by JULIE B. MAGLIO
Family members of Gail Samples graciously accepted the prestigious Great Brooksvillian award for the family matriarch, Oct. 24, 2019. Samples passed away in November 2018 at age 81. Some tears were shed at city hall that evening, but many happy memories of Mrs. Samples were shared. The great impact she made in her community was at the forefront of speeches delivered to a packed council chambers. Samples’ Republican Committee colleague Ana Trinque, State Representative Blaise Ingoglia, Attorney Bruce Snow and Pastor David Hope all described a tenacious woman who changed all she touched for the better.
“Gail was just an inspiration, she was very passionate about what she believed in… ,” said Ana Trinque. Trinque explained that despite Gail’s disability, she served in many capacities for the state Republican party. Gail contracted polio and suffered ill effects on her health throughout her life.
Trinque knew Samples best through her role in state politics.
“For years as state committeewoman, she didn’t let anything stop her,” said Trinque.
She was thorough in her job, attending every meeting throughout the state and asking pertinent questions.
When there was a controversial issue, she insisted on meeting candidates face to face so she could see the whites of their eyes. Trinque explained that Samples would be able to tell where the person stood on a particular issue by speaking to them in person.
“When I became chairman of the committee, after every meeting she would come up to me and say, ‘Ana, I hope you don’t mind I tell you what you did wrong...’ ” chuckled Trinque.
“I was expecting it- she was a great critique.”
“If she didn’t criticize, I knew something was wrong, because she did have an opinion on everything,” said Trinque.
Both Trinque and State Representative Ingoglia received their fair share of criticism from Samples, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Ingoglia, who credits Samples with his tenure as the state chairman of the Republican Party remarked, “I remember in 2006, 2007 when I first started getting into politics, I was very brash and opinionated. When I became the chairman of the (Hernando Republican) party, I never got yelled at so much in my life. She did it because she wanted me to be the best version of me. Because she knew if I came out okay, then I would go and make the party okay.”
“She was hard on me. She was hard on me because she knew I had it in me to do it the right way,” said Ingoglia.
Trinque and Ingoglia described the ingenious methodology she devised for chasing absentee ballots- which has now become the standard for the state of Florida.
Ingoglia remarked, “Ana was up here earlier speaking about the way she (Samples) really transformed the way we campaigned. That is just the absolute truth. I don’t think people realize how much she did for the Republican Party through her community because she cared so much. The way she organized absentee ballots... For years, the Republican Party of Florida used to do a lot of the things that Gail did here and the reason why is that Gail taught them how to do it. For a long time the state party got away from that- they stopped doing the basic stuff. So when I was elected chair of the Republican Party, I said the first thing that we’re going to do is that we’re going to go back to the old way of doing absentee ballots.
We’re going to find out who ordered them, we’re going to knock on their door, we’re going to send them a letter, we’re going to make sure that they vote, we’re going to drive them to the polls.”
People would ask him how he knew so much about all of this. He would reply with two words, “Gail Samples.”
Trinque explained that for campaigning Samples believed in person to person contact and veered away from the electrical gadgets. Because she felt that you lose something.
Ingoglia described how Samples told him she would meet him on the corner of Main Street to knock on every door after he announced he was running for state representative.
“What I always got a chuckle out of,” said Trinque, “with everything she did, she always found time to golf. She was really good. She won tournaments and everything. She’d always come back with interesting stories.”
“Her heart was here in Brooksville. She had a passion for preservation and the historical part of Brooksville. This is a great tribute to her,” concluded Trinque.
Mr. Bruce Snow spoke to Samples’ deep connection to the city of Brooksville. He told stories of little league and buying his wife-to-be a first gift at AJ Fridy’s, the jewelry store Gail’s family owned for 66 years. Gail picked out the gift: a silver hair barrette.
Snow who jokingly described Gail’s three brawny sons as impish said, “So Gail and all the praise we're going to bestow on her tonight- these impish figures also brought some bedevilment to her… I had a great privilege when they were playing little league baseball. I had all three of them on the baseball team I was coaching. We had Skip. He was a left-handed hard-throwing pitcher- first baseman. Garth was the catcher on the team. Rod played second base and occasionally pitched. It's unusual in little league ages 10, 11 and 12 to have three brothers on the same team. They were good ball players. They were a challenge to deal with but with Gail and Les’ help… I can appreciate where she got her tenacity and courage dealing with the three of them.”
