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Longtime civic leader Dr. Granberry passes

By Staff | Jul 6, 2010

Dr. Faye Granberry

Dr. Faye Granberry made her home on Sanibel Island for more than 20 years, giving tirelessly to the community for two decades. She always worked, "If you could call the things I do work," she said.

Her many talents, sure wit and unique beauty have provided her with the means to explore life to the fullest from her teenage years forward.

Eula Faye Granberry-Hardy passed away on June 6, 2010 after a two-year fight with pancreatic cancer. She was 83.

She was born in Louisiana in 1927, the daughter of a French farming family that started out raising cotton, and later switched to rice, eventually expanding into Brahma cattle and Arabian horses. "Because we lived on a farm, which was self-sustaining, we survived the Depression better than most," she reminisced. "In the early 1930s, my father used to go to the little town of Kender for cattle feed. Back then, the feed came in cotton sacks with beautiful prints of rosebuds and other flowers.

It was to her mother that Granberry gave credit for her great love of gardening. "My mother and my grandmother were both avid gardeners, but southern ladies were supposed to have pale white hands and faces. If you did not, it was taken as a sign that you had to work outdoors. My mother would say to us, ‘Children if you need anything, see Bertha (our kitchen help). I plan to spend the entire afternoon in my room, resting.’

"But then I would see her way out in the orchard planting trees — how she loved fruit trees. She would wind cloth around her face and hands so that they would not darken or show other signs of hard work," she added.

When she became a teenager, Granberry’s brother convinced her to compete as a beauty queen. "There were beauty pageants for everything in Louisiana in those days," she said. "Every town and parrish had at least one. My father’s sisters had won beauty contests all of their lives, and mother was a great beauty in high school."

After graduating from high school, Granberry began modeling. She also attended agricultural college — and was the only girl in the class.

In the course of time, she married Mr. Granberry and had three children. She also competed in another pageant to become Mrs. Louisiana.

Simultaneously, she became involved in many civic organizations, even winning a governor¹s award for civic contributions. She started 13 different garden clubs throughout the state, and was responsible for beginning the "Cleanest City Contest" in Louisiana, a program that has since gone national. She also lobbied to have native verbena planted on public land and was responsible for the planting of many roadside gardens.

Her pageant work and modeling career, which included jobs for Clairol, Revlon and other national companies, led to many contacts and many perks, one of which was an opportunity to go to Hollywood. There she shot a travelogue, which received some recognition, but her husband vetoed any more time in Tinseltown and Granberry acquiesced.

"Husbands did not want their wives to work at that time," said Granberry. "He was okay with the modeling, but he wouldn¹t go for the whole Hollywood thing."

She was hired by Flemington Furs in New Jersey in much the same way. "I walked in, told them their full-length coats would look much better on someone of my height and stature, and they gave me the job."

Always a bit avant garde, she even posed for bikini shots before bikinis were the norm.

After 29 years of marriage, with her children more than grown and off to their own lives, Granberry decided to go her own way. She ended her marriage, and described her first husband as "a good man and a good father."

Soon afterward, she got a call from her own father, who had been working on a house on Sanibel for her sister and brother-in-law.

"I came to Sanibel in the early 1980s and worked with my father for a year and a half, redesigning and adding to the house, until we had doubled the original square footage. He bought the lot for $35,000, but liked to say he spent $900,000 building, then rebuilding it. By the time it was done, I already loved the island so much I bought it myself and stayed," she said.

Faye’s career then took a new turn in Fort Myers, where she not only designed and delivered a new plant show on radio, but also convinced WINK-TV to air a garden spot on the news. Her agricultural background gave the program a real credence and, to increase her knowledge of native and tropical plants and their problems, she became a Master Gardener in 1986.

That same year, she began the Sanibel-Captiva Orchid Society.

"I invited a few friends over to hear an orchid expert, give a talk — 31 people showed up," she recalled. "Afterward I asked if anyone would be interested in continuing to meet… and 30 stayed. That was the beginning of our local orchid society."

In addition to her work with orchids, Granberry’s horticultural and other civic achievements on Sanibel are legendary. Years ago, she instituted Save-A-Pine in the belief that, if Periwinkle Way’s pines were properly managed, they would never topple. She maintained that stance until the day she left the island.

She also organized the original bridge committee, was  president of the Island Horticultural Society for 11 years, served on the Vegetation Committee for seven years and was a Master Gardener for 19, achieving their Hall of Fame status. She was an accredited flower show judge, and was also Mrs. Senior Citizen of Lee County.

Granberry had three children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  

Model, beauty queen, radio and television personality, writer, civic leader, Master Gardener and more, Eula Faye Granberry was first and foremost a warm, wonderful and very real woman who reached for that rarest of personal joys, a second chance to share the beauty and happiness of life with someone she loved. Nobody deserved it more.

(The majority of the above obituary comes from Laura Nickerson’s interview with Dr. Granberry, which appeared in the Sanibel-Captiva Islander in February 2006. Edits by Anne W. Bellew and Jeff Lysiak)