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Aug 2008 - Kathleen Hubbard McDole

Kathleen McDole Aug Moxy W.jpg

Business Executive, Organizer,
Humanitarian & Miracle League Coach

"It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan."
– Eleanor Roosevelt


Gentle Strength
By:  Maureen McDole

One thing I can say about Kathleen Hubbard McDole, she is a hard woman to pin down. After several phone calls and a meeting when she was too distracted to give me her full attention, I was close to being fed up and wanted to scrap the whole interview. Almost, as if she sensed my exasperation, she did a complete turnaround and opened herself and her life up to to me without a moment of hesitancy. I felt as if the sun itself had turned toward me. This, I realized, is part of her charm.

Kathleen is a woman who buzzes, it seems as though she has 40 thousand projects going at once and is always on her way to the latest meeting, event, or activity that she volunteers for.  Underneath this hurricane of energy, I sense a reservedness about her. Like if she had her way she would spend her days holed up in her room with a book and be perfectly happy alone. This is actually what she does in the few moments a week she allows herself for downtime. This contrast, between her active outside life and her private inner life is part of what makes her unique. When I told her that I was going to open this article with how hard she was to pin down, she said, "Yeah, a lot of people say that about me, that I am a hard person to know".  I found this interesting that she thought that what I meant by "pinning her down" was who she is on the inside, when I actually meant, physically getting time to interview her.

Kathleen is the third of eight children born to Wilson and Lorraine Hubbard. Thekathleen_1.jpg Hubbards were one of the first families to homestead on Tampa Bay's southern Gulf Islands. Her mother Lorraine would have to take her own small boat from their first house on Pine Key, which is now known as Tierra Verde, across the channel to the mainland to get the kids to school. The family moved into "Hubbardom", where her mother Lorraine still lives, on St. Pete Beach when Kathleen was eleven years old.

I asked her what it was like growing up on the beaches at that time. "We were just free, you were allowed outside and could leave the yard at age seven and could go anywhere south of the house to Pass-A-Grille. On the island I never felt afraid, we knew everyone". I began to wonder if this contributed to her sense of seeing life as having no limits. She has overcome so many obstacles in her life and she embraces life with such a lack of fear, you wonder if this is where she gets it from. 

 Photo right- Kathleen as a toddler on Pine Key

Having been a female raised in the 1950's she grew up in a household where boys were favored over the girls. She says she does not remember ever having a conversation with her father about who she was or her dreams , "He was in charge of the boys and my mother the girls".  I asked her how it was being a child in such a big family. "My father was a commercial fisherman and worked from before dawn to after dusk every day. My mother had her hands full with myself and my five brothers and two sisters. We were expected to get up, get dressed, eat and get to school".   She says she spent most of her childhood with her brother Tommy who is a year younger than her. In November of 2007, Tommy was injured while riding his bike and suffered brain damage and needs 24 hour care. Kathleen became his court appointed guardian in January 2008. She takes Tommy to church, out to eat and monitors his medication at the nursing home he lives in. Even with all the other things that she is juggling in her life, she is still watching out for him all these years later.

Kathleen with her parents and siblings (she is 5th from right)

Kathleen also spent a good part of her teenage years watching her youngest brother Mark. She used to take him everywhere with her. These days they work together in the family business, Hubbard Enterprises. Mark has become the president of the company kathleen_3.jpgas well as being the owner of Hubbard's Marina, which their grandfather founded in 1942. Kathleen ran the seafood restaurant Tommy started in 1979 for seventeen years, the Friendly Fisherman, and has since become the president of The Friendly Fisherman Restaurant LLC. Kathleen is also the marketing director of John's Pass Plaza and the special events coordinator of John's Pass Village and Boardwalk. Mark and their sisters Patricia and Jackie all work with Kathleen on a daily basis for the family business. When I asked Mark what is was like having Kathleen as a sister and business partner he replied, "As an older sister Kathy was always there for my mother to watch me and baby sit. I got to hang with my older sis and saw the world. She never made me feel unwanted. I do not ever recall a violent scene or a traumatic time. Well except for the time one of her friends chased me around on the beach on his hands and knees. That was a little weird, but I was ok with it. She is a very giving person. You can count on her to be there for you. As a business partner we have worked well together. We do not always agree on things, but we have a mutual respect and we give and take on the issues. I feel as family, the most important thing is, we make our decisions and move on. Trying not to dwell on it and be negative, which was a pleasant surprise with our family history".

