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A Schoolhouse Wedding

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Local Couple Ties Knot at Countryman One Room Schoolhouse

On Dec. 30, Donna Brown and Steve Standtke were married at the Countryman One Room School House. Friends of over 50 years, the residents of Brooksville chose to tie the knot at the historic site located at 66 Russell Street on Saturday. School Director Gretchen Countryman was the officiant, School Docent Mary Waller made a heart-shaped cake, and School Docent Charleen Scime provided the music.

The newlyweds crossed paths in high school in Tarpon Springs when Donna happened to be in the same class as Steve’s sister. After knowing each other for such a long time, it was important to the retired truck driver that Brown is taken care of.

When Gretchen Countryman met Donna Brown roughly five years ago, the Countryman One Room School House Director offered Brown the opportunity to get married at the historic building if she wished. Little did Countryman expect, she received a call from the bride-to-be on Wednesday, Dec. 27 asking to be married. “Why sure! When?” asked Gretchen. “Saturday,” Brown said.

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With three days to put a wedding together, Countryman researched and prepared a “partially religious” ceremony that involved the exchanging of rings and the holding of hands. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, a collection of Bible verses about love, was also read aloud by one of Brown’s witnesses. On Saturday, the happy couple, two witnesses, and a small handful of guests met at the schoolhouse to make the pair’s declaration of love official.

“When they came, we met them at the front door,” Countryman said. “I welcomed them all… everybody came in. I had them seated towards the podium where I stood. Mary put a tiara on her that said ‘bride’ and gave her the flowers. Then, she proceeded down the aisle of the school to me, where I married them. Then, after they were married, on the other side of the school, which is not that big… we had a card table set up with a white tablecloth. We had the cake, the plates, a big sign saying ‘congratulations,’ and so forth.”

The schoolhouse is available to the public for wedding ceremonies and is open for school tours on Friday and Saturday between 12 and 3 in the afternoon. Countryman and company give three different kinds of tours at the historic building, with each running roughly an hour apiece. The first is a basic tour of the one room schoolhouse. The second centers around the Paleo-Indians who came before the Seminoles and how they learned to live off the land. The final of these is about the Florida “cow hunters,” or cowboys, which were what many of the Lykes Family members were.

The director has a passion for history, as she has roughly 20 years of experience as a docent at the May-Stringer House and has visited hundreds of schoolhouses around the country. According to the Hernando Historical Museum Association website, Countryman attended a one room schoolhouse in upstate New York as a child. After starting at the May-Stringer House in 1999, it “soon became apparent that more room was needed” for the school exhibit, the website stated. After searching for an authentic schoolhouse with May-Stringer Executive Director Virginia Jackson, it was eventually decided that one would need to be built as the Florida weather and termites ensured none were left standing.

The building would be designed as a re-creation of the Lykes Family Schoolhouse that was built in 1852 and the funds totaling $65,000 were raised by Countryman. Gretchen raised the money over a span of 10 years by holding yard sales, golf tournaments, and wine tastings, with one company making a large donation to help make the dream a reality. The historic site was finally built in 2014, and the staff is currently celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the schoolhouse’s founding.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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