Growing up in Collier County with the last name of “Osceola” is like growing up in Massachusetts with the last name of “Kennedy.” As a young girl, people would ask me if I was related to Cory or O.B. and I would beam with pride when I squealed out my response, “Yes, Cory is my grandpa and O.B. is my dad!” As I grew older and was in my teens and early twenties, more people would ask me if I was related to Mary Osceola. They would continue on about how beautiful their old friend was and how they loved her smile and she was so nice. Again, I would swell up with pride and say, “Yes, she is my aunt, my dad’s younger sister.”
Mary Osceola (Moore) was born in 1938, east of Everglades City, along Tamiami Trail in Ochopee. Although I knew her as my aunt and the mother of my cousins, Barbara, David and Frankie, my Aunt Mary was a woman before her time… a Seminole renaissance woman of sorts.
It doesn’t take much to assess what life as a young Seminole woman growing up in the 1950’s was like for Aunt Mary. Her peers were wearing long Seminole skirts and starting their families
while she was going to school in Everglades City, waiting tables at local diners, all while wearing shorts and even swimsuits while hanging out with her school friends. I can only imagine that she
must have been the talk of the town… for many reasons. For those who knew her, she had a mischievous streak that caused her eyes to light up, and her smile to kind of curl a bit into a smirk.
Once not too long ago, my cousin, Barbara, Aunt Mary and I sat around looking at some of her old photos. I watched as she was transported back in time to her youth. Her face lit up and each photo seemed to leap off the paper as she brought it to life for us. One photo in particular, showed her in shorts with a school friend on what looks like a tennis or outdoor basketball court. I asked her
who that friend was and she said she couldn’t remember her name, but that they got into a big argument that afternoon because her lipstick was stolen and she thought that girl took it.
She had Barbara and I laughing so hard, but she looked at us with that serious face and said, “Do you know how much lipstick cost? I worked hard to afford it.” It all seemed to come into focus…
The life that I was allowed to have one generation later, was so incredibly different. Shorts,
school, friends, makeup, and even life choices were so ordinary for me, but for my aunt, she was a true rebel… the true O.G. (Original Gangster for those not hip with the lingo).
In 1957, Aunt Mary was cast to play a role in the infamous feature film, Wind Across the Everglades, starring Burl Ives and a young Christopher Plummer. She had a face for the big screen
and a personality that was hungry for greeting the world. Her life may not have led to cinematic stardom, but she always lived life BIG. She became famous for her knowledge of culture and
traditional arts. Her baskets, dolls and patchwork clothing were highly sought after but it was her ability to teach others that always amazed me.
Aunt Mary passed away October 21, 2020 and this article is a tribute to how she lived her life in Naples, not about her death. She was too full of spunk and grit and would never want to be remembered in death. If this article could be accompanied by music, she would have me play, 1999 by Prince because that’s how she lived!