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Permanent Plaque Pays Homage to Dr. Mary Fulford Green at Cortez Cultural Center


It was a beautiful day on the Suncoast when a crowd gathered at the Cortez Cultural Center on March 16, 2024, to honor the late Dr. Mary Frances Fulford Green at the unveiling of a plaque erected there in her honor. The Cortez Village Historical Society (CVHS) board of directors designed and approved the plaque that was placed on the Center in recognition of Mary’s tireless efforts to preserve the culture and history of Cortez Village.

A ceremony and reception were held with members of Mary’s family, dignitaries, Center board members, supporters, volunteers, and the public. The Center is housed in a cottage built in the1940s that was scheduled for demotion but was saved and moved by volunteers from Bradenton Beach in 2011 to its present location across the walkway bridge from The Florida Maritime Museum.

Cortez Village Historical Society board president Cynthia Rodgers made brief remarks and welcomed the crowd in attendance, which included the honorable Carol Whitmore, who served as the Mayor of Holmes Beach and was a Manatee County Commissioner, and the honorable Jane vonHamman, a member of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) board and a former Manatee County Commissioner. Carol Whitmore spoke of her long working relationship with Dr. Green and touted her remarkable tenacity and dedication to the Village and her many projects that helped to shape the Village.

Jane von Hamman also provided insight into the hard work and indomitable energy that Dr. Green brought to the Village. Remarks were read from Dr. Karla Maddox, a Cortezian and professor at Eckard College, whose doctoral dissertation, “Organizations Ensuring Resilience: A Case Study of Cortez, Florida,” heavily on Mary’s personal archives. Allen Garner, who serves on the FISH and CVHS boards and was a former member of the Manatee County Historic Preservation Board, spoke of his many years of working with Dr. Green on projects that benefitted Cortez Village and Manatee County.

Fulford Green family members in attendance included Mary’s daughter Carol Kio-Green, her niece Hazel Petree and her cousin Joanne Adams.

Dr. Mary Fulford Green was a descendant of one of the original Cortez families. In the late 1880s, her grandfather, North Carolina resident Captain Billy Fulford, and his brothers settled Cortez. She lived in her family home and is considered the “matriarch of Cortez.”

Mary was the oldest of seven children of Edith and Tink Fulford. She graduated from Bradenton High School as the class Valedictorian. She was the first of her family to go to college, graduating from Florida State College for Women (now FSU) in 1946. After majoring in biology and chemistry, she worked as a medical technologist. In January 1949, she married Benjamin C. Green, a career Air Force man with whom she had four children.

Mary earned master’s and doctoral degrees in higher education. She was a champion for women and a licensed mental health counselor, co-founding HOPE of Manatee for victims of domestic violence and serving as its director. She also served on Florida’s statewide task force on the status of women and founded WINGS, which assisted formerly incarcerated women with employment.

Mary was passionate about preserving Cortez Village, one of the few remaining working fishing villages on the west coast of Florida. She led protests to prevent Chris-Craft from building a large marina, attempted to save the Cortez trailer park and keep the post office open, and to prevent the Cortez Bridge from being replaced. She helped organize the CVHS and obtained grants for its operation, and was instrumental in the designation of Cortez on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mary was also instrumental in the creation of FISH and the purchase of the 100-acre FISH preserve. She helped turn the 1912 Cortez School into the Florida Maritime Museum and preserved the historic Burton Store. She was renowned for the strawberry shortcake that she sold every year at the Cortez Fishing Festival.

Mary was a passionate Christian and member of the Church of Christ, where she led her own ministry at Sunday school and Manatee County jail, and she was a prolific writer, penning numerous columns and articles in local media and publishing several books on Cortez including her most recent, “Grandma Read the Bible.” She even wrote her own epitaph for her death in 2022, proclaiming, “She did all she could.”

Indeed, she did.

Valeri DeCastris, BA, MS, is a Board Member of the Cortez Village Historical Society.


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