Jean Furman Dart

Jean Furman Dart
Jean, right, with her siblings Frank and baby sister Betty


People moved often during the Great Depression to find work and it was no different for Jean Furman Dart’s family. One of her earliest memories is of moving from Texas to Jacksonville so that her father could work in sales for Sherwin-Williams. Doctors also said that Florida’s weather could help Frank Furman’s chronic asthma, so Jean and her older brother Frank moved with their parents to Riverside.

Jean and her daughters Laurie and Debbie

Jean and her daughters Laurie and Debbie

The Furman family expanded when five-year-old Jean’s baby sister Betty was born. Her mother Helena Pond Furman, nicknamed Tootie, worked as an auditor for a local business. Jean attended West Riverside Elementary and loved the kind, patient principal, Miss Florence Hughes.

The Furmans soon moved to St. Nicholas and family homes on Tiber Avenue, then on Riverwood Lane. Jean attended Landon High School and had many friends. She was a Landon Lionette for three years and met the six-foot, four-inch, handsome Robert M. “Bob” Dart in homeroom. Although Bob was a year older, they were classmates because Jean was placed one grade ahead. There were 157 students in their 1945 graduating class.

Jean’s favorite teacher at Landon, Hunter Perkins, taught English, and she also liked Orra Eastburn, the Dean of Girls. Bob played on the basketball and baseball teams. When Jean’s mother met Bob she declared him to be the most polite young man she’d ever met. Their first dates were spent riding on his bicycle.

Two of Jean’s friends at Landon were the late Violet (Brightman) Skinner and Mary Virginia (Skinner) Jones who was a Landon cheerleader. Mary Virginia gave Jean rides home in her car, a shiny black Model T Ford. Mary Virginia needed a car because the Skinner family home was “far out on Old Kings Road,” the 87-year-old San Jose resident said.

Back then Jean felt like Jacksonville ended at Granada because there was no public transportation beyond there and the community seemed much smaller. Southside was just starting to open up and expand with new homes and more streets.

Bob, a Jacksonville native, was born in a home on 21st and Hubbard Street in Springfield. His late parents, Julian LeRoy “Roy” and Roberta (Moore) Dart, were high school sweethearts at Duval High School, 601 North Ocean Street, then the city’s only high school. Their oldest son Roy was killed in the war and their daughter Pat (Furman) Dees of Gainesville, is also deceased.

Newlyweds Jean and Bob Dart

Newlyweds Jean and Bob Dart

When Bob was 10 years old, the Dart family moved to Granada. Their brick family home was located on the corner of Granada and Cordova Streets. Later his parents lived at the Plantation Apartments on Toledo Road. Bob’s father had a financial career and was president of Florida National Bank.

“Bob finished high school, joined the army and left for Italy,” Jean said. “He was discharged in 1949 during my senior year at Florida State University. We were married after my graduation in July and I taught school in Gainesville while Bob finished at the University of Florida.” When Jean first entered college in 1945, it was Florida State College for Women. When she completed her education degree and graduated, the school had been renamed FSU.

Bob enrolled at Jacksonville University when it was a two-year college located in Riverside. He finished his business/real estate degree at UF in 1950. The newlyweds moved home and built their red brick dream house on Ponce de Leon Avenue between Dupont Middle School and St. Augustine Road. Later Bob added on a side garage and larger entrance. The couple tended their lush rose beds and annuals on the large lot. Flowers and gardening were hobbies they shared and enjoyed together throughout their 65-year marriage. Their longtime neighbors and close friends are Melvin and Valerie Trescot, still living there.

Jean was delighted when her parents bought a lot in 1952 and built a traditional brick home nearby. The Furman home at the corner of San Jose and San Fernando was within a few blocks of Jean’s home on Ponce de Leon.

Bob began his mortgage banking career in Jacksonville with Stockton, Whatley & Davin mortgage banking, real estate and insurance company (10 years). He next headed the mortgage loan department at Atlantic Bank for 10 years and finished his career in Barnett Bank’s mortgage department. He retired at age 60 in 1987, became ill in 2010 and passed away in 2014.

The Darts had two daughters, Laurie Bourdon (Mike) and Debbie Joiner (Jim). Their three granddaughters are Bonnie Wiley (Andrew), Melodie Logue (Kevin) and Shelley Kale (Zach). They also have five great-grandchildren. Another granddaughter, Lindsay (Joiner) Keller died at age 32 in 2013 after battling brain cancer.

After losing a granddaughter in 2013 and Bob in 2014, Jean’s Christian faith and focus on helping others were even more important. She remembers wonderful covered dish picnics on the grounds of Hendricks Methodist Church located across from Naugle Funeral Home before the new Methodist church was built.

In 1950 the Darts were charter members of Southside United Methodist Church where they attended the first Easter Sunday chapel service. She attended meetings where the purchase of the property at San Jose Boulevard and Hendricks Avenue was considered. She and Bob planted grass around the original two-story combined education/church building and tended to the Memorial Garden roses for years.

Jean and Bob Dart

Jean and Bob Dart

Jean and Bob were lifelong volunteers for church and many organizations including Boy Scouts and their children’s activities. Jean held two church staff positions: weekday kindergarten director/teacher, 1960-1968; diaconal minister (education and service to others), 1976-1989. She completed courses at Florida Southern University and at Emory Seminary. She retired from paid positions in 1989 but plans to never retire from volunteering or church activities. Her mother’s Catholic faith and her Aunt Angela, a devout Catholic nun, inspired her service to others.

Jean is close to her family, her brother Frank and sister Betty. She especially enjoys family reunions at their Lake Junaluska, N. Carolina cabin. She is currently starting an elderly/ill homebound visitation program with several of her friends. She supports several charities including the Children’s Home Society, special needs adult programs and American Brain Tumor Association.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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