Thursday, December 29, 2011

MSO represents at slain officer's funeral

Among the more than 4,000 people who mourned slain Lakeland Police Officer Arnulfo Crispin last Tuesday were Manatee Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard members Lieutenants John Murrell and Lorenzo Waiters, Deputies Damon Ackerman, Anthony Brown and David Byington, as well as Detectives Darryl Davis and Jason Carey. The MSO motorcycle unit, Sgt. Mike Kenyan and Deputies Cyril Niklinski and Mathew Hall, was also there.

The honorable Ed Price is 94 Sunday. May he stay forever young.

Big ups to Rachel Brown. The Bradenton Christian senior hoopster broke 1,000 points for her BCS scoring career in the Smoothie King Classic.

The 13th annual Manatee Hurricanes Baseball Steakout & Reunion is Feb. 3 at McKechnie Field. Call head coach Dwayne Strong at 725-2293. Or Bruce Braithwaite at 720-9224.

Tracey Vita is 39. Again.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A most 'Merry-Okee' Christmas, indeed

It's funny what presents make a family's Christmas memorable.

Our family exchanged a lot of gifts over Saturday and Sunday.

Artwork. Books. CDs. Clothing. Jewelry. Wine.

There was plenty of love that went around.

A lot of laughs, too.

Especially because of something called a "Merry-Okee."

My sister-in-law brought it to the family's Christmas Eve gift exchange and it was the hit of the party.

Made by Hallmark, it's a battery-operated Christmas toy karaoke microphone advertised to "Change your voice to sound like an ELF!"

Well, I don't know about elfs, but we sure sounded like a bunch of Munchkins from the "Wizard of Oz."

The package also says, for "Ages 3-and-up."


We hadn't had anything to drink yet, either.

Each of us took turns and some of us sang on it together.

Not that I'd call it singing.

Either way, we had a blast with Merry-Okee and laughed so much our stomachs hurt.

It was fun.

So much fun, in fact, when my wife, mother-in-law and sister-in-law went shopping for holiday bargains Monday, they also snapped up enough Merry-Okees so every member of the family has one for next year.

Our Christmases may never be the same.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Two youngsters gone way too soon

First Brett Wagner.

Then Joshua Rogers.

Two 18-year-olds, best friends, Lakewood Ranch High School seniors ready to take the next great step in their young lives, gone.

Taken after a tragic vehicular accident at Rye Road and State Road 64.

On Christmas night.

My God.

Wagner died at the scene.

Rogers, Tuesday at Blake Medical Center.

Only Terron Sanders, Wagner's cousin and a passenger in the truck, survived.

Only he wore a seat belt.

If only ...

They were headed to Walmart on S.R. 64, the west side of Interstate 75 when their truck was struck by another vehicle, causing it to roll, ejecting both Wagner and Rogers.

At a time of year when people should be sharing in the joyous afterglow of a truly blessed holiday, two Myakka City families will each be preparing to bury a son.


How unbelievably sad.

Pray for them.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas heroism resonates 50 years later

George Leonard was a cop for 22 years in New Jersey.
You name it he did it. Did it proudly, too.
Starting youth programs.
Working undercover narcotics.
Assisting needy families.
"I always wanted to help other people," said the 71-year-old Union City, N.J., native and Bradenton retiree. "Be there for kids like I was raised. Help them get through life."
Or help save a precious life.
Leonard did that almost 50 years ago.
How appropriate for Christmas.
"I was at the right place at the right time," he said, sifting through old newspaper accounts, brown with age, of what happened Dec. 23, 1962.
"People use the word hero a lot," said Joan Gates, a Tampa executive and the elder of Leonard’s two daughters. "But he is what a hero should be."

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Supporters seek assist for Tiger banquet

Palmetto High supporters need an assist for the Jan. 18 awards banquet at the Bradenton Yacht Club for the Class 5A state semifinalist and District 10 champion Tigers.
Call Chris Atkinson at 224-3478. Or Jim Amerson at 737-6600.

