Carl and Jane Patterson

Carl and Jane Patterson died in a car crash near Brooksville on State Road 50 in October 2006. Carl was Windermere's former mayor, part-time planner and unofficial town historian. (x, Courtesy of Robert Patterson / October 30, 2006)

Soon the railroad came through, linking Windermere to Kissimmee by 1889, the same year the town's plat was officially recorded.

But the Great Freeze of 1894-95 knocked settlers for a loop, and the town's development really got its start in 1910, when two Ohioans visited Windermere and knew they had found something special.

The pair, Dr. J.H. Johnson and J. Calvin Palmer, called Cal, bought "all the land in the old town and some acreage outside and formed the Windermere Improvement Company," Carl wrote several years ago in his homemade history.

The town of the lakes was incorporated in 1925, a couple of years after the Windermere Union Church Chapel was built.

A historian's legacy

"Carl and Jane were members of that church," Mary Hayes of Windermere said last week. She is on the committee collecting donations of money and volunteer labor to preserve and move the church.

And if you know much about Windermere, you already know why she used the past tense, why Carl and his Janey, his wife for 60 years, won't be at the pancake breakfast this year on the Fourth of July.

Late last October, Carl and Janey were killed in an automobile accident on State Road 50 near Brooksville.

It's hard to find words to say how sad that is for their family and friends, and a small part of the sadness is that Carl didn't live to see the final form of his beloved history of Windermere -- the transformation of all those pages into a printed book.

About two years ago, he began working with editor Peggy Sias Lantz to transform his whopping photocopied binder into a hardcover volume.

It was tough work -- so many pictures, so many facts to look up and check, so many details to pin down.

But Carl knew it was almost final. He had seen and corrected the page proofs before his death. And his history of a small town would have a format as large as Carl's heart.

In April, the publisher, developer Kevin Azzouz, gave away about 2,000 copies of Windermere Among the Lakes: The Story of a Small Town. The idea was for each household in town to have a copy.

If your family lives in Windermere and you haven't received a book, check in with the Suzi Karr Realty Office (527 Main St., 407-876-3688).

The office also has a limited number of copies for purchase for $29 each for Windermere folks who would like extra copies or for others who would like to add them to their library.

Windermere's Web site, town.windermere.fl.us, also has information about the effort to preserve the old Union Church Chapel as a community center.

Joy Wallace Dickinson can be reached at jdickinson@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6082, or by good old- fashioned letter at the Sentinel, 633 N. Orange Ave., Orlando, FL 32801.