WBHS Teachers Discover they are Cousins!

Question: It’s not every day that you stumble upon a long-lost cousin at work–where did this all start? Where and how did you meet?Wiles: I met Christine Dillard here at West Boca High. We both teach English in the same hallway. Our classrooms are really close to each other. This was a total chance-thing…

Lauren Wiles and Christine Dillard

Question: How did the conversation come up?
Wiles: A few teachers were chatting in the hallway before a class change. Mrs. Dillard mentioned that her maiden name had been Jennings. My great-grandmother Daisy, who passed away when I was 14, was also a Jennings. But that’s a common last name, so I didn’t think anything of it….the fact that we were related was a passing thought, but one I don’t think I took seriously. We joked about being cousins, but as it turns out, we actually are. 
Dillard: Southerners love a monogram! When I commented that another teacher had the same monogram as mine before I was married, Lauren asked, “Oh, what was your maiden name?” That is when we learned that Jennings was a commonality between us.

Wile’s great great grandmother

Question: So, you are both “Jennings”: where did the connection happen?

Wiles: My dad and everyone on his side are from the Carolinas–North AND South. The Jennings side of the family are of English and Scottish descent, and they have been in this particular part of the South since the early 1700s. They were very poor mountain-folk–they were farmers up until the industrial revolution. In the mid 1850s, Rock Hill South Carolina became an official city, and due to its new railroad, our “people” left the mountains for industrial jobs. It was a pretty small town once upon a time. I have always been told that they were dirt-poor. My great-grandma Daisy would tell me stories of how they had an Out-House and how she would churn butter. 

Dillard: At first, I assumed it was a coincidence. My dad was in the military, so we never lived close to any family. Moving every 3 years was part of being an Army Brat. 

Question: When did you know that there was a possible relation here?

Wiles: As soon as Mrs. Dillard mentioned “Rock Hill, South Carolina,” I knew there was something there; I don’t know a single person from Rock Hill, South Carolina here in Boca except for my many cousins in Rock Hill, South Carolina. You don’t just meet Rock Hill folk here in Boca. It’s highly unlikely. Dillard: I asked my grandfather’s brother who is still living if he knew of any relatives named Wiles. He said no, but Lauren kept digging. 

Question: So, you just assumed you were related?

Wiles: Kind of, but I didn’t look into it until very recently. This was a total freak-accident using AncestryDNA. One of my immediate ancestors on my mom’s side was adopted from Korea. I was looking for answers there, and had little interest in exploring the Jennings part of my family until now. Dillard: There was no doubt somewhere up the line we were related. I just didn’t realize the line was so close.

 
Question: So how did you make the connection?

Wiles: My great-grandmother Daisy, who spent her entire life in Rock Hill, was one of my favorite people. She had such a kind heart. She made the best biscuits, cornbread, and vegetable soup. I loved her peach cobbler. I knew her dad’s name was Andrew Rufus Jennings. I asked Mrs. Dillard what her grandfather and great-grandfather’s name was. That’s when we found out we are directly related.Dillard: For most of my life, my grandfather, Arthur Jennings, Jr., lived in Mexico. He was an engineer and worked with polymer in Mexico City. We didn’t really get to know much of the extended family on his side. Wiles: Yes, and Arthur’s dad’s brother is my great-great grandfather. He stayed in SC. 

Wile’s great great grandmother Daisy, Grandma Anne and father Scott.

Question: And how are Andrew R. Jennings and Arthur E. Jennings related?Wiles: They were brothers. Their father was Daniel R. Jennings and their mom was Mary-Jane McAteer. Because of them, Mrs. Dillard and I are here, a few generations later.Dillard: Brothers. I am stunned that the relation is so close!


Question:How did you figure this out?

Wiles: Data on Ancestry, Genealogy charts, marriage certificates, obituaries, deeds, news articles. The internet is a magical place if you know what to look for. Dillard: Obituaries have so much detail. For us, since the line was straight up, the connection wasn’t difficult to confirm. Wiles: For Christine, the Jennings name remained the same.

Question: Mrs. Dillard, how did you know Ms. Wiles was correct?

Dillard: With the obituaries and names, it was easy to lay out the evidence. Wiles: Once I found out that Andrew Jennings had a brother named Arthur, and that both of them had parents named Daniel and Mary-Jane, we knew. We had to draw it out, but it’s a very clear line. I have a very obsessive personality, and when I research, I hardly come up for air. I wasn’t going to stop until I had the answer. 


Question: Has this changed your perspective of one another?

Wiles: If anything, it has strengthened an already established bond. Now, I just call her “cuz” and we laugh. Our ancestors were the epitome of Southern folk. A lot of them weren’t educated, but yet, here we are teaching reading and writing at the same school. It’s funny to us.Dillard: Ms. Wiles and I were connected before this. We are on the same hallway and teach the same subject. She is also the dance teacher while I am the cheer coach. We had a great relationship before we figured this out. Now we have the extra connection of being family. 

