Susan Lovett Mullin

Susan Lovett Mullin

 

Susan Lovett Mullin believes San Marco is amazing.

In the midst of this laid-back historic area, she said, are several important companies and famously successful individuals, and she feels privileged to have worked for three of those companies. All are significant in Jacksonville’s history, and operated in succession in the same Southbank tower.

Mullin_01“I’m lucky to have worked for three wonderful local companies on the Southbank, near the neighborhoods, shops and restaurants of San Marco,” said Mullin, who grew up in Springfield. “After high school in the Sixties, I continued my education, taking LOMA (Life Office Management Association) courses. LOMA is a major insurance industry trade association. I worked as a registrar for the old Gulf Life Insurance Company on Gulf Life Drive.”

Now a resident at The Towers of Jacksonville, formerly Baptist Towers, Mullin recalled the early days of her career as “happy days in a huge new building full of terrific people. Many of us lived nearby and were just like family. We went to lunch together or met after work at our favorite place, the Diamondhead Restaurant. Everyone ordered fabulous seafood, especially the fried shrimp, and mouth-watering desserts.”

After the Diamondhead was demolished to make way for the new Acosta Bridge in 1990, Mullin, her friends and co-workers ate at the nearby Harbormasters Restaurant, until it closed in 1992. Dining together and socializing was a recurring theme at Mullin’s company.

“In the summertime Gulf Life hosted a deep-sea fishing trip for employees. We met at Mayport and left on the same boat. Some fished and others, like me, watched and enjoyed the day. It was so clear we saw the fish circling and biting on the lines deep into the water,” she reminisced. “There were wonderful Christmas parties held in our Morrison’s Cafeteria on-site. They served on glass plates and used silverware, nothing plastic. We could sit down and enjoy a real meal. Their Dolphin Room hosted beautiful office parties, including the last one, which was a goodbye party for the Gulf Life Company before it merged with American General Life.”

Mullin recalled many occasions when Gulf Life employees pitched in to help anyone who had a house fire or other emergency. She frequently helped to collect money, clothing or whatever donations were needed and everyone participated.

After the 1991 merger, Mullin kept her position, but as an employee of American General. In 1993 Gate Petroleum bought the building and began a multimillion-dollar renovation that restored the tower.

Mullin stayed at the renamed Riverplace Tower to work for Gate and said that working for Herb Peyton was a joy. She has many friends from her “Gate Family” years, including David Havelykke, a Gate manager and his wife Lynn, a former teacher at Hendricks Avenue Elementary, both retired now, as well as Melissa Yuhas, property manager who took over for the late Tom Pound, who held that position at the tower even longer than Mullin’s years. Pound’s wife Nancy was another longtime teacher at Hendricks Avenue Elementary before her retirement, Mullin said. Yuhas planned everything for Mullin’s beautiful retirement party held in the foyer of the tower building and remains a close friend.

“Twenty years flew by working for Gate,” she said. “I enjoyed my job there so much I didn’t even want to take vacations. Once when my car completely broke down, they helped me get a new vehicle. I couldn’t believe how much they cared about each employee. I don’t think most companies are like that anymore. We always had a ball dressing up for Halloween every year. They would often take us out to lunch and the annual Christmas parties at the Ponte Vedra Club & Inn were such a treat.”

Mullin said that she, along with other employees, volunteered for the Ronald McDonald House. She especially enjoyed the annual Gate River Run where she helped hand out what seemed like a million bottles of water over 20 years at 1301 Riverplace Boulevard from tables set up on the street in front of the tower.

“My last position was handling payments for the tower’s parking garage,” she said. “I did a lot of customer service because I had the patience to answer questions and give directions to visitors. I felt like a walking GPS, but I knew San Marco and the Southbank so well it was fun for me to talk about the area.”

Mullin enjoyed her home on Palm Avenue near the Ronald McDonald House because it was a street of neighbors with the biggest hearts for helping each other and the community. She said they were always participating in charity walks or volunteering. It was also a walkable neighborhood, close to her favorite places. She misses the Pic-n-Save and Peterson’s 5 & Dime, where she enjoyed browsing and usually lost all track of time.

An active senior, Mullin celebrates her 66th birthday in October. She retired in 2014 and was honored that her employers wanted her to stay. She attends water aerobics and Silver Sneakers exercise classes twice weekly, which she highly recommends. She enjoys ice cream with friends at Marble Slab Creamery, rarely misses events on San Marco Square and dines at River City Brewery, which brings back happy memories of years past. She sees movies at San Marco Theatre, frequents San Marco Bookstore and Alhambra Dinner Theatre. She never tires of her favorite musical, Fiddler on the Roof, and attending performances at the Times- Union Center for the Performing Arts.

Mullin is a member of and taught Sunday School at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Hendricks Avenue. She supports the Salvation Army, Community Hospice and American Cancer Society after losing her only child, son Carl, to leukemia at age 34. She encourages locals to thank Fire Station 13 firefighters whom she says go above and beyond to assist residents day or night in emergencies. Mullin appreciates Michael McClernon, administrator, and the staff of the Towers’ senior residential center for their compassionate care of San Marco seniors.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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