To my No. 1 fan

Katie Enns
Katie Enns, the first speech therapist in the St. Lucie County School District and mother of Publisher Gregory Enns, has been a goodwill ambassador for Indian River Magazine since its launch in 2006.

In the 15 years since we launched this magazine, one reader has shared her opinion about how we are doing or what we should be doing more than any other.

That would be my mother, Katie Enns, who has always been quick to suggest a good story, note who might be a good advertiser or critique our latest issue.

In nearly all cases, her observations have been unsolicited, unfiltered and unrelenting. But they certainly never have been unknowing.

That’s because for 36 years, until his death in 1990, she was married to my dad, Bob Enns, the longtime editor of The News-Tribune in Fort Pierce. How she came about her journalistic acumen requires some explanation about her migration to Florida from her hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The year was 1952, and she was just about to graduate from Marquette University in Wisconsin with a degree in the newly formed discipline of speech therapy. Then called speech correction, the discipline was aimed at improving speech communication disorders, and her choice of the profession was inspired, in part, by the stuttering of her younger brother, Chuck, who would eventually become a Roman Catholic priest.

With a dislike for the cold and visions of perpetual sunshine, mom wrote various school superintendents in Florida offering her services. Carl Huskey, then superintendent of the St. Lucie County district, immediately responded, interviewed her by phone and hired her to become the first speech therapist in the St. Lucie County School district. Today, there are 48 speech pathologists — the term now used for the profession — in the district.

Katie and roommate Evelyn Elliott
Katie and roommate Evelyn Elliott in front of the 1948 Mercury convertible Katie drove to Fort Pierce from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

As the 1952-53 school year and time to start her new job approached, mom and college friend Nancy Anderson and childhood friend Marilyn Dorrance packed up Mom’s 1948 Mercury convertible her parents had given her as a graduation present and headed to Florida, driving with the top down all the way.

When they arrived in Florida, they spent several days in Daytona Beach, which met all the criteria they expected of the Sunshine State — crowded beaches, lots of young people and a spirit of revelry. But several days later, as they drove down A1A through the Treasure Coast over the rickety wooden bridge on North Beach they encountered something totally different and unexpected — a sleepy town with not much going on for a 22-year-old. Compared to Daytona, Fort Pierce seemed abandoned.

Tearful, mom called her dad and said she was returning to Iowa. But he insisted she fulfill the yearlong contract she signed, and she gave in. Nevertheless, within a few days, her friend Nancy returned to her home in Chicago. Marilyn was desperate to return to Cedar Rapids as well, but mom pleaded with her to stay, offering to pay Marilyn’s room and board until Marilyn could find a job. Luckily for Katie — and Marilyn, who would meet her husband, Bugsy, here — she stayed.

Katie Enns, right, and two friends
Shortly after arriving in Fort Pierce from Cedar Rapids Iowa, Katie Duster (Enns), right, and childhood friend Marilyn May (Dorrance) and friend Evelyn Elliott walk down the steps after Mass at the old St. Anastasia Catholic Church on Orange Avenue.

Within a few weeks of mom’s arrival, an enterprising reporter at The News-Tribune named Bob Enns interviewed her for a story in her new role as the district’s first speech therapist. By the end of the interview, he had asked her for a date. The rest is my family’s history.

They married in 1954 and subsequently produced eight children and, except for maternity leaves, my mom worked through it all. As the first speech therapist, she had to travel to a number of schools, trying to educate principals and teachers about how she could help students with one-on-one lessons. Many principals didn’t know what to do with her, and she often was relegated to a school utility closet they would retrofit into a small classroom for her.

Because she had to cover so much ground and visit so many schools, one year the district, flush with cash from a federal grant, gave her an air-conditioned step van that she could drive up to schools and give speech therapy lessons inside.

Combined with driving her octet of children around to various appointments, lessons and athletic events, she established an incredibly wide communications network, which she generously looped my dad into. People who wanted to get stories into the paper often knew that one good way was through tipping off Katie.

Katie and Bob
Katie and Bob at the beach during their courtship.

When my dad died, she took a few decades off from her covert journalistic career, though she remained a sort of den mother to the journalists who had worked for my dad over years, including some of the ones who work for this magazine today. But she began anew when I returned to the Treasure Coast in 2006 to start this magazine.

Besides offering endless commentary and suggestions for the magazine, she also acted as an unofficial goodwill ambassador, stocking her car with a box of magazines each time an issue was printed and dropping them off at the various doctors’ offices, beauty parlors and other places she visited.

Unfortunately her efforts on our behalf have been sidelined by news from a doctor that no one wants to hear. Yet she remains grateful for each new day and is thankful to be able to continue living in her home of more than half a century. She accepts her future with courage, grace and an abiding faith.

So thanks, Mom, for the gift of life, for the memories and all the unsolicited opinions and advice.

See the original article in the print publication

Gregory Enns Signature





Gregory Enns
Reach Gregory Enns or 772.940.9005.

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