Biographers usually begin with the birth of their hero. We'll start with Edwin Grover's death on November 8, 1965. He was 95 years old, his health had been declining, his vision was much impaired so that his daughter, Frances, had to read to him. On his 95th birthday, Hugh McKean, the 10th Rollins President, stopped by the Grover's residence on Camellia Avenue in the middle of a busy year-end and graduation schedule to wish him a happy birthday (June 4, 1965). Frances and Hester, Edwin's daughters prepared an outline for an eulogy that was read by Arthur Teikmanis, pastor of the First Congregational church, in Knowles Chapel on November 12. In lieu of flowers, a contribution to the BOOK-A-YEAR-FUND was requested. The eulogy ended with one of Grover's poems:
Shall I tell you the secret of all I have learned
In Life's journey of doing and daring?
Happiness comes and happiness stays
In sharing and sharing and sharing.
In 1968, G. Grier Pittenger, a Rollins alum, wrote a master's thesis for a degree in Library Science at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, entitled: Edwin Osgood Grover: Emersonian Professor of Books. Guinevere, using the Mills Library archives gave a detailed account of Edwin's accomplishments as Professor of Books and his directorship of the Carnegie Library from 1928 to 1931, the BOOK-A-YEAR-FUND, and his various donations to the Rollins libraries. She didn't know Grover personally, but she knew Edwin's daughter Frances.
In 1985, Thaddeus Seymour decided to re-create an Animated Magazine for the 100th Anniversary of the founding of Rollins College. He asked Frances to take her father's place on the stage as the "publisher." It was not until 2007 that President emeritus Seymour resumed his quest of Grover when he presented a talk on the Professor of Books to the BOOK-A-YEAR-FUND. Meanwhile, Randy Noles, Publisher and Editor of Winter Park Magazine, developed an interest in Winter Park's and Rollins' Unsung Hero.
A new Grover revival started in 2005 when Wenxian Zhang, Archivist at Olin Library, published a paper on Grover's biography in the Reflections from Central Florida. For complete references, click here. Wenxian also wrote the Grover biography at Rollins on line, and on Wikipedia. That brings us to 2014, when I finished my Langford Resort Hotel documentary, and Thaddeus Seymour strongly suggested that I consider a documentary on Edwin Osgood Grover. This project turned into a documentary and a biography in book form and took several years to complete. (See Movie and Book). Rebecca Rieve, a volunteer at the Olin Library archives, organized the Grover collection. Her summary can be found on the Rollins website. Her catalogue was essential to my finding my way around the Grover collection, and Darla Moore and Wenxian Zhang were extremely accommodating in giving me access to the Grover files.
One of the issues with Edwin Grover documents is the fact that there are virtually no private and family documents. When Edwin died in 1965, his daughter Frances donated most of his college correspondence to the Olin Library archives. His correspondence with Zora Neale Hurston, she donated to the University of Florida where it can be found on line. Eulalie Grover's correspondence was donated to the University of Pennsylvania. Barbara Buchanan Parsons told me that, in 1971, when Frances and Hester moved to Kissimmee to a retirement home, much of the Grover belongings ended up on the trash heap, and, in 1989, when Frances died, all of her belongings disappeared from the retirement home. We have to assume that all of Grover's personal letters disappeared at that time.
Edwin was an avid letter writer and a photographer. He joined the Campus Photography Club at Dartmouth, and we have some of his photographs in the Mead Garden scrapbook at the Winter Park Garden Club (now at the Olin Archives). I assume, that there were family albums that also disappeared when his daughter Frances died. There are occasional hints: his poems, a Valentine's card, a dedication in a book. But overall, we rely on the few eyewitnesses who knew him, and occasional comments by others to try and re-construct the private life of Edwin Grover.
No one better appreciates Edwin Osgood Grover than the people who knew him and are still here to tell us about him. Dave Berto, Rollins '56, a student who chose Rollins with Grover's help, Barbara Buchanan Parsons who was a next door neighbor on Camellia Avenue, Dr. James T Talbert, Jr., who met Grover when Talbert's father worked at Mead Garden and became an educator with degrees from Tuskegee and the University of Florida, and William "Edwin" Connery, son of Jack Connery who spent days at the Grover's residence, all agree that their lives were much enriched and took a different course because of Edwin Grover. There were hundreds of Rollins students who would have said the same.
Unfortunately, the Grover family, particularly his daughters, ended the Grover story under distressed circumstances. Books, art, furniture and most valuable belongings were sold, and family albums and other mementos put on the trash heap for the City to remove. Last year, a group of us finally put a death year on Frances Grover's headstone after there were no funds available in 1989.
Ed Gfeller 2016
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