November 9, 2005: Headlines: COS - India: Obituaries: Branford News: India RPCV Pete Skinner laid to rest Nov. 7

Peace Corps Online: Directory: India: Peace Corps India: The Peace Corps in India: November 9, 2005: Headlines: COS - India: Obituaries: Branford News: India RPCV Pete Skinner laid to rest Nov. 7

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India RPCV Pete Skinner laid to rest Nov. 7

India RPCV Pete Skinner laid to rest Nov. 7

Skinner served his country as a US Marine during the Vietnam War and served in the Peace Corps in India. He received the National Service Award for his work in India where he worked with the people there to teach them the use of salt tolerant varieties of rice and wheat. Skinner also served as a Foreign Service Officer for the US government in the Caribbean.

India RPCV Pete Skinner laid to rest Nov. 7

Former Suwannee County Legislator Pete Skinner laid to rest Nov. 7

Author: Susan K. Lamb, Democrat Managing Editor
Publication Date: 2005-11-09

Sherrill N.
Sherrill N. "Pete" Skinner

Described by a friend as a man "larger than life" and a "master of politics" who truly cared about people, former state representative and senator Sherrill N. "Pete" Skinner was laid to rest Nov. 7 in Lake City.

Skinner, 62, entered the hospital Oct. 4 and died Nov. 3 in the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lake City after a short battle with cancer.

A native of Suwannee County who was raised in McAlpin on a farm, graduated from Suwannee High School, received a political science degree from University of Florida and a master's degree in history from Valdosta State University, Skinner had lived in Lake City for many years before his death. Skinner served his country as a US Marine during the Vietnam War and served in the Peace Corps in India. He received the National Service Award for his work in India where he worked with the people there to teach them the use of salt tolerant varieties of rice and wheat. Skinner also served as a Foreign Service Officer for the US government in the Caribbean.

Skinner, who soon became familiar to voters by the khaki pants and shirts he wore constantly, was elected to the House of Representatives and served Suwannee County and surrounding areas, including parts of Alachua, from 1974-76. He then ran for the Florida Senate seat, winning that election and serving from 1976-83.

Skinner ran for congress but narrowly lost the election, ending his official political career. It was then that Skinner tapped Branford native Randy Hatch of Branford to go with him to the Dominican Republic for the State Department and work with residents there to help them learn farming American style. Hatch said Skinner became like the older brother he never had and the two remained good friends until the day Skinner died.

Hatch, now a county commissioner, said Skinner, who had become one of the most powerful politicians in Florida while he served in the Senate, was a brilliant man whose ideas were always worthy of trial. The two worked together with Hatch working out detailed plans and Skinner coming up with unique ideas, Hatch said. They explored together ways to teach Haitians how to profit from commercial fishing and privately went into the international fishing business themselves, Hatch said. During this same time, Hatch said Skinner ran a 30,000-acre sugar plantation in the Dominican Republic. Through it all, Hatch said, Skinner was always thinking of other people and ways he could help others.

"Pete was quite a character," Hatch remembered Monday just prior to attending Skinner's funeral. "You could go to Tallahassee today and just about everybody you would meet would either have a Pete Skinner story or have heard one," Hatch remembered. "He was just larger than life. If you had a problem, (and you knew Skinner) you had a friend." Hatch said up until a few days before he died, Skinner continued to help others, including helping to get a family out of a third world country and returning them to America.

Hatch said once the two friends were sent by the US government to Haiti on a mission to gather soil samples and that trip turned into a calamity that today makes a hilarious memory, although it wasn't funny at all at the time. They rode inland to a desert area on a rickety helicopter, were dropped off and ended up staying in a tiny home overnight as the guests of about a dozen people who lived in the tiny house. The next day they started out and Hatch said he hitched up his compass, bottled water and a machete. "Pete asked me what did I think I was doing! He told me we didn't have to worry about getting lost because the people there would look after us because he was a senator." Forty-five minutes later, hopelessly lost, both men wondered why they had made the decision to leave those typical Boy Scout survival articles back at the beginning point. It was nearly 3 a.m. the next morning when a single member of a search party finally found them and drove them through the wilderness 40 miles to civilization.

"He was dedicated to the people, it did not matter to him that the voters rejected him because so many people depended on him to help them," Hatch said. "He was the only guy I knew who could eat at the White House today and sit on the back of a pickup truck the next day eating sardines and be comfortable with it. Pete Skinner was unique, and he and I were brothers in arms," Hatch said of his friend. "He was all these things to people." Hatch said although Skinner had been out of official political office for years, he was always anxious to help others.

In recent years Skinner had taught at Lake City Community College, Santa Fe Community College and had developed and taught a model course for helping prison inmates be prepared for release.

Survivors include his wife, Ann Douglass Skinner of Lake City, his mother, Ozell (Leslie) Hatch of Suwannee; three sons, Christopher (Melissa) Skinner of Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, Jason (Kelly) Skinner of Idaho Falls, Idaho and Ben Douglass of Lake City; three sisters, Reba (Jackie) Shaw of Suwannee, Averial Hodges of Kennesaw, Ga. and Marylyn (Don) Montgomery, Lake City; three grandchildren, Isabella Gayle Skinner, Lelan Amber Skinner and James Tucker Skinner.

Funeral services were conducted at 4 p.m., Monday, Nov. 7, in St. James Episcopal Church with the Rev. Jeff Robinson officiating. Memorials may be made to St. James Episcopal Church Building Fund, 581 SW Malone St., Lake City, FL 32025 or to the charity of your choice.

Interment was at Memorial Cemetery.

Susan K. Lamb may be reached by calling 1-386-362-1734 ext. 131 or by emailing

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Story Source: Branford News

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