Friday, December 3, 2021

New Horizons

Coastal Comments

Photos by Steve Stefanides

Last week, I knew that a few people were going to have a little retirement party for me, which I thought was so very nice. The day was saved, and I planned what to wear—no, my personal attendant Marian Harris wasn’t here to help—so I just picked something out and I asked a girlfriend if she would ride over with me, and she said she’d drive with another lady also hitching a ride with us and told me to be at her house by 5:30. At 4 PM, there was a loud—and I do mean LOUD—knock at my front door. I wasn’t expecting anyone, but after asking and checking I opened the door to Bo Middlebrook from Isles of Capri, saying he was taking me to the event. I said that was nice, but I’m already going with a few ladies, and he said “No! that is my job.” So, I called them to say I will see them there; Bo was picking me up. I hopped—maybe I shouldn’t say “hopped,” because I climbed—into his truck and off we went, and that is when I found out he was taking us to the Marco Island Airport! Why…? He said that was part of the party; and who was there? Jennifer Edwards, our beloved supervisor of elections! 

Well, Jennifer and I have been friends for over 30 years, so I thought that was a great idea, and from there the adventure slipped into high gear! We circled Marco Island, the shoreline of Marco, Goodland and Capri, and then circled around to see East Naples! I got to see all of my wonderful District from the air and it was delightful. The owner of the airplane and his pilot—although both are pilots—were our “tour guides,” and we couldn’t have had a more delightful trip to start our Retirement Party than this! Between Kim Mitchel and Litha Berger, they dream up the most creative parties! Then, as we left the airport for the parking lot, we found a sixth member—the Sheriff’s motorcycle escort awaiting us to get us safely to our next destination: Mango’s on the Bay on Marco Island! Expecting us were many people, all good friends, fantastic—and I do mean fantastic—food, music, and a Master of Ceremony for even more festivities. I was so happy to see Stef there too, by the way. I wish I could name everyone, but there just isn’t enough room or time, other than to say they were such terrific people! What a beautiful send-off! Thanks so much again. I know there were a few that couldn’t attend because of COVID, but they would have if they could. Thank you to everyone who attended or who wanted to attend but had to stay at home because of the circumstances, or to Shirlee who was still out of town and couldn’t get back in time. Then afterward, the girls who were supposed to pick me up took me home. 

Photos by Steve Stefanides

*So many ask if I’m excited to be retiring, and I honestly have to say NO. I’ve loved this job and the people I have worked with, and the people I’ve had the privilege to help and serve. That’s the best part of the job! And no matter which community needed me, it always made me feel a part of them. Each with their own needs, some more than others, but all truly needed to be heard and helped! No, I’m not excited to leave, but after 20 years I felt it was time to move on. What will I do now? Well, I was invited and have accepted to serve on the Friends of Rookery Bay board. I’ve always admired what they do for the 10,000 Islands, the estuaries, and the environment, so I was very pleased to have been asked. Then the Bayshore CRA is moving to create a new committee for the arts. The United Arts Council and the Bayshore Cultural and Performing Arts Center are planning to “marry,” or consolidate. I had been a part of the original Center for the Arts committee many years ago, so I was delighted to accept! I happened to wear one of my Bayshore Arts Festival T-Shirts from 2010, although I was just doing it to have fun, never thinking this was about to happen! I had no inkling or idea they were planning on announcing they were consolidating/marrying each other! And actually, I’m no artist nor even have a talent in the arts; I just really appreciate them immensely. The good thing is, when you have no talent, you don’t have a firm idea of how things should be run, so you like all ideas and have none of your own! AND… no artwork! That helps also. 

Finally, my final investment of time would be to participate in Lely High School! This is a school that doesn’t get the credit they deserve, nor the funding, and I’d like to help them get recognition. Lots of Marco students go to Lely because of some of the Lely classes, like the Flight School, the Engineering Courses leading to preparedness for College, the Medical program giving classes on types of medical careers they could pursue, and preparing them to make a decision for College, an Economics class preparing them for their future, etc. I was so impressed when I went to that school and saw what great things they do for the students. AND of course, all 5 of my kids went to Lely—my oldest daughter being in the first graduating class in 1975, but started out at Naples High School half sessions and split in January for full-time classes at Lely. I’ve been watching their Swim Team form with its own pool now, and worked with a few teachers and volunteers who are devoted to the Lely students. I was surprised to see how the school had grown and expanded and added classrooms and teachers, etc. The Principal is an outstanding person who is truly there for the kids! The kids are well behaved and all seem to enjoy being together in school, and Adam Peterson, the swim coach and teacher who works closely with the students, is a great proponent for these young, upcoming stars of the future. I want to be a part of this great group at Lely who are students from Marco, Capri, Fiddlers, Goodland, East Naples, Lely Resort, etc., and I thank them for allowing me to be a part of their success.

*I went to the Naples Botanical Garden the other day to meet with their Executive Director, Donna McGinnis, to see their newest presentation for this coming season called Roots. This newest exhibit will be on display for all to see through the Christmas Season and our “high season.” The Gardens surrounding these pieces of art looked splendid! COVID didn’t seem to affect them at all! I saw some plants and colors I’ve never seen before, like the Beauty Berry! It’s so unusual! I can’t even begin to explain how much the Garden has grown, and what gorgeous colors are everywhere. You’ll want to make arrangements to go soon, especially because there still are limitations for how many people can be in the garden at one time. That nasty old COVID is still sneaking around, even though it’s on its last legs, so they want to make sure our residents and visitors stay safe. “The Other Donna” is so excited about the new things they have added or upgraded. We even had lunch in their “little cottage.” I promise you; you’ll be so happy you made the effort to go. And the surrounding area continues to upgrade as well! You are seeing a transformation taking place right before your eyes! It’s really odd that two groups are featuring “roots” at this very time—the Botanical Garden display of “Roots,” and also a design on all the brochures at the Rookery Bay Estuarine signifying the Mangroves they protect for the estuaries throughout their 10,000 Islands preserve. 

Oh yes, and on Saturday, November 14th, The Friends of Rookery Bay will hold their 2nd Annual Car Show from 9 AM to 2 PM at the Environmental Learning Center. The event will showcase pre-1930 Antiques, 40s, 50s Classics and 70s Muscle Cars. Food Trucks will be on site. Shuttles will run continuously to and from Walmart. Spectators will have to pay $10, those under 12 get in free. Car Registration is $25. For more information, visit or call 239-530-5972.

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