Zoom forward to November 11, 2000. There's 101-year-old Winnie standing between President Clinton and actor Tom Hanks at the groundbreaking for the new World War II memorial. She has a place of honor at the ceremony because she is the last known living mother of a soldier killed in World War II. Her son, Norman, was killed August 4, 1944, on what was supposed to be his final air mission before coming home. (She loves Hanks but doesn't care much for Clinton, though she shook his hand anyway.) Winnie, who has lived in Plantation for the past 48 years, earned her own place in history through incredible longevity. Born in 1899, she turned 102 years old April 5; her mind remains remarkably sharp, seemingly resistant to the decaying rigors of time. "God gave me a strong mind," she says. "If my mind ever goes, then I want to go." She's been widowed since 1973 and now lives in Plantation Acres with a daughter, one of her two surviving children out of six. She credits her long life to a good diet (at five-foot-two, she usually weighed a healthy 130) and having never touched cigarettes or alcohol, at least not voluntarily. She says the reason booze repulses her dates back to Christmas in about 1911, when her uncles, playing around, doused her with beer. We're thankful for that prank, since it might have contributed to the reason we have such a human treasure in our midst today.
The story illustrates both the best and the worst about Hillier, who lost his reelection bid in March. He knew more about Plantation -- every cul-de-sac, intersection, zone, rule, and code -- than anyone else in the city. He also had one hell of a vision: He wanted to create an international marketplace on State Road 7, and thus revitalize the predominantly black area east of the Turnpike. He wanted to thwart the power of lawyer/lobbyist Emerson Allsworth (who happens to be a convicted drug money launderer) and Allsworth's partner, Bill Laystrom, who together represent developers and control the Plantation commission. Hillier fought to clean up the city, add sidewalks and lights, and increase access to public facilities for disabled citizens. The problem: He failed to build any consensus on those issues. The ingrained, aging, white conservative Plantation political machine, which has neglected the east side for decades, beat Hillier down at every turn. He was far too blunt for diplomacy and thus never managed to clean up the city, or even that run-down house, for that matter. In the end, he proved you can't even fight City Hall from within its walls -- at least not in tight-fisted, cowardly Plantation. But we salute him for trying.