Oh, no! Janie Mo (Simpson) Ribley hit the Big 3-0!
Pepi, Jodie, Joey, Jennifer, Adam, Jane and Jim say, “You go, girl!”

A deep bow to Carol, Diane, Lin, Lois, Phyllis and Sandy, the wonderful women who wrapped thousands of gifts over the last few weeks for us holiday shoppers at Beall’s, 6355 Manatee Ave.

Enjoyed a good laugh with Paul Stander, who greeted each customer courteously at the Palmetto Post Office on 7th Street West during the holiday crush.
When Stander spotted the addresses of the Christmas cards I was mailing --- both were going to Ireland --- he smiled.
“We happen to have a one-day special,” he said. “For $1,200 I’ll deliver them in person.”
Then I pointed out one of the cards was going to a pub in County Kerry.
“That’s $50 off!” he joked.

Read more in Friday's Vin's People on

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All done with your Christmas shopping?

Got your Christmas shopping done?

It was a simple question in passing with an acquaintance, but it gave me pause.

Yes, I answered.

I'm all done.

I think.

Made a stop Tuesday for a couple of things that ought to do it.

Actually started shopping more than a month ago and worked my way along from there.

Did some at lunch, some after work and a time or two on the weekends.

All of it's for my wife.

Got some of the presents wrapped, but still have a few left to do.

Wrapping presents isn't my bag.

Which is why those women who wrap presents at Beall's have earned my undying gratitude and respect.

They can make the humblest gift look like a million bucks after they're done with the ribbons and bows.

Of course, come Christmas morning I'll tell Sherri I did it.

Maybe not.

She knows better.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The roar grew louder and louder with 22 seconds remaining on the Citrus Bowl scoreboard.
It began to reach a crescendo as thousands of deliriously happy Manatee High School faithful, jammed into the stadium's lower east stands, counted down with the clock:
" ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... YEEEAAAAAAAAAAY!"
When the clock hit :00, a wave of Manatee Hurricane stampeded the field.
Players danced and cavorted around and around, overcome with joy, trailed by coaches who shook hands and hugged at the team's magnificent accomplishment.
The Manatee High School Hurricanes were the 2011 Class 7A state champs.
How sweet does that sound?
State champs.
"It's DYNOMITE," cried Tiki Jackson, waving pompons from the stands.
State champs.
"It sounds so great," said City Councilman Gene Gallo, beaming on the field. "I wish I could sign a a parade permit tonight."
State champs.
"It's beautiful," said coach Eddie Shannon, as the celebration swept around the team's patriarch.
Hurricane players bunched up, helmets held high, mugging for the cameras at the 35-yard line, thrusting their index fingers into the night.
Nearby, Debbie Krowe fought back tears.
"This is their time," said the Shake Pit owner, whose marquee on Manatee Avenue is must viewing for Bradenton.
"'State champs' is going up on the sign tonight!" she said. "Tonight!"
Up in the stands, so many wanted to join the celebration, but the security folks lining the field on the east side prevented that.
Regardless, there were a lot of good vibes emanating from the crowd.
Among them was Sean Smith, who played fullback for the Hurricanes when they lost to Tampa Plant on this same field two years ago.
"It's so excitrting, I want to be out on that field myself, playing," said the University of Central Florida sophomore. "I feel the love for all of them."
So did Casey Kraft, another Manatee alum and now a University of Florida.
"I wish this could've happend my junior year, but I'm glad I came back," she said. "This is so unbelievable."
Which was a common sentiment throughout the crowd as the Hurricanes steamrolled previously unbeaten Jacksonville First Coast and shut out the Bucs to boot.
Corey Gallian, yet another MHS alum among a throng of grads back for the big game.
Several of them had their faces painted in red, white and blue.
"I cant believe this!" he yelled above the din.
Believe it.
Drakkar Wilson did.
Like Smith, he's a former Hurricane who played in the same state championship game two years ago.
"Them boys earned it," said the Eastern Kentucky University defensive lineman. "I feel like I'm out there, too."
Don Keller, whose son, Blake, had a huge game Friday night, recovering a fumble for a TD, was happy for another reason, too.
Blake wears No. 55, the same number worn by his late grandfather, Dan Keller, a ferocious player for Manatee in his day.
"I know Dad's proud and happy, sitting up there in Heaven," said the photographer.
It was a heavenly night for the Manatee Hurricanes, indeed.
State champion Manatee Hurricanes.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The jewelry box was on a living room end table.

