In Memory

Anne Luten (Renfoe) - Class Of 1958

Anne Luten Renfroe was born on her grandfather's tobacco farm in Quincy, Florida to Willard Edward and Olive Cave Luten. She grew up in Jacksonville as a beloved only child, becoming even more precious to her parents when she survived polio as a teenager. Her grandmothers were both the daughters of ministers, and she recalled that if the church doors were open during her childhood, her family was there. She developed an early love of music and became accomplished on piano and organ, then played the flute in the band at Dupont High School. Her talent on the piano, her poise and grace, and her beauty won her many titles, including runner-up in the Miss Florida Pageant. She graduated from Jacksonville University at nineteen and began a career teaching English and history, serving as department chair at the new Southside Junior High. One of her students was the niece of Charles Renfroe, who had once driven her home from church, but the potential romance had not progressed when her father sternly informed Charles that she was much younger than he realized. Hearing of her again, Charles pursued her, even going on dates that consisted of driving her back and forth to Gainesville when she was completing her masters degree. Before long they were married. While she had enjoyed her work and her students, she gave them up to have more time for her growing family.

As her children became more independent, Anne turned her energy to needs in her community. She was passionate about MOSH, then called the Children's Museum, especially its sponsorship each year of the Nutcracker Ballet, which functioned both as a service to the community and a fundraiser for the growing museum. She was so zealous in recruiting donations that she eventually joked that friends began avoiding her at cocktail parties months ahead of the Christmas event. Her organizational and people skills came into play again when she chaired the Symphony Showhouse. Later, she particularly enjoyed projects that allowed her to help identify worthy local charities (through Rotary) or scholarship recipients (through AWRF) to ensure that they received necessary assistance. As Charles' business grew and he devoted more time to service, ultimately in the role of TPC Chairman, she was always a supportive partner, providing a sounding board for his ideas and never failing to be an immaculate hostess.

Mother loved to travel, from short trips to Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston or New York, to longer trips to Europe, Asia, and South America. Whatever the itinerary, the journey always included shopping, the arts, history, good food, and great memories. London was her favorite international destination and she returned happily many times, even for her last big trip, the first journey to Europe on which she had long dreamed of taking her grandson. She transformed this passion for travel into Home and Abroad, a business in which she partnered first with Barbara Cone and later with Carolyn Parsons Fox, planning for small groups a variety of trips in the Southeast, to New England, New York, and Great Britain. While she had never lacked confidence, she found a new pleasure in the independence of running a business and savored the praise of those lucky enough to join her on these excursions.

For all of her traveling, Mother was still a homebody as well. She enjoyed decorating a series of homes over the years, both making a beautiful and aesthetically unified dwelling and providing a safe retreat for those she loved. Perhaps the most fun she had in this regard was her designing and embellishment of her beloved mountain-top home in Cashiers, North Carolina. Mother loved Southern history and culture and felt strongly that the home should reflect the place; she spoke proudly of honoring those who came before, as in the antique quilts she collected and displayed that were not just physical necessities but may well have been the only opportunity for creative expression available to hard-working farm women of the past. As part of her concept of being a Southern lady, Mother always took entertaining seriously and set a beautiful table. She especially relished hosting friends and family at the mountain house - sitting on the porch to watch the sun drop below the ridge opposite or gathering around the large stone fireplace. She was an accomplished cook, but there were always leftovers of her delicious food because she would not risk not having more than enough for her guests.

Mother cared for both of her parents and Charles through their final illnesses. Charles assured her that she could take over J. C. Renfroe and Sons, the lifting equipment company founded by his father before World War II based on an innovation that improved worker safety and which maintained an unblemished safety record throughout its nearly eighty years of existence. When the time came, she dove in, travelling all over the country and abroad to meet with customers and distributors. Under her leadership, Renfroe added new products and strengthened its marketing. Her success led to her election to the presidency of AWRF (Association of Wire Rope Fabricators), the professional organization of the lifting, rigging and load securement industry in the US and Canada. She was particularly proud to be the first woman to serve in that capacity in a field that is so male dominated. After more than a decade leading J. C. Renfroe, Mother sold the company to the competition and began a well-earned retirement.

In the decade or so that followed, she devoted herself to time with dear friends and family, especially in her North Carolina home. As her health declined, she continued to find pleasure in those things and in the simple joys of everyday life - a joke, a favorite treat, a holiday outing, something pretty to wear, someone she loved holding her hand, and anything Southern. A woman of faith and a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, she passed away peacefully in her home on July 9.

She is survived by her stepchildren Joseph (Nancy) and Theresa Renfroe, and her children Charles (Greg) and Elizabeth Renfroe, and her grandson Edward Pearce Renfroe. The family wishes to thank Janise Staples and Rachel Lee for their kindness and care for Mother.

Visitation will be at Hardage-Giddens Oaklawn Chapel from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 12. A funeral service will take place at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Jacksonville at 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 13. with interment to follow at Oaklawn Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association of Central and North Florida, the Sulzbacher Center, or St. Mark's Episcopal Church.