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Honoring John Germany's Service to Education & Country

Aimee Blodgett
The now renamed "John F. Germany Legacy Park" near the library on the USF Tampa campus.

John F. Germany was remembered by a crowd of about 600 people at his funeral at St. John's Episcopal Church in Tampa Saturday.

The lawyer, judge and co-founder of the University of South Florida died last Wednesday at the age of 92.

The day before his funeral, university officials announced that the school had renamed a park just south of the USF Library as the "John F. Germany Legacy Park."

USF News says the park was previously known as the "Park on Leroy Collins Boulevard," named for the former governor who Germany worked for.

With the renaming, Collins, Germany and the third co-founder of USF, Representative Sam Gibbons, all have areas on the Tampa campus named after them - USF's Alumni Center is named after Sam and Martha Gibbons.

The park’s selection is symbolic for several reasons. It sits adjacent to a library, which was one of Germany’s strongest passions. The park was also built in a space Germany and Gibbons toured prior to the university’s founding, as the two dreamed of providing higher education opportunities for students who couldn’t afford to go away to school in Gainesville or Tallahassee.

Germany's four children released a statement after the announcement, saying “Our family is deeply touched and grateful to have this park dedicated to our father. He spoke often about the importance of leaving a legacy, which makes the name and location of this park so appropriate. We all have memories as children of walking the grounds, when the land consisted of mostly dirt, scrub trees and sandspurs, and it’s amazing to see how it’s become such a beautiful university.”

University officials say a formal renaming ceremony with Germany's family is planned for the fall.

And before he became a supporter of USF, or the founder of the Holland and Knight Law firm, or one of the main backers of the downtown Tampa library that bears his name, Germany was a U.S. Army tank commander in World War II.

He enlisted in the Reserves in November 1942 and was deployed to Europe in April 1945 as a replacement tank officer in the 13th Armored Division.

Speaking to WUSF TV in 2007 for the "Plant City Goes to War" documentary, he was self-deprecating about his service. (Germany is the first segment of the documentary, 0:57 into the video)

"I always say when Hitler heard I was coming, he gave up," he said with a laugh.

Germany's time in the military, although brief, was memorable. He was among the first American ground troops to raid the Eagle's Nest, an outpost in the German Bavarian Alps where Adolf Hitler had stayed.

He also helped rescue people from Ebensee, a concentration camp where, as he put it, "the ovens were still hot" when U-S troops arrived.

"The members (prisoners) that were to be killed, burned, wanted to turn on the guards and throw them in, and it was hard to kind of control," he said. "You could understand how you would feel if you had been subjected to such torture that they had been subjected to, but we kind of kept it on an even keel."

As a Second Lieutenant, Germany was sent to occupy Japan after combat ended there. And when he came home after the war, he found out that life had gone on without him.

"I had a girlfriend back in Plant City, and when I came out of the service, I saw her and she said, 'Why, Johnny Fred, where have you been? I haven't seen you lately,'" he said, again laughing. "So that just shows you that, you know, you think you've done something and others don't think so, it brings you down to Earth in a hurry."

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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