This beautiful lady who, to my knowledge, didn’t dislike one person in this world, left us suddenly Tuesday night. When I heard she was gone the news hit me like a ton of bricks to the gut. It was hard to walk into Hudson’s the next day, knowing she wouldn’t be there anymore.
It was much, much harder for her co-workers. They are family there, and Mary Alice knew her friends and family, and their moods, like the back of her hand. She knew them that well because she cared that much.
She was born Mary Alice Escalante in Tampa to Spanish parents, and both of them grew up there as well. Her grandparents on both sides of the family moved from Spain to Tampa. Her father was an accountant, her mother stayed at home.
Mary Alice had two brothers, Carlos and William. William was killed in the Korean War, and Carlos died five years ago. She attended the Academy of the Holy Names, where she went to school with Barbara and Isabelle Whidden, who were a few years older than she. Ironically, it wasn’t until years later that she realized they had all attended the same school.
After high school Mary Alice met her soon-to-be husband, Bob. He had come home from the Army and moved from his southern Illinois hometown to Tampa, and one day the two met. They had their first date, and after that were married for 38 years. They had three daughters: Georgette Hassler, who lives in Alabama; Lisa King of Land O’ Lakes; and Andrea King of Tempe Ariz. She and Bob also had a son, Bill, who died in 1994.
In 1973 a client of Mary Alice’s husband, Bob Cozart, was visiting Boca Grande and saw that Cole Island was for sale. The two Bobs started talking about what it would be like to own an island. They soon decided to buy it from Gust Cole, and not long after Mary Alice saw Boca Grande for the first time.
They built a main house, a bath house and miscellaneous other buildings on the island and maintained a very profitable, and popular, campground.
In 1981, the Kings sold Cole Island. It was the end of an era, as the next day signs were posted on the property that said, “Campground closed.”
Mary Alice continued to live on the island with her husband until he passed away in 1993, on the very last day of the year.
After Bob died, Mary Alice stayed in Tampa for about five years. In 1998 she sold her Tampa home and moved here, to the same house that stood on Cole Island.
That’s because Bob had the large house dismantled, piece by piece, and stored it at Whidden’s Marina until it was time to buy a lot and rebuild. The house stands on Wheeler Street.
Mary Alice truly loved Boca Grande and island living. Her idea of paradise was South Beach at sunset. Maybe it was part of the reason she could fill us with a sense of peace with just a smile and a kind word.
But I believe that no matter where she had lived, she always would have embodied that kindness.
Mary Alice loved her friends and family. She was truly proud of the Hudson’s ladies when they took first place at last weekend’s Ladies Day Tournament, and it’s reassuring to know she passed away with that spirit of pride in her heart.
Her co-worker, Theresa Lasher, summed it up.
“She was one of the sweetest people we ever knew,” she said. “She was there for everyone, rain or shine. We couldn’t have done so much for Relay for Life without her, and she really embodied the spirit of friendship that is a hallmark of the Ladies Day Tournament.”
See next week’s Beacon for a complete obituary.
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