Question: What have you learned about your ancestors:

Wiles: Shakespeare once said, “Past is Prologue.” What he meant was that everything that has happened before you set out the path for your own life. Christine and I are here because of the decisions made by our ancestors. The Jennings were simple people. I have a lot of fond memories as a child visiting Rock-Hill. It’s all God and Football there. When I think of Rock Hill, I think of a time in my childhood without cell phones, no social media–you know, running and playing in the woods and enjoying the simple things–Southern culture is all about slowing down and relishing in the small moments of life. My great-grandma was very different from me, but I will always remember her for sharing her love of Southern food, hospitality, and the simple things like telling ghost-stories, eating grits, sitting in a rocking-chair for hours doing absolutely nothing but enjoying life with a glass of sweet tea. Dillard: I learned who they were. Without the connection to family outside of first cousins growing up, it is amazing to learn some family history beyond the first and second generations. 

Questions: What would have happened if you grew up in Rock Hill like the rest of the Jennings?

Wiles: I think I would have been super bored. I love visiting my ancestors, but culturally, we are very different. I guess life would have been simple–you know, church, football, getting married young. That’s just not me. If I were from a small town, I would have run away–just like my grandma did. She moved to Florida to escape the South. I don’t blame her. I come from a long line of hard-working hillbillies (haha), but I’m from Miami at the end of the day. Dillard: Rock Hill is now a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina. I think that the area has changed so much in recent years that it would have been a great small-town life. This wasn’t in the cards for me, though. My dad served in Vietnam and then spent the rest of his career in military service. I grew up traveling the world as an Army dependent, aka, Army Brat. Growing up outside of the reach of family, those in the same situation on the military base took on that role. That experience made me who I am, so I can’t imagine growing up in one singular location.  

Question: How do you think this story could impact other people?Wiles: My mom was adopted from Korea, so I don’t hold the same emphasis on blood relationships that some others might. Many of my cousins and I do not share the same DNA, and that is perfectly okay–that doesn’t make them any less of a cousin to me. What genealogy and ancestry research can do, though, is help people fill in missing pieces of your family to build a greater understanding of who you are and how you got here. Above all else, I think we realize how connected–not separated–we all are. What I have learned from my research is that ancestry is not linear, it’s more of a web. Our ancestry branches out like a tree, and somewhere along the line, we are all connected as one human race. It sounds cheesy, but as you can see, it is true. Dillard: We are all connected somehow, sometimes we are closer than we realize. Blood relationships are great and interesting. It is a grounding that happens when history about family is learned. The connection to ancestors gives your own life a story.

Question: What advice can you give someone new to genealogy research who is interested in exploring their own ancestral history?

Wiles: The data is out there, it just might take a while to organize. I recommend drawing out the tree, otherwise things get confusing, especially when there are last name changes in the tree (likely due to marriage). If you know how to move through the data, you can unlock a certain “branch.” Sometimes you might go down the wrong branch, but with some digging and research–for example a quick marriage record search–you will find new names that lead you to the correct branch. For instance, Mrs. Dillard and I had to go back 5 or 6 generations which took a few phone calls, but here we are. It’s often distant cousins or relatives that can fill in story gaps. Marriage records, obituaries, social media, etc. are key tools in the process. You just need patience and the willingness to communicate with other people. Obviously, some people don’t want to talk about it, so you have to respect that. I say, try it. It is fun. Dillard: I have some family members that are interested in genealogy, but none that had done my father’s side of the family tree. I am finding that it is so fascinating to learn the history of my family and all of the branches. This will be something that I will continue to research.  

Uptown Boca Faces Radon & Mold Concerns

West Boca News has learned that the new owner of Uptown Boca is working to address resident concerns that are a holdover from the original owner and builder.

Less than three weeks after Cortland took ownership, we were contacted by a few residents most of whom asked to remain anonymous. They told us that several residents found high radon levels and/or mold conditions in their apartments. One resident we spoke with complained of headaches.

Robert Navone sent us photos of mold in his apartment and said he has heard from 40 residents about mold and radon. Navone told me that he and his wife were sick from mold.

Mold on wall of Navone apartment

We reached out to Cortland and Managing Director Jonathan Denton called to discuss the situation with us. He agreed that there is a radon issue, that the company knew about the problem before they went through with the transaction, and that “quite a few” residents have expressed concerns. Cortland held two town hall meetings this week with residents to address those concerns, with roughly half of residents attending at least one of those meetings.

Denton told us this is a common problem in the apartment buildings they buy and they are already working on a plan to remediate the radon. Residents said they were told by Cortland that the radon is coming from the ground and Denton told us the same, and that every property they buy has some level of radon exposure.

We contacted Florida geologist David Wilshaw about the radon issue. He told us:

Palm Beach County in general is low Radon risk, but as with everything it depends! The real hot areas for Radon are the phosphate mining areas (explains why the phosphate mine effluent is radioactive). But shallow limestone deposits can produce Radon too.
Radon is heavier than air, so the big risk is basements. 5th floor, not much chance, unless it’s coming from the building materials (e.g. unsealed natural granite).

