Tallahassee, FL

The Tallahassee Lady Who Made My Mask

Angela L. Dowdy

The more you know, the more you yearn to know! Wait, does that even make any sense? In the case of my amazing friend, Debra Fulbright, the answer is yes it certainly does. This sweet and special lady who made my mask has done so much for so many. I have known her for at least ten years and what I now KNOW is still just the tip of the iceberg!

Recently we discussed limousines, sewing machines, a crazy quilt, and a ship being built. That was followed by tutus of tulle, tables for pool, eating smart, and caring for your heart.

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Here are some of the fascinating highlights of that interview.

Shall we start at the beginning?

Sure. I was born in Graceville, Florida on April 2nd, 1960. I have three younger sisters. When I was five, we moved to Tallahassee. I attended Chaires Elementary and graduated from Leon High School in 1978. Took data entry classes at Lively. Married at age 19 and had two children. First jobs included loan processor at a bank, Medicare processor, and the Governor’s Energy Office.

What happened next?

A move to Virginia led to two interesting jobs. The first one was keying in programs for engineers at a NASA facility. The second one was data entry at Newport News shipyard. That was a fun job and I got to watch ships being built.

Then what?

After moving back to Tallahassee, I had one office job then sort of got into jobs involving driving. I drove a school bus for 15 years, then did transit for disabled people, then for a few years I was a limousine driver. Now I really love working for WheelCare as I drive disabled children to and from their daycare. These are medically needy youngsters and I just love seeing their beautiful smiles. I enjoy Tallahassee for its freshwater and football, plus it is close to the ocean. Currently I also enjoy making masks as a way to help people stay safe during this deadly pandemic.

What’s so enjoyable about making the masks?

I love using my talent to help protect people. I do it from the living room of my small duplex using a sewing machine, ironing board, scissors, and many bolts of fabric. They are two layers of 100 percent cotton with a middle flannel insert for safe, soft, comfortable wear. Initially I was just making a few for daycare centers, but word soon spread. Now I make lots of them for medical offices, military, and first responders.

How many masks have you made?

So far, I have made about nine thousand masks! I give away some and sell others just for enough to buy more supplies. I don’t do it for profit, but for the smile on someone’s face when they choose a mask they love. I know what it is like to suffer, so my big old soft heart just longs to ease the suffering of others as we all struggle through these unusual times.

What can you share about your own past struggles?

My first heart attack in 2006 was followed by another the next year. That was followed by open heart surgery to remove a blockage. Life moved along fairly normally until 2019 when I found out I had stage three rectal cancer. Complications involved having a kidney removed, wearing an ostomy bag, and having follow-up chemo and radiation. I had to eat much smarter during that time period, too. That was a rough time for me because I was spending lots of quality time helping to care for my frail grandmother. She passed away at age 101 that same year. I wish I could tell you how amazing she was.

What would you like to share about your family?

My talent for sewing was passed down from both my mother and grandmother. My mother is an industrial seamstress who loves making drapes. She once made drapery for the Florida governor’s mansion. My grandmother was both an industrial seamstress and a master quilter. She made a Crazy Quilt which was accepted into the archives of the Museum of Florida History. My sweet grandmother had a favorite saying, “There’s always a better tomorrow, you just have to look for it”.

What passions and hobbies help make your tomorrows better?

Nature, pool, travel, and beading! Nature sparks my creativity because Mother Nature always dresses the best.

I love shooting pool. In 2018 I had a City Cup “8-ball” Championship. That led to my most fun ever travel adventure, getting to play in the World Cup in Las Vegas. It was just so exciting, amazing, and fun to see where 300 pool tables had been set up in this hotel. Oh, and sometimes I wear colorful tulle tutus when I’m playing pool. It just brings me joy!

A travel destination I’m hoping to visit one day is Taiwan. I have a nephew who enjoys living there and I am sure the Orient must be fascinating.

Now creative glass beading is a very calming and centering hobby that takes my mind off my troubles. I started with simple bracelets, moved on to very intricate patterns, and now create my own unique jewelry and ornaments.

For me there are two awesome benefits of beading. The first is this thrill when the bead finds its perfect spot and makes a little click noise. That gives me a feeling of complete euphoria! The second benefit is how impressed people are when I gift them one of my pieces, some have actually cried. I am so moved to see that depth of joy in a person’s eyes that it just makes my heart sing!

What makes you an exuberant person?

Seeing a smile that I helped put on someone’s face! I love helping people. That could be buying a meal for a struggling stranger or giving a mask to one who really needs it. I wear my heart on my sleeve and never regret doing anything I can to be helpful.

Do you have a message for the world?

Yes, and it sounds so simple but seems to be so hard to do. Let’s all live in peace. Let’s all love one another and strive for happiness.

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The lady who made my mask is a loving and delightful woman. She has taught me about sushi and about gluten-free foods. She has taught me to never take myself too seriously. She has taught me how to laugh through the pain and keep watching for that better future. Dang y’all, doesn’t that make you want to know more about Debra Fulbright and all other people who have been doing their part making masks?

I would kindly ask you, dear reader, to please take a moment to share your comments about this article and about the lady who made my mask.

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My focus is on exuberant people and exciting places in the Southeastern United States. I love interviewing people from all walks of life because EVERY person is fascinating! I also write about Food, Art, and Travel. Because I am over 50, on disability, and female...you will easily see that reflected in my worldview. Hopefully, you will find my articles informative, entertaining, and FUN!

Tallahassee, FL
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