Inside it was a blue ribbon, neatly arranged and attached to an inverted five-pointed gold medal that looked like an upside down Sheriff's star from the Old West.

It was the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest award for valor in combat.

It took my breath away.

It belonged to Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy, then a retired Chicago firefighter living out his life in Delray Beach and one of 27 Marine Medal of Honor recipients from the bloody February 1945 invasion of Iwo Jima.

No military engagement in our nation's history produced more such distinguished men.

What brings it to mind is Wednesday's news that Marine corporal Dakota Meyer's heroism in Afghanistan in September 2009, which won him a Medal of Honor two years later, may have been exaggerated by Marine brass.

Meyer, 23, was recognized by President Obama for driving twice into an ambush in Afghanistan against orders. He is said to have saved 13 U.S. soldiers and almost twice that many Afghan soldiers, while killing eight insurgents as he fought to recover the bodies of four comrades.

But is it true?

According to an investigation of dozens of military documents by McClatchy Newspapers, which owns the Bradenton Herald, "crucial parts that the Marine Corps publicized and Obama described are untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ban on texting drivers makes sense

Texting while driving?

That some of our state lawmakers are talking about coming up with a ban on the practice makes sense to me.

I have difficulty answering my cellphone while I'm driving without being distracted.

I don't know how other motorists can keep their minds on the road and text at the same time.

I wouldn't even try.

Too dangerous.

The debate is whether the proposed ban would make roads safer --- and if it's an intrusion on our personal liberty.

I vote yes on the first part.

I've had people bump into me at the supermarket and step on me at outdoor concerts because they were so engrossed with their texting.

I shudder to think about what could happen when they're behind the wheel.

Which brings me to the other point:

As for it being an intrusion on one's personal liberty?


I know when I'm driving along US 301 and I see the driver next to me texting, I want to put as much distance between us ASAP.

I don't want that driver intruding on my space while he's paying more attention to texting than driving.

Florida is one of 15 states without a ban on texting while driving, even though more people admit to the habit and support a law that would deter it.

Thirty-five states have texting bans on all drivers. Other states have added restrictions for groups, such as bus drivers and teens.

Florida has no such ban.

“It’s time that we caught up with the rest of the nation,” one Florida lawmaker said.

Here, here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lots of luck to Manatee, Palmetto

Manatee High senior Nikita Bellinger will sing our national anthem at Hawkins Stadium tonight before Manatee’s Class 7A state semifinal showdown with Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer.
Good luck from mom Althea, sisters Dee Dee, April, Stacy, Chris, Big Ben, Amber, Nick and Aunt Francine as well as her other aunts, uncles and supporters at Palmetto’s St. James AME Church.
Go, Canes!

And go, you Palmetto Tigers in tonight’s Class 5A state semifinal against Miami Norland at Harllee Stadium.

Big Daddy will rock Clancy’s at 10 p.m. Dec. 23 — bet Santa’s there — and then help ring in 2012 at Tarpon Point on New Year’s Eve.

Jessica and Tony Velazquez named daughter Kynnda’s new baby brother Kaden Antonio. Grands Robert and Linda Boone are proud.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Folks, don't try this at home

This could only happen to me.

Or can you relate?

I got home Wednesday morning after my daily trip to the gym and parked the pickup in our garage.

I grabbed my water bottle, which I refill and put in the garage fridge, and my truck keys as I got out.

For some reason, I thought better of it and slipped the keys back into the ignition.

Then I locked the door and closed it all in one motion.

Ever had one of those moments where you dumbly stare at something and say to yourself, "Did I just do what I think I did?"