“That's one thing we all remember about Gail- is her courage and tenacity. How she overcame polio, nonetheless it didn't slow her down a bit. She was courageous and strong.”
Snow recalls Gail working at her family’s jewelry store AG Fridy’s. A special memory Snow has of Gail occurred in 1968. He explained, “I had graduated from undergraduate school. I was up at Fort Benning for the summer in the army, but came back in order to go to law school. And it’s during that period of time, I began to see and date Cynthia Manuel. It's kind of special when you remember the first gift that you buy your sweetheart. She passed away earlier this year after 46 years, but you still remember those very first gifts and I remember it was Christmas 1968. I needed to get a Christmas present- so what did I do? I went over to Fridys. I had Gail make the selection for me. She had selected a silver hair barrette that we monogrammed.”
Snow continued on, explaining Samples’ involvement in the restructuring of Lykes Memorial Hospital in 1974. He explained that Lykes Memorial Hospital was county owned at the time and was facing a financial crisis. The county paid the benefits for the employees of the hospital. Snow took on the role of representing the hospital after the Board of Trustees resigned. Gail was part of the new board that was appointed. Of the new Board of Trustees Snow said, “They turned that hospital around and made it a financial success.”
“I know personally, the amount of time Gail Samples put into that endeavor.”
He said that weekly meetings would run from 6pm to 2 or 3 am.
She served on the Lykes Memorial Board of Trustees from 1974 until 1982, serving as chairwoman in 1975 and 1980.
In addition to the Lykes Memorial Board of Trustees, she served on many event planning committees for the City of Brooksville, she organized fundraising for the Quarry, the city owned golf course at Bud McKethan Park as well as local sports teams. She is one of the founding members of Hernando Heritage Museum and the Brooksville Raid Civil War Reenactment. She served on the Hernando Healthcare Foundation which provides scholarships to students in nursing programs.
“Hopefully Great Brooksvillians a decade from now, a half century from now, a century from now will have the qualities and the character the strength and courage and tenaciousness and love of community and love of her fellow citizens that Gail samples had,” Snow concluded.
Pastor David Hope spoke about the relationship he had with Samples.
“Gail Samples was a great personal friend and I had the privilege of being called her pastor, but she would never join my church,” said Hope.
“Many many years ago she appointed me her pastor. I didn't get to volunteer. I didn’t get to enlist. She drafted me to that purpose.”
“It was an honor to serve the Samples family and it will always be that way.”
He explained, “I’m a cowboy pastor. I get asked a lot, what that means and I really don’t have an answer except what it sounds like. I spent time on a ranch. Learned to love it, worked with cattle, horses, grow grass and there’s a lot of things I want to put into the ministry from that experience. So we started the cowboy church.”
Learning from horses, Hope says, “There are 3 kinds of individuals that serve the public: there are what I call show horses; there are what I call race horses; and there are what I call work horses. Show horses- when a crowd gathers and the lights come on, the show horses are prancing around in the arena to the enthusiastic applause of the public who are enjoying them. Unfortunately they never engage in those productive activities which can be of some benefit to most of mankind. The race horses- they come out of the starting gate- They’re off! Says the announcer. They’re beautiful and have amazing speed. They look good, but their performance is so short lived. Besides, only a very small percentage of humanity benefit from their hard work. Then there is a workhorse. Now a workhorse is a horse you can trust. A horse that you can depend on in all kinds of seasons and inclement weather. You can get to know a workhorse and really rely upon him. A workhorse will engage, get in gear in order to achieve the goals and necessary work you have in front of them. A workhorse will not only carry his or her burdens, but a workhorse can be hitched to assist those who are weaker. All my life I’ve heard of Gail Samples being a workhorse. A real workhorse. You could trust her, you could depend on her and in all the tough situations she encountered, she would remain consistent and be strong.”
When State Representative Blaise Ingoglia took the podium he began with, “It’s not often that you get to stand before a crowd and say that one person made such a profound difference in your life and you would not be standing here right now if it was not for that person.”
Gail Samples was that person for him, he said. Gail was tough on him in order to insure his success.
“To this day, I look back, I think of the time I spent with Gail. You know my favorite thing that Gail ever did? She was always very serious and very intense. When she laughed- she had the best laugh. And if you could make Gail Samples laugh, you made it. You were at the pinnacle.”