HELLO, OCALA! Meet your neighbor: Estelle Michelson

Estelle Clark Michelson, who has been doing good deeds for the Lions of Florida for numerous years, poses with part of her large lion collection by some of her numerous Lions of Florida awards at her On Top of the World home in Ocala on Monday, March 27, 2023. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.

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Posted March 30, 2023 | By Eadie Sickler

Estelle Michelson is all about lions. Every size, color, shape, and sort, including cement statues and statuettes, all sizes of stuffed likenesses and many beautiful paintings.

Her lifelong love for lions all started in 1998 when she joined the Lions Club in Fort Worth, Texas. She joined the On Top of the World (OTOW) Lions Club, a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organization, when she moved to the community in 2000. 

Over the years, she has become very active with the group and has held the membership chairperson position, receiving many awards for her volunteerism. One of the awards she proudly displays in her home is a large sword, which she explained is the “Crusader Sword,” given to a “grassroots lion.” Under the sword are hung two wagon wheels; one she received for holding the offices of past district governor, District 35L, which includes several counties from the Florida Panhandle through Marion County; and the other was for serving as the Florida state Lions Club governor from 2009 to 2010.

Michelson also has been awarded the Lions Club President’s Medal of Honor. She recently received a letter from the national organization stating there are 250,000 Lions Club members in the contiguous United States, and of that number 200 have brought more than 100 new members into the organization. The letter confirmed that she is one of those 200.

Over time, many friends, family members and other Lions Club members have given her much of the lion memorabilia that she displays in her home. 

Michelson was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Displaying her wit, she said with a grin, “Memphis is famous for two things: Estelle and Elvis.” After a brief hesitation, she added, “But not necessarily in that order!”

She was one of four children born to her mother, who was from New York state, and her father, who emigrated to the United States from Bucharest, Romania. Her sister Jewel lives in Ocala, and her brother Ira lives in Virginia. Another brother, Alvin, is deceased. Her father was a painter and, because of his work, the family moved frequently. He owned a paint factory in Mississippi and one in Louisiana.

“I went to a lot of different schools and met a lot of different people. I like people,” she shared. “I can tell a lot about someone’s character by their eyes.” 

While attending Jacksonville University in Florida, she met her first husband, Walter Clark. The pair had two children, son Tracy, who has passed away, and daughter Kimberly, who lives in Marietta, Georgia.

Walter was an airline pilot who worked for National Airlines, Pan American World Airways, and then Delta Air Lines. The family lived in Hollywood, Florida, and then in Plantation. He owned a small four-seater airplane and the family flew everywhere around the country, she recalled, “with two kids and a dog.” While living in Fort Lauderdale for a time, she wrote for the “Fort Lauderdale News” for four years in the 1970s. 

Michelson later moved to Ocala and settled into a home at On Top of The World, where she joined the Lions Club. It was here that she met her second husband, Edward Michelson, a widower. They dated for 17 years before marrying in 2016. He was a graduate of the University of Florida and was a professor at Harvard for 30 years and worked for the World Health Organization in preventive medicine and biometric sciences.

“He was a brilliant gentleman,” she said of Edward, who passed away in November. In addition to Estelle, he left three daughters who live in California and Colorado. Between them, the couple has 15 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

Again using her journalistic abilities, Estelle Michelson was a writer for a small community paper and the OTOW paper for a few years. She keeps busy now with all activities of the Lions Club at OTOW, and her many friends, who stop by her home often. Her outgoing and giving nature is evident. 

“I just like to help people,” she ventured.

Michelson is enthusiastic about OTOW Lions Club activities, such as providing Thanksgiving baskets for families in the Dunnellon School District who need help during the holiday and for residents of the Ritz, a veterans’ home in Ocala. The group also provides clothes, underwear and school supplies to children in need and collects eyeglasses to be sent to people in developing countries. They offer vision examinations and a pair of eyeglasses to individuals who do not have vision insurance and who qualify for the program. 

“Just apply to your local Lions Club,” she said.

There are several Lions Clubs in Marion County, and their main focus is on children and veterans, she emphasized. To achieve their goals, they hold fundraisers during the year. Michelson said one effort her club sponsored was a “Recycle Trashy Fashion Show,” where people created outfits out of recyclable materials.

“Some were phenomenal,” she said.

Her club has also held a senior prom for senior citizens at OTOW, complete with a band and the crowning of a king and queen, and a spaghetti dinner.

They plan to hold a Casino Night event from 5-8 p.m. on April 30, at the Circle Square Cultural Center, to which the public is invited. 

“A large crowd is anticipated,” she said.

The main prize is a 65-inch smart TV. Other prizes will be awarded, including a 50-50 drawing. The $40-per-person entry fee will include light snacks and $300 in “fun money” to be spent in casino-type gaming events. 

Tickets may be purchased in advance at the OTOW Recreation Center Craft Fair, on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon; the OTOW Farmers Market on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; First Federal Bank at Circle Square, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the Ameris Bank at Heath Brook; or from any OTOW Lions Club member.

To learn more, go to ontopoftheworldinfo.com/otow-lions-club-monthly-meetings

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