CLERMONT — If someone mentions the name Ann Dupee in south Lake County, most people’s faces light up because they more than likely have a story to tell about how they came to meet her, how she touched their lives or how they’d just seen her at one event or another, wearing a spunky hat or colorful flower in her hair.

Dupee, the former publisher of the South Lake Press and a respected voice for social and political issues in the Clermont area, died at South Lake Hospital on Sunday morning at age 82.

“Miss Ann — 'le grande dame' of Clermont and South Lake County, FL is gone from us. Thanks for the memories and a life lived to its fullest,” said former South Lake Chamber of Commerce President Ray Sanfratello on Facebook.

Doris Bloodsworth, spokeswoman for the city of Clermont and a close friend of Dupee, said what she remembers most about Dupee is how she was always thinking about others and about making the community better.

“There’s never been another like her and I can’t ever imagine there being another like her ever again. She was irreplaceable,” Bloodsworth said.

Dupee was born Eleanor Ann Killian in Yakima, Washington.

She held a variety of interesting jobs, including rodeo usher, photographer and as an advance girl for the Ice Capades.

She met her late husband, George Dupee, when he worked for the Wall Street Journal. They got married after just two weeks and ended up in Clermont after purchasing the weekly newspaper, South Lake Press, in 1968. She owned the paper for 25 years.

Dupee, a former city councilwoman, was the first woman to be inducted into the Kiwanis Hall of Fame. She also was a member of the Lake County Women’s Hall of Fame, the Lake County Business Hall of Fame and the Lake-Sumter State College Hall of Fame.

Until her death Sunday, she was a South Lake Chamber ambassador, an active member of Beta Theta and Kiwanis, part of the Cooper Memorial Library Association and wrote the "Remember When" column for the South Lake Press.
Dupee's brother, John Killian, and his wife, Deanna, wrote to express their thanks to the community.

"We, her Washington state family, are all grateful that Ann had such a happy, busy and productive life," the Killians wrote. "Ann loved Florida, her community and each of her friends. Her community and friends, too, have been her family, supporting all of her activities and talents; and we are comforted knowing she was always involved in something, appreciated and loved. We know Ann never wanted to give up, and she did not want to miss anything. We'll never forget her and we'll all miss her. Thank you for taking such good care of Our Ann."

Two years ago, more than 500 people attended a birthday party Dupee threw for herself at the Clermont Arts and Recreation Center.

On Friday, South Lake Hospital and the chamber were set to honor her lifelong accomplishments at November's chamber breakfast.

Earlier this year, the Eustis Historical Museum included her in its Living Legends of Lake County series honoring the county's most influential long-time leaders, which also drew a large crowd.

Jean Cloos, a friend of Dupee’s, said she remembers what an advocate Dupee always was for Clermont.

Cloos said that she and her husband were on a riverboat cruise in Moscow in the late 1990s when they spotted a woman looking like she was having a grand time and wearing a big button on her shirt that said, “I love Clermont, Florida.”

The Cloos’ has just purchased a home at Emerald Lakes in Clermont so she approached Dupee.

“I went up to her and said, 'We just bought a home there, tell us about it.' That’s how it started and she did tell us all about it, but I didn’t know she was famous here,” Cloos said, laughing as she recalled the moment. “Every year we would go out to lunch. She would take me all over town and talk about how Clermont was growing and about all the exciting things in store for it.”

“She was a true people person, and she always introduced me by saying, 'This is the girl I met on the river cruise in Russia.'”

Toni Bell, another close friend of Dupee and a fellow member of Beta Theta, said that for years the group has sponsored a Christmas Party for the children and families of the local Head Start.

Bloodsworth said Dupee had recently told her it was her favorite charitable event to be involved in. Bloodsworth said some of Dupee’s last days out in the community were spent purchasing gifts the children will be receiving this year.

“She touched so many people. She was just amazing,” Bell said. “I can’t believe we don’t have her, because we will miss her and everything she did for Beta Theta and for the community, especially the kids.”

Clermont City Manager Darren Gray said, “Ann was a personal friend and a wonderful friend of the city of Clermont. She served the city for several years as a council member and many more as a champion of always wanting to improve the quality of life for all. Her voice and passion for serving others will not be forgotten."