Photo Above and left- Kathleen as a teenager

Growing up female in the Hubbard household was not easy, especially if you had any ambitions. "I learned to keep my head down and stay against the wall. I couldn't get a job, because woman didn't work. If you did want to work you were encouraged to be a teacher, because you had summers off and could be with your family. I never wanted to be a girl, I just wanted to be a person, because there was such a division between boys and girls in our house. The boys always seemed to have it harder, so I knew I didn't want to be like them either, but they did have much more freedom. Women were second class citizens in my house".  Once her father Wilson passed away in 1994 the dynamics in the family changed. Her mother Lorraine became CEO of the family business. Lorraine was then able to encourage and oversee expanding the family property, in ways that shekathleen_6.jpg doubts her husband would have approved, or even listened to, if he had been alive. It is amazing to look at how far the women in her family have come, in contrast to her childhood.

Photo Right- Kathleen with her mother- Lorraine

As a child, Kathleen attended St. John's School and continued on to graduate high school from Notre Dame Academy. I asked her if she was outgoing or introverted when she was younger and she said, "definitely introverted".  It is interesting since she is now a leader in everything she does. In 1970, she moved out west to San Francisco when she was just twenty-one years old, "I loved San Francisco, but I always missed home, the tropical atmosphere. We live in paradise. I grew up on a beach - on an island, what could be better than that"?  She moved back a year later and was married in 1973 to Robert McDole, with whom she had four children with: Maureen, Alicia, Samuel and Mary. The family first lived in Vero Beach and then onto Birmingham, Alabama, where Sam and Mary were born. Robert was a carpenter and they went where the work was. They moved eleven times in first eleven years of marriage. They remained in Alabama until 1984 when Kathleen and the kids moved back to her childhood home to stay with her parents, until Robert could move down. At this point the marriage was on the rocks.

kathleen_2.jpgKathleen says she took her mother's example in the beginning of her marriage and was a housewife. A part time job became necessary to help support the growing family, "I always had a part time job, I had to work weekends, or took in kids. Once I started to make enough money I realized that I could do it myself and could leave an unhappy marriage".  While living with her mother in July 1984 she got a call from her oldest brother Michael, who was running The Friendly Fisherman Restaurant at the time. "We used to have music festivals in John's Pass and the cashier had quit, he asked me to come down and fill in".  Unknown to her at the time, she had started that day, a restaurant career that would span 24 years. She worked as a cashier for two years and then the bar manager quit. Her sister Patricia recommended her for the job, to her father and brother Michael, "They said fine, until they could find someone else to run the bar, meaning a man, but they never did find someone better and I did that for two years. Then the general manager quit and once again my sister recommended me for the job. Once again my father and brother said the same thing and once again they did not find someone to replace me. I remained the general manager for 17 years until Dec 2007".  Once general manager, Kathleen took the restaurant from making $300,000 a year in 1990 to almost 4 million in 2003. Not to0 bad for a woman who supposed to only be "temporary".

Photo Left- Kathleen and her grandmother Anna Hubbard in front of her restaurant at the time, The Dinner Bell, in Pass-A-Grille, FL. 

I asked her what it was like in the early years having to work in a male dominated environment, which had mimicked her life as a child, "I had a lot of ideas and I always would have to go around them (the men) to get it done. I couldn't even hang a picture without their approval. So I focused on quality, cleanliness and the standards of the restaurant. It had a very minimalist old Florida decor, which made it easy for me to accomplish this".

Running The Friendly Fisherman Restaurant for 17 years as the general manager is one of  Kathleen's great accomplishments, but the one she considers her greatest, is raising four children on her own after her divorce. Her youngest daughter Mary was just 6 months old when she went to work for her brother as a cashier. When asked how she thinks her kids felt about her having to work all the time, "They hated it, but they knew we had no choice".  There is a sense that she regrets all the time she had to spend at work, especially with all of them being so young at the time. She had to rely on her older daughters Maureen and Alicia to pick up the slack at home. She had various family members watch the children while she worked long hours. I asked Mary, now 24, what she thinks of her mother, "I remember when my brother and I were little my mother always played the Florida Lottery, so Sam and I would ask why she played the lottery every week, when we don't care about money? She said if she won the lottery she would open a home for children or teens who were kicked out or abused. My mother is the most selfless person I have ever known".  Alicia, Kathleen's middle daughter, who is 32, echoes these sentiments, "My mother has always been my hero since as far back as I can remember. She raised 4 children on her own while working a full time job running akathleen_9.jpg restaurant and as Jane Sellman once pointed out "The phrase "working mother" is redundant." She is the only person I have ever known who always thinks of other people first and often gives up what she would like or wants in order to do so. She takes care of everyone around her without even thinking why or how...because she cannot help but do so, it is innate. She has the purest heart of anyone I've ever met and every day I remind myself to be more like her".

