Edward Joseph Herrmann, known as “Eddie” to most everyone in San Antonio, was an original, and with his passing on Oct. 21, the community paused to reminisce about a pillar of the community.
Eddie wore many hats. He was a father, a son, a husband, an uncle, a former Mayor of San Antonio, an award-winning winemaker, a writer and a respected historian.
His death came on the evening of the 51st annual San Antonio Rattlesnake Festival, an event which he co-founded with Deputy Sheriff Willy Post, as a project of the Jaycees.
To know Eddie was to appreciate a man who revered his community, and valued the facts and lessons of history.
Local history buffs and museums regularly consulted with Eddie.
“Eddie gave me many photos to use on the Fivay.org website, and he was able to provide information about a number of old photos,” said Jeff Miller, who operates the website and is a respected local historian.
“Eddie knew of the existence of a large collection of high-quality vintage photos of Dade City, San Antonio and surrounding towns. Most of the photos were taken by the Dade City Chamber of Commerce in the late 1920s, and before. He asked Oliver and Barbara DeWitt of Dade City, who are now in possession of the photos, to allow me to scan the photos, which are known as the Helen Eck Sparkman Collection. They can be viewed and downloaded in high resolution on the Fivay.org website,” Miller said.
These photos of public places and historic homes are indicative of Eddie’s zeal to capture accurate information and to share his knowledge, often through anecdotes, about the culture and flavor of a specific time or event.
Herrmann co-authored “The Historic Places of Pasco County,” commonly called “the orange book,” with James J. Horgan and Alice Hall in 1992.
The volume traces the history of the county from 1887 to a hundred years later, in 1987, describing 264 buildings, sites, and homes that were designated as historic. The book also provides a map and guide to the county’s cemeteries.
Compiling the information was a gargantuan task.
And, Eddie told others about a time he once spent 24 hours, without a break, conducting research for the book, along with his great friend, the iconic Zephyrhills activist Alice Hall.
“We spent the night together at the Zephyrhills City Hall poring through records, and they just left us there all night,” Eddie said.
Eddie was a charter member of the Pasco County Historical Preservation Committee, formed in 1977 by the Pasco County Commission.
In his role on the committee, he was involved in the placement of historical markers throughout Pasco County.
His work was valuable in protecting landmarks, said Scott Black, another local historian and a member of the Dade City Commission.
Eddie identified “important sites around the county that were in danger of being forgotten,” Black said, via email.
“I particularly remember how often he would talk about his quest for the ‘26-Mile House,’ which was a stagecoach stop 26 miles south of Chocochattee (present-day Brooksville) on the old road to Tampa,” Black said.
Eddie pinpointed the location so well that he was able to persuade the county to require Lennar Homes to fund an historical marker at the entrance of the Stagecoach Village housing development in Land O’Lakes — as one of the permitting conditions for the development, Black recalled.
Pat Mulieri, a member of the Pasco County Commission at the time, recognized Eddie’s contributions in a proclamation he received in 2014 on the steps of the Pasco County Historic Courthouse in Dade City.
Eddie rarely missed a meeting of the Pasco County Historical Society, and he served the organization in every capacity, from president to board member to program chairman, for many years.
He provided a wealth of information, and was always ready to help others unearth historic facts.
For example, he delved into assisting Eva Martha Knapp and Hernando High School students with documenting the 1944 German POW Camp No. 7 that was operated in Dade City during World War II. During the course of that work, Eddie forged friendships with several former soldiers — hosting them at his home and then visiting them in Germany.
Eddie had the knack of seeing both the forest, and the trees.
He recognized the interweaving of the economy, resources and changing political issues.
For instance, he had extensive knowledge about Florida horticulture, and proved to be an invaluable resource for me, when I was conducting my research for local history books about Dade City and Wesley Chapel.
As an example, he encouraged me to include the impact of a cactus farmer, Anthony Tuzzolino of Wesley Chapel, who raised 15 acres of cacti and imported cacti, and other produce, from Wesley Chapel to Ybor City during the early 1940s.
