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Renaissance woman

—Anne Nichols Reynolds is the ultimate Renaissance woman.

Educator, painter, writer, archaeologist, world traveler, avid reader and family matriarch are also accurate descriptions.

Reynolds published her first fiction novel earlier this year and is currently putting the finishing touches on two more books that will be soon be submitted to her publisher. Upon retiring from the Board of Trustees for South Florida State College, she said: “Suddenly I had large blocks of time to do other things, and later that same day, this story just came to me. I started writing and all of a sudden I realized that it was about 2 a.m. in the morning. I thought I should go to bed but the story was still in my head, so I got back up around 4:30 a.m. and started writing again, it just seemed to flow. It was enjoyable – a reconnection with words.”

During her 12 years on the SFSC board, some of Reynolds’ most satisfying moments were watching students cross the stage for graduation.

“The college president would announce that it was OK to cheer or clap when their particular graduate came up on stage,” she remembered. “Seeing some of them, and knowing that it was the first time anyone in their family had received a certificate or degree - to me that was the most exciting thing – to see the students and parents so excited about learning.”

The board covers campuses located in Highlands, DeSoto and Hardee counties. “There was a lot of responsibility and training involved,” Reynolds said. “We had to learn the policies, finances - really everything about the school, but I loved it because it felt like we were making a difference.”

Prior to becoming a trustee, Reynolds had been a teacher herself for 14 years, teaching English and writing at the middle school.

As Reynolds began writing fiction on her own, she discovered a local writer’s group, the Avon Park Wordsmiths.

Affiliated with the Florida Writer’s Association, the group meets at the Avon Park Public Library from 1 to 3 p.m. on Fridays.

Writers critique each other’s work, and Reynolds said, “I had some really good input, but it was hard being an English teacher and getting critiqued. They marked the chapters and told me to ‘put some action into it, some emotion.’”

Their experience and feedback made Reynolds a better writer, she believes, and “I really, really appreciate that group.”

Sunny Serafino, chairwoman of the Wordsmiths, initially met Reynolds during a creative writing class at SFSC.

After working with Reynolds for the past few years, Serafino said, “I’ve seen such growth in Anne. She used to write non-fiction and poetry and it’s really a difficult transition to fiction.”

Another one of Reynolds’ passions is painting. Beginning as a child, Reynolds has painted throughout her life. As an adult, she regularly meets with a group of painters.

Traveling around the world, some of Reynolds favorite spots included Colorado, Wyoming, North Carolina and Italy. “In Italy, we stayed in an area where you could look out and see the Isle of Capri or the Bay of Naples. We could also go down to a fishing village and paint.”

Reynolds grew up traveling around the country because her father was a surgeon with the Veterans Administration and the family relocated every few years.

She enrolled at Florida Southern College in Lakeland to work on a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology.

In 1965, she met Charles and married him a year later. Her husband’s family has worked in agriculture for years in the central Florida area, focusing on citrus and cattle.

Reynolds has truly enjoyed their life together as a family in rural Florida, continuing today with their grandchildren.

Archaeology is another of Reynolds’ interests. Initially she worked in a small group with Robert Austin, an archaeologist with the University of South Florida.

Their field training lasted several months at a local site as they learned excavation and documentation techniques.

As a member of the Kissimmee Valley Archaeological & Historical Conservancy, Reynolds is part of a team of educators who work with students at Walker Memorial Academy in Avon Park.

KVAHC is a chapter of the Florida Anthropological Society and holds regular meeting from September through April, sponsors a field school, and conducts a speaker series featuring archaeology professionals.

One of her more interesting sites is located near Lake Placid where she has been able to confirm natives occupied the land as early as 4,000 B.C.

After acquiring sufficient experience, Reynolds was part of an archaeological group that traveled to Israel and worked for about a month.

“It was a wonderful experience and I was able to see quite a bit of the country that tourists wouldn’t normally visit. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.”

Reynolds has since returned several times to Israel and enjoys traveling with her husband and family as time permits.