According to the EPA radon levels should be below 4 picocuries per liter. Denton told us residents have been using radon test kits from Amazon that are not as reliable as professional tests, reporting real-time numbers rather than averages over time.

However, we received radon test reports from Mark Wahl, a licensed radon inspector showing levels well over 4 picocuries per liter with one report over 10, and these were averaged over 48 hours. Residents told us the high radon levels are occurring on all levels up to the 5th floor.

Denton told us Cortland is carrying out a plan to remediate the radon. The previous owner had already installed a passive radon mitigation system. Cortland is moving to an active mitigation system with electrical fans in first floor units to exhaust air and prevent the radon from rising to units on upper floors. He expects this to resolve the issue within 3-4 months.

We asked specifically about whether the radon could be coming from building materials such as granite or concrete rather than from the ground. Denton said that was conceivable but hard to say.

Mr. Wahl told us that he found radon in several units and has several more tests in progress. He was confident that the radon is coming from building materials, likely aggregate that was mixed in with the concrete, and that active ventilation of the first floor units would not do anything to help the upper floors. Wahl did say active ventilation does resolve the issue if it is done correctly in every unit. He also said he saw passive mitigation systems in some of the apartments but could not confirm installations in all of them.

Residents also told us about mold issues in some apartments and in storage units and garage spaces.

Denton acknowledged those problems as well. He said most of the problems have been in storage units and garages but acknowledged there were a few in apartments. He attributed the mold issues in apartments to residents leaving patio doors or windows open which allows humidity to get in. He also said that mold in storage units and garages is harder to prevent because the spaces are not air conditioned.

A resident told us that Uptown Boca blamed some of the apartment mold on a resident not keeping the air conditioning set at 74 degrees or below. Denton told us it is a term of most leases that residents are to keep the AC at 78 degrees or below.

We spoke with one of the mold inspectors who asked to be kept anonymous, and did not want to speak in any depth, but said there “is definitely a problem there.”

Radon inspector Wahl, who is also a licensed mold assessor and owner of Waypoint Property Inspection East LLC, said he was surprised when he looked at the units that some of the closets did not have a/c registers which may help to prevent mold formation.

Residents also complained that Uptown Boca is not doing enough to address the issue for those who want to leave. Denton said they would allow any resident to leave without damaging their credit. Some residents feel this is not enough.

Regarding mold in storage units and garages we received one document showing that Uptown Boca refused to remediate mold in a resident’s storage room and garage because the resident had personal items that absorb moisture. That document included language from the lease agreement which specifically exempts management from responsibility for mold in storage units because they are not climate controlled. The document refusing to remediate was dated before Cortland acquired the property.

Denton maintained that it’s only a small number of residents who are unhappy and that 4 or 5 told management they are moving out. Uptown Boca has approximately 450 units.

Wahl confirmed this, describing a resident who was staying in a 4-bedroom unit despite having a high radon test result.

If any residents of Uptown Boca would like to provide us more information, we ask that you please e-mail us at warren@westbocanews.com.

 

UPCOMING EVENTS FOR MAY

Daggerwing Nature Center in South County Regional Park has events for Ages 5 and above! Reservations required for all events. INTRO TO ARCHERY Saturday, May 1, 10:30 a.m. Ages 8+, $10/participant: Learn archery from certified staff and practice on range. FISHING FUN Saturday, May 15, 10:30 a.m. Ages 8+, $10/participant: Learn the basics of freshwater fishing! Please bring a water bottle, sun protection, and closed-toed shoes that can get wet/muddy. BUTTERFLY GARDENING Saturday, May 22, 10:30 a.m.Ages 5+, $3/participant Learn all about native butterflies and discover how to attract them with a butterfly garden. RADICAL REPTILES Saturday, May 29, 10:30 a.m.Ages 5+, $3/participant Join a naturalist for a family friendly program focusing on the amazing world of reptiles!

The Science Playground, Splash Pad, walking paths, athletic fields & outdoor basketball courts at Sugar Sand Park are open for public use.

May 8th is the Eat Better Live Better 5K at South County Regional Park. There is a timed 5k, a non-timed 5k and a kids’ mile (not-timed). Races will be started in a wave format beginning at 7:30 a.m. The event will also include vendors, contests, raffles, special guests and a Kids Zone. Register online.

This outdoor program is an introduce to baseball for ages 2-5.  Saturdays or Sundays. Registration Now Open. http://www.sugarsandpark.org/events/lil-sluggers-new-sessions-begin

Summer Camp Directory
https://westbocanews.com/2021-summer-camp-directory

Sexual Offender Arrested

Moise Gadoury of Century Village was arrested on September 24th for failing to register as a Sexual Offender. Gadoury, 75, was convicted in 1984 of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 years old and rape and abuse of a child. He served 6 years of a 10 year sentence in a Rhode Island prison. He is required to register in person every 6 months with the Sheriff’s office.