Schlitt Family honored at Pioneer Recognition Dinner

VERO BEACH — A sold-out crowd packed the landmark Heritage Center in Vero Beach to honor members of the Schlitt Family at the 12th Annual Pioneer Recognition Dinner.  The yearly celebration recognizes the contributions of some of Indian River County’s earliest residents.

Similar to a gregarious family reunion, multiple generations of the Schlitt family, past recipients and friends gathered to reminisce and catch-up with one another.

During the after-dinner presentation, Louis Schlitt recounted the family’s lineage and Linda Schlitt Gonzalez its business acumen.   Also shown was a video, at turns humorous and touching, that Phil Barth had created through interviews with family members.

The Schlitt legacy in Vero Beach began in 1918, when Louis and Maryanna Schlitt moved here from Missouri with three of their children. Sons John and Leo eventually joined them after serving in the armed forces during World War I.

Linda Schlitt Gonzalez described the family as hard working and entrepreneurial, a fact unquestionably supported by their extensive contributions to the community.

In addition to farming, which had initially drawn them to the area, the industrious family branched out in 1925 with Schlitt Brothers Painting and Decorating.  They eventually added numerous other businesses to the family name including Coldwell-Banker Ed Schlitt, Schlitt Insurance Services, Schlitt Builders, and Larry Schlitt Construction.

Other ventures included commercial and residential development (an estimated 1,500 homes alone in Indian River County), mobile home park development, property management, contracting, gas stations and more.  Other family construction firms are Barth Construction, Custom Touch, and Treasure Coast Construction Management.

Steadfast in their faith, Louis and Maryanna Schlitt not only hosted the first Catholic Mass in their home, they helped build St. Helen’s Church in 1919 and the family has continued its support ever since.

Numerous Schlitt children attended Saint Helen’s School over the years, and all were devoted to their second-grade teacher, Ollie Willmot Crosby, who happily greeted her former students at the event.

“She and Alma Lee are my female heroes,” said Barbara Schlitt Ford. “Mrs. Crosby was my second-grade teacher; she’s why I went into teaching.”

Anyone who has ever visited Jaycee Beach Park or the nearby Bethel Creek House has the Schlitt family to thank. Their tireless efforts helped to develop a communal park for multiple generations of families to enjoy.

A good majority of those in attendance were descendants of John and Florence Schlitt and their children Florine, Frank, Edgar (Ed), Dolores, Jeanette (Jean), John, Louis and Robert (Bob).

Barbara Schlitt Ford estimated that there are currently around 200 Schlitt descendants in Vero Beach.  And that is not including more than 400 foster children cared for by Bob and Jo Ann Schlitt.

“The story goes that my grandmother Florence Schlitt was an only child and she was lonely,” said Ford.  “She and John had eight children, and they all had multiple children.  She was never lonely again.”

Previous honorees included the Sexton, Schumann, Michael, MacWilliam, Graves, Helseth, Vocelle, Zeuch, Cox/Gifford, Holman and Carter families.

The Heritage Center can expect yet another record turnout next year when it honors Alma Lee Loy at the 13th Annual Indian River County Pioneer Family Recognition Dinner. {igallery 387}

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