Life of local legend Ann Rust to be celebrated

CANAL POINT — The long, colorful life of the late Ann O’Connell Rust, a Glades native who left the area to become a successful New York model, then returned and pursued careers as a talent agent, writer and entrepreneur here, will be celebrated in early August.

Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of Amy Knight Rust
Ann O’Connell Rust often had book signing events around South Florida. Here, she’s doing so from a booth on the Lake Okeechobee waterfront.

At the age of 89, Mrs. Rust passed away peacefully at her home in Orange Park the morning of March 25, wrote her daughter Amy Knight Rust.

“My mother had a very full and productive life,” Amy wrote to the newspaper. “My mom was something special, and I really want to honor her and her lifetime achievements, passionately loving her ancestry, childhood and Glades history.”

Amy Rust passed along a lot more information, including the basic obituary but also many newspaper clippings about her later occupations, after she returned to Florida.

She was born Marjorie Ann O’Connell on Aug. 12, 1929, in Canal Point. Surviving are her four children Peter Allen Rust (Karen), Melissa Ann Brown (Jim), Timothy Fennell Rust (Melissa), and Amy Knight Rust. Also missing her are her 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Her husband of 58 years, Allen Fennell Rust, and her son David Hummel Rust (Tina) preceded her in death.

Her daughter Amy wanted to let her former friends and neighbors who remember her know about her life, travels and adventures in between the times when she lived in the Glades.

After graduating from Pahokee High School, the late Mrs. Rust decided to pursue a career in modeling, by attending the Gibson School of Modeling in Miami. She quickly became the lead model at Burdines. Two years later she moved to New York City and signed with the Huntington Hartford Agency. Mrs. Rust went on to have a very successful career in print and television.

It was in New York that she met FBI agent Allen Rust. Soon after they became engaged, Allen was transferred to Puerto Rico. Ann made the decision to give up her career and follow Allen. They married Jan. 20, 1951, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Pahokee, and immediately traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

After seven years and five kids, Allen was transferred to Albuquerque, N.M., the District of Columbia and Mexico City, before the final transfer to Jacksonville. With most of the kids raised, Ann started the Amaro School of Modeling and Talent Agency, which she operated for 20 years, procuring jobs in print, runway, industrial videos, TV commercials and Hollywood movies for hundreds of local talent.

Ann passionately loved the rich history of Florida, so in 1984, she decided to devote her spare time to writing about it. She started with a five-volume series of historical novels called “The Floridians,” for which she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Independent Publishers.

In 1995, she and Allen moved to Ocala where she spent most of her time writing articles for Florida magazines and newspapers as well as crisscrossing the state for book signings and speaking engagements. She also wrote four additional books — two children’s books, “Nonnie Of the Everglades” Volumes I & II — “Dessa” and “Walking with Irma.”

In 2004 she and Allen made their last move together, back to her family home in Canal Point. It didn’t take long for her to get busy again! She opened an antiques gift shop called Heritage House, and soon after opened a coffee and gift shop known as Mister JellyRolls, both on Main Street in Pahokee. In 2013, Ann was awarded the Pioneer Family of the Year Award for the contributions from her Knight and O’Connell families spanning over 100 years.

The last several years, Ann had lived near family in Orange Park, making frequent trips back to her Canal Point home.

Though Ann created wonderful homes everywhere her family lived, for her, “home” would always be in Pahokee and Canal Point on Lake Okeechobee.

There will be a final homecoming at 11 a.m. Aug. 10 at the Canal Point Baptist Church. “For all who knew and loved Ann, we would love to celebrate her extraordinary life with you,” Amy Rust wrote.

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