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Obits St. Lucie

Lace Kitterman Vitunac


Lace Kitterman Vitunac , daughter of the late Emily and Dr. Peter G. Kitterman of Fort Pierce, died peacefully April 22, at age 93, surrounded by her children. Lace was born in Chicago in 19 24. Her family spent the winters in Fort Pierce so that her father, who was a medical doctor injured by a gas attack in France in WWI, might, with warmer weather, recover. Lace attended White City Elementary School and Fort Pierce High School half the year and schools in Chicago the other half. The even drier air of the American West was an inducement for the family to move El Paso, Texas, in the late 1930s, where Lace became an accomplished bareback horse rider, and a crack shot with a rifle. After high school she attended what is now the University of Texas, El Paso, where she was honored to be the Homecoming Queen, before graduating in 1943, at age eighteen. After college Lace became a journalist with the El Paso Herald-Post, with one of her assignments being to interview a B-17 navigator, Army Air Force Lt . Walter Vitunac, just back from his two-years service in the South Pacific. The interview went so well that they were married less than a year later, in 1944, and remained so for 67 years, until Walter, then a retired USAF Colonel, died in 2011.

Lace’s family includes her sister Abigail Collins of Abilene, Texas, daughter Karen Martin, retired Circuit Judge of the 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida, Karen’s predeceased husband, Capt. Douglas Martin, US AF fighter pilot, killed in action in Cambodia, son Charles Vitunac, retired County & City Attorney for Indian River County and the City of Vero Beach, Charles’ wife Suzanne Hunter Vitunac, retired Environmental Lawyer for the Indian River County Health Department, daughter Ann Vitunac, retired U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of Florida, Ann’s husband Tony Yanketis, retired Special Agent for the FBI, granddaughter Jessica Gabbard, USDA Animal Health Technician, granddaughter Caroline Gabbard, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Inspector, grandson Douglas Vitunac, partner in the Vero Beach Law Firm of Collins, Brown, granddaughter Andrea Langstroth, Marketing Manager for SunTrust Bank, Andrea’s husband Blair Langstroth, Executive Director for J.P. Morgan, and great-granddaughter Vivienne Langstroth, who, at age two, is just learning English.

Lace and Walter were stationed at some ten different bases in the Air Force including six years out of the country, in Germany and Japan. Usually, Walter would have to move immediately to a new assignment and it would be Lace’s responsibility to get the children and household to the new home. In spite of all this Lace found time to act in the first Sandy Shoes Festival in Ft. Pierce in which she played, appropriately, “Miss Lacey” in “Along These Waters,” earn a Master’s Degree in English from Miami University-Oxford, and be a teacher at Rhein Main AFB, Germany, Dan McCarty High School in Ft. Pierce and Johnson High School near Tokyo.

After Col. Vitunac’s retirement as Commander of Cape Kennedy Air Force Station in 1971, Lace and Walter retired to Ft. Pierce where they started a small ranch and tree farm. Their concern in the 1970s that Florida’s birds and animals were suffering from a loss of natural habitat convinced Lace and Walter to “do something.” The result is that they became in 1972 two of the seven founding members of the St. Lucie County Conservation Alliance, which still to this day is one of the finer organizations dedicated to preserving the land and wildlife of St. Lucie County. Lace and Walter were proud that the Alliance played a major part in saving from development what are now Fort Pierce Inlet State Park and the Savannas Preserve State Park. It is fitting that Lace’s last day, April 22, happened to be Earth Day.

A memorial service will be held at Yates Funeral Home, Pt. St. Lucie, on Saturday, May 12, 2018, gathering at 2:30. Lace will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery alongside Walter. If anyone wishes, in lieu of flowers a contribution to the Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County in her name would be something she would appreciate. Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 121515, Fort Pierce, Fl 34979 or made online at the Alliance’s website.

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