Elihu Ross:

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A life of adventure continues with a seat on Williston City Council

By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

Elihu Ross could refute Thomas Wolfe’ claim that you can’t go home again. He’s living proof you can, because he’s done it dozens of times over the span of his seven decades.

Ross, elected to the Williston City Council earlier this month to fill the  unexpired  term of Marc Nussel, was born at home on 1st Street.

Today, he and his wife, Ann, live beside the home he was born in and in fact, still own it.

Young Ross was happy and content. But then in 1952, his father died and his mother focused her attention on her only child.

An educator, Mrs. Ross decided to return to the work force but the only teaching position offered was in Palatka.

Ross, then 15 and a starter on the Williston High School football team was not happy with the prospective move and searched for a way to stay in town–to no avail.

Knowing his place was with his mother, he made the move.

“I didn’t know a soul,”

he said. “I went back out for football and got knocked around a bit.”

After high school, he joined the Navy and became an air traffic controller. He later earned his senior controller certificate, but when a job didn’t materialize, he felt he had suffered a setback.

That’s when he went back to school–at Stetson University, where he majored in history and political science.

“I wanted to go to law school,” Ross remembered, “but that didn’t work out.”

While in college, he had worked part-time as a dispatcher for the sheriff’s department. Word got around how good he was at that job, and soon he was also dispatching for the Deland Police Department.

“And that just whetted my appetite to get into law enforcement,” he said.

Friends recommended he pursue that hunger by applying to the Florida Highway Patrol following graduation, but  failing the eye exam twice caused yet another setback.

“What do I do now?” He asked himself.

The  question was answered when he chose  to drive  a cattle truck.

“But you don’t need a degree to haul cows,” Ross laughed from his easy chair last week.

By this time, he and Ann were courting and he started pursuing other career options while making the long haul to stockyards and slaughterhouses.

Pat Hartley was sheriff, and the promise of a deputy job was offered, but the sheriff saw something more in Ross. He suggested that Farm Bureau was hiring and encouraged Ross to apply. He did.

The only problem was the interview conflicted with a schedule haul–this time hogs–to Quincey.

Ross made the drive, turned around, drove back the same night and parked his rig across from the Farm Bureau office in Gainesville and went on with the interview.

“I smelled pretty bad,” he said. “I could smell myself so I know everyone else could smell me too.”

Nonplussed, he was interviewed and only after one of the executives mentioned he smelled pigs, did Ross tell them why.

He got the job.

He became Farm Bureau’s roving adjuster.

When he and Ann decided to marry, his boss told him he had not been on long enough to earn vacation, but he had no objections if Ann accompanied him on some of his work trips. The first one was a four-day honeymoon. 

“We extended that for three years,” he said.

While he worked during the day, Ann would stay in the hotel and occupy herself, a lot of the time with sewing.

When he got off work, the couple would take in the sights of whatever town they were in whether it was Florida or Georgia.

Within 10 years, Ross was named vice president of the claims department–the fourth in the company’s history–and eventually organized and ran the Fraud Investigation Unit, which had been mandated by the state.

Ross retired 10 years ago, but being idle was not in his plan. He founded his own mediation business, and again was traveling to mediate claims, but most of the time returning home to Williston within a day or two.

“But after 40 years,”  he said, “I finally decided I’d had enough.”

That’s when he and Ann bought a travel trailer and hit the open road.

The couple would start with a tentative itinerary and then sit back and enjoy the journey as they traveled across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Some trips lasted eight or nine weeks, he said, and included both tourist attractions and out-of-the-way spots that piqued their curiosity. 

There have been too many highlights to note, he said, but some that standout in his mind include a hike to the Hole in the Wall Pass in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, San Francisco, a jaunt through Cape Code and the surrounding area, an alpaca farm in New Mexico and the people they meet along the way.

Some trips have been repeated and there are others that he still wants to embark on, particularly the maritime provinces of Canada that include  New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, as well as neighboring Labrador and Newfoundland.

But for now, he is settling into his role as a freshman city councilman.

When Nussel resigned in November, Ross threw his hat into the appointment ring because, “I didn’t like what I had been hearing,” he said.

He was appointed in December and has been listening and learning since.

He was unopposed in the race in March.

“Communication is the key,” Ross said. “We have to work together to accomplish good things for the city of Williston.”