Without Irene Dobson, Zephyrhills would be a very different place. The community leader was relentless to create change for the African American community in Zephyrhills.
Her passion for her community touched the lives of generations of families living in the Quarters and other predominantly black neighborhoods. Her impact did not go unnoticed.
Dobson, 98, sat with her daughters Betsy and Celia Saturday afternoon, in a family room at Zephyr Haven Nursing Home, a facility she advocated to be built decades ago. It is the place she calls home. She proudly held a plaque declaring her a “Pillar of the Community” presented to her by the 2022 Quarters Reunion Board Members. The plaque also recognized Dobson as a “Leader, Pioneer and Change Agent for the Community.”
Dobson, the woman, who cooked and sewed for families also taught and disciplined children, held that plaque as she was draped in a blanket presented to her with the Quarters Reunion logo and her name.
The Quarters Reunion is an annual event held at Krusen Field on Father’s Day weekend. Generations of African American families have blossomed from that close-knit community and Dobson was the one who mentored, taught and guided most of them.
“I’m glad they haven’t forgotten about her like what happens so often in other communities,” said XXXX. “She did so much for everyone and it is nice to see the younger people are remembering the things momma did for them.
“We want the younger people of the community take hold of this history. History is lost, but for the Quarters Reunion Committee to recognize momma and her place in the community’s history is great.”
While she isn’t active in her community like she once was, but she is still considered the matriarch of the Quarters.
“If she could, she would still be helping people in the community,” Dobson-Paul said.
Everyone she meets, she takes the time to get to know them. She wants to know where they live and all about their families. She quick to ask how many “crumb crushers” (children) they have. She is all about family and she adopted everyone in the Quarters community.
“Miss Irene has been the community leader since before I was a kid,” said Jimmy Campbell, a Quarters Reunion organizer. “She is the Queen of the Quarters. When nobody was attending the city meeting in our community, she went and pushed for roads to be paved in our neighborhood. She pushed to have 6th Avenue renamed to Martin Luther King Avenue.
“She stood up for all of us.”
Dobson courage and determination has set an example for everyone in the Quarters community and will live on.
“She inspired me and the others you see here,” Campbell said at the reunion. “That’s why we do this. The reunion keeps everyone together and shows the strength of the community. We have people to come behind her to keep pushing for change.”