- January 18, 1928 - November 30, 2016
- Tampa, Florida
of Laura's Passing
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88, died on November 30, 2016, at Tampa General Hospital after prolonged respiratory illness. The great-granddaughter of Valdosta, Georgia, co-founder Albert Converse, Laura was born in Valdosta on January 18, 1928, to Charles Albert Converse of Valdosta and Laura Trice “Dottie” Converse of Tampa. As a two-year-old, Laura moved with her family to Capetown, South Africa, where her father, a Foreign Service officer in the United States Department of State, was posted. Laura later moved with her family to London after her father was posted there. While in London, Laura attended diplomatic functions with the future Queen Elizabeth II. During the London Blitz of 1940, Laura’s family and other State Department families were evacuated from London. At about that time, Laura’s father was hospitalized in Washington. While Laura’s mother and father were in Washington, Laura and her brother and sister came to Tampa to live with their aunt, Lucile Trice Knauf. After Laura’s father died the next year, Laura and her brother and sister resettled in Valdosta with their mother.
After graduating from Valdosta Senior High School, Laura received her bachelor’s degree from Georgia State College for Women, the predecessor of Valdosta State College, and her master’s degree from the University of Florida. While in Gainesville, she met Buddy Blain, the great-grandson of Plant City pioneer Francis W. Merrin. They were married on March 25, 1951, and settled in Plant City. In 1962, Laura and Buddy and Russ moved to Gainesville, where Buddy attended the University of Florida College of Law. After Buddy’s graduation, Laura and Buddy and Russ moved to Tallahassee and then to Tampa in 1965.
During her years of community service, Laura served as president of the Hillsborough County Bar Association Auxiliary and as president of the board of trustees of The Home Association. She served as a Tampa General Hospital Auxiliary volunteer for 25 years and as a member and secretary of the board of trustees of the Tampa General Hospital Foundation. Laura and Buddy were active in the development of the Tampa Junior Museum and were founding patrons of the Tampa Museum of Art and the Tampa Bay History Center, and Laura was a longtime volunteer and officer of Friends of the Arts. Laura served on the Mayor’s cable television advisory board. Laura served as a member and as chair of the board of directors of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority. A longtime friend of the Seminole Tribe, Laura and Buddy often visited the Brighton and Big Cypress reservations. An avid historian and expert on Native American history and culture, Laura was a frequent speaker and lecturer on Native American history, customs, and artifacts. Laura was preceded in death four months ago by her husband of 65 years, Lester Merrin “Buddy” Blain; her son, David Converse Blain; her brother, Charles Albert Converse, Jr. (Diana); and her sister, Constance Monroe Converse Shelton (Luther P.).
Laura is survived by her son, Russell Merrin Blain, and his partner Jeff H. Otterman; nephews Louis Shelton, Charles Russell Shelton (Julie), and John Farris Shelton (Vicky) of Valdosta; cousins Mary Trice Knauf Reed (J. Larrie), Scott Bradshaw Reed (Jessica), and John Trice Reed of Tampa; cousin U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles Brittain Reed (Pamela) of Anchorage, Alaska; cousin Evelyn Sanford of Hernando Beach; and extended family Peter George Hubbell, Jacolynn Grace Hubbell, and Jessica Tripp Hubbell, of Tampa, and Anne Elizabeth Hubbell of Fort Myers.
A memorial service for Laura will be conducted on Friday, December 30, at 11:00 a.m. by Pastor John D. DeBevoise at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church, 3501 West San Jose Street. Immediately following the service, a celebratory reception will be held at Tampa Yacht and Country Club, 5320 Interbay Boulevard.
Laura's family grateful acknowledges the care given by the trauma intensive care and stepdown intensive care units of Tampa General Hospital and the care given by Horizon Bay at Hyde Park, The Home Care Team, and Griffin Concierge Medical. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Laura’s memory to the Tampa General Hospital Foundation or the Tampa Bay History Center.