Sylvia Reddish, 71, wasn’t born in Bradford County, but she should have been. From the time she was a young child, her family vacationed from Jacksonville to a cabin on Crosby Lake, and later moved to Starke when Sylvia was 11.
Today, Sylvia lives in a lovely home on that same lake. Just as the light shimmers across its surface, Sylvia’s ties to Bradford County shine across the community. Her optimism and generous spirit are a source of strength and light for many.
“In all my years of knowing Sylvia, I have never witnessed her having a ‘bad day,'” writes Terry Vaughan, Bradford County Supervisor of Elections. “Her bubbly countenance and positive outlook remain contagious.”
Outgoing, spunky Sylvia doesn’t let anything get her down. An escaped prisoner once broke into her home, tied her up and stole her car. It didn’t traumatize her one bit, and today she laughs about it. “The judge at the time said it took a king-size sheet to tie up my mouth,” she jokes.
Back in 1957, 17-year-old Sylvia was Bradford County’s Centennial Queen. She graduated from local schools, and worked in Starke as an insurance agent for 22 years. “I got to know everybody,” she says. It helped that her husband’s six brothers all live in Bradford County, as does her sister. Both her parents, Dave and Hazel Paulk, served on the Bradford County Commission — her mother was the first female commissioner. Her father-in-law served as sheriff.
Ten years ago, breast cancer didn’t beat Sylvia; she beat it, and used her mastectomy to fuel her passion for helping others. She trained to be an official Reach for Recovery volunteer with the American Cancer Society – “I like to joke I got legal,” she says, as she had been volunteering with cancer patients for years. Today, she provides comfort, inspiration, rides, company, and her famous Southern cooking to other women reeling from the shock of a breast cancer diagnosis.
Of all her many activities, Sylvia’s support of cancer patients is dearest to her heart. But she also uses her brain in service to Bradford County. She is known as an outstanding businesswoman, community leader and volunteer. She currently serves on the Redistricting Committee that will make recommendations to the Bradford County Commission, and she volunteers on the Bradford County Community Development/SHIP Advisory Board on housing issues. She’s a charter member of Altrusa and has served twice as President.
Sylvia is also a talented singer who performs at weddings, funerals and public events. She bakes cakes for charity auctions — some have sold for as high as $150 — and her specialties are Italian Crème and Symphony Candy Bar cakes.
Sylvia and her family enthusiastically support Santa Fe College and have made financial contributions toward the Andrews Center and the Lillian Stump Center in Starke. Her daughter, Lisa Gault, teaches at South Side Elementary in Starke, and her son, Barry Reddish, serves as warden at Union Correctional Institution. Sylvia enjoys her five grandchildren between ages 6 to 19. She’s a member of Primitive Baptist Church and says her faith is central to her “blessed life,” as is Vernon Reddish, her ultra supportive husband of 51 years.
Writes her friend Ray Norman, the Clerk of Courts: “We here in Bradford County are blessed to have Ms. Sylvia Reddish as part of our community. Bradford County is a better place because of upstanding, community-minded citizens such as her.”
Says Sylvia: “My husband says they should hire me as Chamber director, because I can sell Bradford County.”
Event and Ticket Information
This year, the WOD celebration will be held at Santa Fe’s Northwest campus, 3000 NW 83rd St., in the beautiful new Fine Arts Hall. The event features a program and a finely catered reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres and wine, and is scheduled for 4:30-7 p.m. Thursday, March 15. Tickets are $35 for adults, $20 for students, and $10 for children 12 and under, and may be purchased online or by calling 352-395-4181. For more information, please contact Event Coordinator Cheryl Farrell at 352-395-5181.
- Julie Garrett, media relations, for general information about the Women of Distinction recognition program and for the honorees’ contact information, 352-395-5430 (office) or 352-870-2924 (cell) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cheryl Farrell, for information about the WOD event, 352-395-5181 or email@example.com