Obituary from Loomis Funeral Homes
Annie Belle Driggers Gilliam was born 19 May 1921 in Kingstree, Williamsburg, SC, USA. She is the daughter of Dixie Benjamin Driggers and Mattie Ella Todd. She was proud of being “the baby” of eight siblings. When she was two years old, the family moved to Sorrento, Lake County, Florida, USA. Dad and a brother rented two box cars and rode with the mules and equipment by rail. Another brother drove the family car with the family members that moved down. They moved into a farmhouse in remote Sorrento.
Later the family moved to a ‘station’ (fuel filling station and grocery) west of Apopka proper on two-lane State Road 441 between N Bradshaw Road and Cabel Avenue.
She worked many jobs and saved money that she invested in houses and properties in the area, even before marrying. A woman investing alone was unusual for the era. She credits her father with modeling savings and investing in land that caused her to start working at The Station at age 12 and saving all of her money to make that initial wartime land purchase. Her first of over 200 recorded land transactions was on 21 October 1943, as a single woman.
They were in the citrus caretaking business, among various other side businesses, including investing in properties and renting then selling houses. She and Garrett empowered many grove workers into owning their own homes instead of renting. For one piece of property on Clarcona Road near Apopka Boulevard, Annie Belle and Garrett bought WWII military barracks from the Orlando base and paid the Starbirds $500 each to move them to the land. The Gilliams rented these spacious homes and land to their grove workers until the two sold them the house and land. The couple would accept $5 a week if the employee could work a full week if enough work was not available for a full schedule they did not collect on the mortgage. She felt that helping these people ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ with no handouts was a proud achievement in her life.
Her daughter Beverly Ann Gilliam D. Byrd and their son Garrett ‘Boo’, Jr. were well and properly educated and went on to be very successful in life and produced grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Besides her children, her proudest contribution to the community included being on the Board of Directors of the Apopka Historical Society at the Museum of Apopkans for fifty years. She was the curator of the artifacts of the museum up to her death. She preserved so very much of the formative and pioneering years of the greater Apopka area and Northwest Orange County area. She helped copywrite the book by Perrine Slim, “The Pennings of Perrine Slim” and other books written about the area.
Annie Belle, from age 2 to 97, lived in central Florida, mainly Apopka. Then moved for her last few months to reside in Tennessee with her granddaughter Dixie D. Knight, who cared for her well until Annie Belle died peacefully at sunrise on the 4th of November 2018 just days short of 97 and 1/2 years.
She was a diligent member of Magnolia Baptist Church in Apopka, FL, USA.
Her cemetery plot is beside her husband with her parents in Woodlawn Memorial Park, Gotha, Orange County, Florida.