friday evening. The Woman’s Club next to the Cummer Museum was transformed into a dance school. It was a wonderful social occasion for the 50-60 junior high students who danced to records and had such fun. The Pratts were excellent dance instructors. Our mothers hosted dinners before the lessons during the two years most of us attended,” she said.

As a youngster, Brewster played hide-and-seek with playmates in a vacant lot at Fitch and Hollywood that her maternal grandparents John and Anna Raabe owned.

“We roamed all over Avondale playing games we made up on our own, even at night during the summers. There were no Barbie dolls back then!” she said.

The Raabes owned residential and commercial property throughout the area. They lived in a long-gone, two-story, six-bedroom home that dominated the corner of North Julia and West Beaver Streets. It seemed huge to their granddaughter Ann, who has never forgotten visiting there.

Brewster is a swimmer who took lessons from Crystal Scarborough at Lackawanna Pool on Lenox Avenue when she was in elementary school during the 1930s. The Lackawanna Playfield where the pool is located was considered the city’s premier athletic facility when it opened in 1929. It was renamed Mallison Park & Center in 1968.

“I remember riding bikes with my friends over to the pool and paying 10 cents to swim.” she said. “I later learned that Miss Scarborough moved to California and became well-known for her methods of teaching infants to swim.”

Brewster_01            Ann Stiefel graduated from Lee High School in 1943. She attended Ward Belmont College in Nashville and the University of Georgia. She married the late Miller Joiner, a friendship that grew into love that lasted 43 years. They first met when she was 15 and he was a Bolles student.

“Miller grew up in Riverside on Ernest Street and I knew him for a long time before we married,” she said. “After high school he entered military service as a pilot and finished his college education afterwards. We married in 1952 and moved into a new Ortega Forest home on Westfield Road. Our good friends, the late John Watkins and his wife Ella (Hawkins) Watkins, lived right across the street from us. Ella’s sister Jane had been in my class. They grew up on Edgewood Avenue. I still see Ella at Riverside Garden Club, Watsonian Circle meetings.” Ann has been a Garden Club member for 50-plus years.

During the course of their marriage the Joiners also lived on Water Oak Lane and then built a home on Exeter Lane for their growing family. Miller worked in the Ford Motor Company office at their Talleyrand plant. Ann only left Ortega for a few years when Ford transferred Miller to Richmond, Virginia.

Around 1968 the Joiners moved back to Jacksonville with their three children and bought a riverfront home on Ortega Forest Drive where they lived about 12 years. When they sold their Ortega Forest home they lived on Venetia Boulevard until 1989 when they moved to Riverside. The couple had three children: Andrea, Margaret Ann and Miller Joiner, Jr. III, who resides in Venetia. He has one son, Parker, 24, Ann’s only grandson.

After Joiner’s death, Ann became reacquainted with and married fellow Lee High School 1943 graduate Gene Brewster, now deceased. He grew up in Avondale on Belvedere and missed their graduation because he was called into military service.

“I only got to know Gene when I was 70 years old!” she said. “We volunteered together for Meals on Wheels and helped down at the Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless for the 12 years we were married.”

A visit with Brewster requires some scheduling around her weekly Bridge games. A keen player with three different groups, she also substitutes. Brewster enjoys two Book Clubs and is active at St. Mark’s Episcopal. She has taken two cruises sponsored by the Jacksonville Symphony and looks forward to family gatherings. Her brother Clarence Stiefel, Jr. is retired from the insurance business and lives in Fairfax Manor with his wife Fran (Giles). Her other brother, the late John Stiefel was a Gainesville psychiatrist whose son, her nephew John Stiefel, Jr., lives in Avondale. He and his wife Catherine (Jennings) Stiefel have two sons.
Brewster’s interest in family and history is for good reason. Her family descended from the 1600s in Virginia through her father’s Stiefel relative, Augustine Warner. In 1642 the British Crown awarded a land grant of 600 acres on the Chesapeake Bay to Warner for safely transporting settlers to Jamestown. Warner Hall waterfront plantation and 38 of its original acres is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 1642 foundation of the family mansion is preserved beneath a restored home that suffered fire damage twice over the centuries. The Warner Hall Inn historic bed and breakfast and the Warner Hall Graveyard are Virginia landmarks visited earlier this year for the first time by Ann and many family members. Ann’s Stiefel/Warner family tree includes President George Washington, a descendant of Augustine Warner, making the first president her distant cousin, among other important historical figures.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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