In her years of digging into the history of area towns along the Gulf Coast, Marlene Womack filled her books with countless rare nuggets from Franklin County. Many of her “Out of the Past” columns, which ran 35 years in the Sunday Panama City News-Herald, centered on people and happenings in and around Apalachicola.
World War II drama, when the Sea Dream crew and others rescued British soldiers after the fabled Empire Mica was sunk by German submarines, is told in vivid detail in Marlene’s “War Comes to Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast.” The book mined artifacts of the Camp Gordon Johnston Museum in Carrabelle. In “The Bay Country,” Marlene’s readers learn that as far back as the Spanish-American War St. Andrews was a big town in the territory. Panama City came later and swallowed St. Andrews, like a tourist swallowing an Apalachicola oyster.
Marlene Womack died Sunday, June 11 at age 77. Funeral services were held June 16 at Kent-Forest Lawn Funeral Home, followed by burial in the Kent-Forest Lawn Cemetery.
She is survived by a son Fred, his wife Bethany, and children Ally and Andrew Womack, all from Panama City; a brother, Frank H. Minch, his wife, Arlene; and their two children, Frank (Pam) Minch and Christine Minch (Pat) Molitor; daughter-in-law, Lisa Womack Solots; sister-in-law, Clara E. Womack; and niece, Avie B. May.
Preceding her in death were her parents Frank and Stella Minch; husband Loy; son Jesse, whose daughter Di Anna Rene Womack, lives in Apalachicola; and son Michael, who helped her begin publishing her books.
Other books by Marlene include “Along the Bay,” “The Magic of Cape San Blas,” “The Rich Heritage of Panama City Beach,” “Anchor of the Bay,” “Centennial Stories,” “Ghost towns, Mysteries, and Tombstone Tales,” and “Moonshine Madness.” Most may be found at Downtown Books in Apalachicola, and in bookstores and libraries along the Gulf Coast.
Marlene was one of the first authors to be found sitting behind a table filled with books at Authors in Apalach, held each March in Apalachicola, and at Books Alive, a gathering of writers and book-sellers on the campus of Gulf Coast State College in Panama City.
Quietly and unassumingly, Marlene went most mornings to the Local History Room of the Bay County Library, worked on her books in the afternoons, and spent as much time as possible with her grandchildren.
Born in Linden, N.J., Marlene came to the Gulf Coast when her husband Loy was transferred to Tyndall Field. She lived in Bay County 44 years.
Marlene was a member of the Bay County Historical Society and the Bay County Genealogy Society. She was devoted to historical research and in an interview gave credit to her grandmother, who took her along on cemetery searches.
“She lit this fire in me,” Marlene told the Northwest Florida Daily News in May 2016. Her mother also contributed to her appreciation of current events. “She would say, you pay attention. You need to know about this,” when newscasters would discuss war in Korea or other history-making news.
She tried to instill her love of history to her children, but they balked at searching in cemeteries. “They got dragged all over the place,” Marlene told the Daily News. “One time, out at the Farmdale cemetery at Tyndall, my oldest son was looking for bears,” not history-making records.
Marlene kept mining rare nuggets of history as long as she was able.