Beyond merely telling me that, Eddie researched the issue, contacting the Pasco County Cooperative Extension Office, as well as the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences on Opuntia Cactus, and then he passed along several citations to me.
Thus, I wasn’t surprised when I later learned that Eddie himself was an accomplished gardener and grower. As a matter of fact, he won the Florida Grape Growers Association’s first winemaking competition in 1974, and then went on to spend years continuing to hone his skills in growing grapes and making wine.
When gopher tortoises were declared a “species of special concern,” Eddie embraced the opportunity to protect the tortoises — which had been used in races at the Rattlesnake Festival. He spearheaded the design of a large wooden version of a toy that resembled a gopher tortoise to be used instead.
Eddie’s research also helped correct the record on one of Dade City’s most iconic buildings, Miller said.
“It had long been thought that the historic 1909 courthouse in Dade City was designed by a local man, Artemus Roberts, but Eddie discovered that it was actually designed by Edward Columbus Hosford, an architect who designed many courthouses and other buildings in the South,” the local historian explained.
“Eddie’s discovery came about after his brother Gregory moved to Mason, Texas, and told Eddie that the courthouse there looked almost exactly like the one in Dade City, but that it was designed by Hosford. Eddie looked through the old minutes of the Pasco County Commission and found that Hosford did indeed design the Pasco courthouse, and that Roberts was the Superintendent of Construction,” Miller added.
In addition to his public life, Eddie was a man who treasured his faith and family.
Every Sunday, he could be found kneeling in his pew in church at his parish of St. Anthony of Padua in San Antonio. Then, the family gathered for a pancake breakfast at his parents’ home.
He also was an active member of the St. Leo community and participated in St. Leo Abbey events. Articles he wrote about Father Felix Ullrich, former pastor of Saint Anthony Church, and about the history of San Antonio can be found on Miller’s website, Fivay.org.
With Eddie’s passing, San Antonio has lost a man who worked tenaciously for the community’s good.
Those of us who were lucky enough to know him, will miss Eddie’s optimistic outlook and energy.
In his final email to me, he signed off in customary way: “Keep smiling. It looks good on you!”
It was the same kind of upbeat sentiment that he conveyed, in so many different ways, during a life well-spent in San Antonio.
Edward “Eddie” Joseph Herrmann
- Edward Joseph Herrmann, widely known as ‘Eddie,’ was born to Joe Herrmann and Rose Ullrich Herrmann on July 25, 1936 in the Jovita Building in San Antonio.
- Eddie grew up in the Jovita Building that was built by his grandfather, Lucius Herrmann, a baker by trade, and Tony Rachel, with help from his father, Joe, and his aunt, Margaret Herrmann Kirch, who were teenagers at the time. The family lived upstairs, with businesses downstairs.
- Eddie had several siblings: Margaret Herrmann Beaumont, Paul Herrmann, Rosemary Herrmann, Joseph Herrmann, Barbara Herrmann Sessa, John Herrmann, Mary Sue Herrmann Keenan and Gregory Lucius Herrmann.
- Eddie started school a year early at St. Anthony School and skipped a grade. He graduated when he was 16 from St. Leo College Prep School.
- Eddie married Mary Patricia “Patsy” Miller on Oct. 19, 1955. Their 62nd anniversary was just two days before Eddie died. The couple’s five children are: Michael Joseph Herrmann, Amy Herrmann Greif, Larry Herrmann, Laura Herrmann Bailey and Eric Herrmann.
- After finishing high school, Eddie worked for his dad’s Saf-T-Gas Company, but eventually bought the Culligan Soft Water Business from his dad and raised his kids in ‘Culligan Kindergarten,’ with the children riding around with him for years in his big truck, as he serviced his route. His wife, Patsy, was the bookkeeper.
This biographical information was supplied by Margaret Herrmann Beaumont, Eddie’s sister.
By Madonna Jervis Wise
Published November 1, 2017