Photo Right- Kathleen with granddaughter- Lily

I asked her what she tried to teach her children and she said, "Be happy with what you have. Work hard for what you want and never miss an opportunity to travel".  This seems to sum up the way she lives her own life. "I also feel it is very important to keep your sense of wonder about life".  This is easy for Kathleen to be reminded of, since her granddaughter Lily was born in 2006. She finds the time she spends with Lily to be the most wonderful experiences of her life right now. The two of them seem to have their own language and it is obvious that they see the world with the same sense of excitement and joy. No one in the room seems to exist when they are around one another.

Photo Above- Kathleen with her 4 children- younger years

After working as the general manager of The Friendly Fisherman for several years, Kathleen started to get involved in the community to promote the restaurant. In 2006 she became President of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce. Missy Hahn who is currently the Membership Director for Florida Barter, worked with Kathleen at the Chamber. I asked her what she thought of Kathleen both as a business woman and as a friend, "Kathleen is a force to be reckoned with. When she makes up her mind about something, do not disagree.  I have known Kathleen as a friend for years, and worked with her while I was president and she was Chairperson of the Chamber. Kathleen is loyal, kind and compassionate. She is a trustworthy individual when in you are in need. She is the first person to lend a hand when you are in need and the last person to talk about it. I am proud to call her my friend".  This loyalty and respect towards Kathleen seems to extend not only within own family, but also into the community with the associations she has made over the years. Everyone I spoke to about her said she is a very strong woman, but also so compassionate and helpful when the chips are down. It takes a special kind of grace to be a person who is not too hard, or too soft. Kathleen seems to have found the perfect balance between the two.

2006 also led Kathleen to become president of the Kiwanis Club of the Gulf Beaches. She still had one child living at home, while still running The Friendly Fisherman Restaurant and the Gulf Beaches Chamber of Commerce. Alan Dill who was thekathleen_7.jpg president of Kiwanis Club of the Gulf Beaches in 2007, met Kathleen in the eighties while he was a photographer at The John's Pass Seafood Festivals. Under his presidency and with the help of Kathleen and other members, the Kiwanis Club of Gulf Beaches, was recognized as the 2006-2007 Florida District Club of the Year. I asked Alan to say a few words about Kathleen, "I have always admired Kathleen McDole from the first day I met her and I'm happy to say she is one of my best friends. She has the ability to be strong and gentle at the same time - something I call "Gentle Strength." I am amazed how much she does for the community, her business, her family, her Kiwanis and still have time for herself. Her love for all children and her need to make a difference in their lives is maybe her greatest asset. Without Kathleen there would not be a Kiwanis Club of the Gulf Beaches as she is the string that ties it all together. Kathleen is one of the most outstanding people I have ever met and I love her dearly".

 Photo Above and Right- Kathleen receives award pin from Lt. Governor, Ray Watson in 2006

Kathleen helped the Kiwanis secure a grant from Pinellas County Parks and Recreation to start Miracle League at Azalea Little League Park. This is one cause she feels very strongly about. Every Saturday morning during the fall and spring season, she coaches. After working all week long, juggling multiple jobs, volunteering, helping to take care of her brother Tommy and being active within her own family, she still finds time to coach kids desperately in need of a little fun. I asked her where her need to help all of these people comes from. She says, "I guess it was my catholic upbringing- you give to others. I felt responsible. I never wanted to be a leader, or had an agenda. I guess I also really wanted to impress my mom".   I asked her mother Lorraine what she thought about Kathleen a few months ago and she mentioned how big her heart was. She appreciated how you never had to worry that anything would be held over your head if you needed her help and she was such a wonderful giving person, so kind. Being one of eight children it is hard to get attention from such an in demand mother, but it seems that Lorraine has noticed what Kathleen has been doing and is very impressed with who her daughter has become.


Photo Above- Kathleen helping a youngster bat at miracle League- March, 2007

kathleen_10.jpgKathleen is about to begin a new phase in her life. Soon she will be leaving the family business behind and forging a new path. There is no sense from her that she will be retiring or hanging up her coat. Oh no, she dreams of traveling the world, or going to live on a sailboat, or opening a little shop. For the first time, since she left home to move to San Francisco when she was twenty, her life is wide open. She sees her future full of art and travel. I asked her what she has seen in her life that has been the greatest change for women. She replied that it is the acceptance that women can be anybody they want to be. This MOXY woman has shown the world just that. Kathleen is a powerful example to women everywhere, it does not matter what circumstances you faced as a child, they can be overcome and, in her case, Kathleen did it all with her "Gentle Strength". 


Photo left- Kathleen Traveling in Japan 


"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength"

 ~ St. Francis de Sales

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