Gothbergs & McNabbs

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Vera Amsberry Gothberg was born in 1906, in North Dakota. After getting a degree in education from Minot State College, she taught at rural schools in North Dakota and Montana, where she met her husband, Edward Gothberg. They had a daughter named Florence in 1929, and eventually made their way down to Alabama.[1] Florence excelled at Alabama Polytechnic Institute at Auburn, becoming president of the Women’s Athletic Association in 1949, and winning an award for being an outstanding women’s physical education major. In the Women’s Athletic Association, Florence participated in the group’s annual water ballet as a feature member. After graduating in 1950, Florence became a Weeki Wachee mermaid, where she met her husband, Charles McNabb.[2]

Born in Illinois in 1927, Charles  moved to Florida inthe 1940s, where he got a job as a merman and scuba diver at Weeki Wachee Springs.[3] The couple bonded over their shared interest of swimming, and often joined competitions together.[4] Florence and Charles married on February 24, 1951, in Alabama. Fellow mermaid Ginger Stanley, best known for her stunt work in The Creature from the Black Lagoon, was among the bridesmaids.[5]






Not long after, Vera and Edward joined their daughter in Weeki Wachee, becoming the owners of the Mermaid Motel across the street from Weeki Wachee. They also owned the Weeki Wachee Motor Lodge, a trailer park where many Weeki Wachee mermaids lived. They owned the motel until 1966, when Holiday Inn purchased the site and built a larger hotel.

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Florence had two sons in the 1950s, David and Michael, was promoted to mermaid supervisor by 1960, and worked a second job as a teacher at Hernando High School. Charles became a pilot for the State of Florida Bureau of Aircraft in 1962, traveling back and forth from Tallahassee to visit his wife and children. On June 23rd, 1963, at the end of one of these visits, Florence was driving the family to the airport to drop off Charles when a drunk driver hit their vehicle.[6] Florence passed away minutes after reaching Lykes Memorial Hospital, her five-year-old son Michael passed away the following Tuesday, while Charles and David spent the next six months recovering.[7] A scholarship was created in her memory and Vera spent the next 20 years volunteering over 27,000 hours at Lykes Memorial Hospital (now Brooksville Regional Hospital) in her daughter’s honor.[8]

In 2006, merman Jeredan Bibler was treasure hunting in Weeki Wachee Springs in between performance. As he sifted through the sand, looking for RC Cola bottles that the mermaids used to drink from, he found a silver anklet with the inscription ‘Charlie’ on one side and ‘Florence’ on the other side. Jeredan took the anklet to former mermaids Barbara Wynns and Vicki Smith for identification. Vicki recognized the anklet right away, as she had Florence McNabb as a gym teacher in high school and then swam with her at Weeki Wachee Springs. Charles had purchased the anklet for Florence after their engagement and the piece of jewelry had fallen off during one of her mermaid performances.[9]

Over a decade after the anklet’s reappearance, more artifacts were recovered at the 2019 Weeki Wachee history harvest. Florence’s other child, David, passed away in the 2010s. One of his close friends was left to clean out David’s house, where they stumbled upon a large box full of ephemera related to Florence and her parents. This friend felt the artifacts were important and held onto them for years until his daughter heard about the history harvest. He entrusted his daughter with the box, and she donated everything to the Friends of Weeki Wachee Springs. Inside were photographs of Florence as a mermaid and ones with her family, an original menu from Weeki Wachee’s Patio Restaurant, Weeki Wachee Springs souvenirs and postcards, along with artifacts from the Mermaid Motel.


[1] “Vera Gothberg,” Williston Herald,August 11, 2003, last accessed January 10, 2021 Vera Gothberg | Obituaries |

[2] Chandra Broadwater, “Recovered Charm a Link to a Life and Past Love,” Tampa Bay Times, May 31, 2006, last accessed January 10, 2021 Recovered charm a link to a life and past love (

[3] “Charles McNabb,” Citrus County Chronicle, April 12, 2012.

[4] “Charles McNabb Wins Skin Divers Hunt,” The Tampa Tribune, September 20, 1954, last accessed January 10, 2021, 20 Sep 1954, 17 - The Tampa Tribune at

[5] “Gothberg-McNabb,” The Tampa Tribune, March 2, 1951, last accessed January 10, 2021, 02 Mar 1951, 17 - The Tampa Tribune at

[6] Broadwater, “Recovered Charm a Link to Life and Past Love.”

[7] LaVerne Rosier, “Boy is Second Victim in Brooksville Mishap,” Tampa Bay Times, June 25, 1963, last accessed January 10, 2021, 25 Jun 1963, 8 - Tampa Bay Times at

[8] Wanda Kirby, “Hours of Cheerful Service Sprang from a Personal Tragedy,” Tampa Bay Times, March 9, 1980, last accessed January 10, 2021, 09 Mar 1980, 241 - Tampa Bay Times at

[9] Broadwater, “Recovered Charm a Link to Life and Past Love.”

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Gothbergs & McNabbs