A tug on the door handle was all I needed to confirm as much.


Even better was the realization my spare set of keys was ... inside the truck, too.

After a brief panic attack, I called AAA and explained my predicament.

Help will be at the house by 10 a.m., I was told.

Cool. Could've been worse, given my stupidity.

So I took a quick shower and was toweling off when the doorbell rang.

Can't be.

I opened the door.

It was!

AAA locksmith Jeff "Whiskey" Harrell was on the scene.

Not 10 minutes had gone by since my phone call.

Man, I told him, that's what I call service.

Harrell said he was in the neighborhood when he got the message.

Then we went into the garage, he popped the lock, and I was good to go.

Wednesday was getting off to a good start afterall.

Monday, December 5, 2011

'Where the heck is Manatee County?'

Imagine this happening last Friday night.
Minutes into their euphoria over advancing to the FHSAA state semifinals, players at both Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer and Miami Norland probably asked their coaches, teammates and parents:
"Where is Manatee County?"
"What is Bradenton Manatee?"
"Isn't Palmetto High in South Dade?"
Oh, yeah.
Bet that happened a lot last Friday night after Dwyer's Panthers beat St. Thomas Aquinas in their region final in Palm Beach Gardens.
Ditto for Norland after the Vikings stunned unbeaten Glades Central on the powerful Raiders home field in Belle Glade.
And now they're coming here.
Welcome, y'all.
Dwyer's upperclassmen may be a bit more familiar with this side of the state, having played Plant and Armwood in the playoffs in years past.
They've probably made that long road trip across SR 60 a few times.
This trip will be a little different.
Come Friday they'll probably bus up SR 710 out of Palm Beach County, hang a left on SR 70 in Okeechobee and keep on going west.
Right at that flashing light at Brighton, they might see the sign that reads:
Bradenton 97 miles.
As their team buses barrel across SR 70 --- watch out for the state troopers in Highlands County! -- those kids will see all that Old Florida country we love and wonder, where in the heck are we going?
Norland's team will probably come across Alligator Alley then turn north on I-75 and wonder the same thing.
I really doubt if any of the Vikings have ever even been to these parts.
They'll be coming to a place where high school football is rock-ribbed and still holds sway over our lives every fall.
I spent 23 years on that other coast and after 14 years here, I still love telling people who ask me what Bradenton and Manatee County is like:
It's the kind of place where the high school football game is still the big deal on Friday nights.
None are bigger than this Friday night with two state semifinals at stadiums 15 minutes apart.
Here's hoping for two good games and another week of football for Manatee and Palmetto.
And thanks to Dwyer and Norland for visiting.
After Manatee's region final win at Hawkins Stadium, I shook hands with a lot of the Fort Pierce Central fans and wished them all a safe trip home.
I look forward to doing it again this Friday night.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Good riddance to another hurricane season

There wasn’t much hoopla.

No celebrating or anything close to it.

Maybe a solitary raised fist when the date Nov. 30 finally arrived on the calendar last Wednesday.

It was the end of hurricane season.


Florida went unscathed for the sixth straight year and that’s a beautiful thing.

After the beating we took in 2004 and 2005, none of us take hurricane season lightly.

When June 1 rolls around now, six months of dread ensues.

Anytime another system is brewing in the Atlantic, all eyes were on the horizon.

Traffic to the hurricane websites goes off the charts, too.

We load up on water at the store and have our plywood at the ready.

Prepare for battle stations!

So when we reach Dec. 1 without a tropically-related incident, that is definitely something to be happy about.

Although I can’t speak for everybody.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rock with Big Daddy, Santa on Sunday

Like good foot stompin’ rock-n-roll and a visit with Santa Claus, too?
Then head over to Woody’s River Roo, 5717 18th St. E., Ellenton, Sunday where Big Daddy will get the joint jumping at 1 p.m.
They’ll also be bringing along some Christmas cheer for the kids.
Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elves will arrive at 3 p.m. for free photos and fun for the family.
Call 722-2391.

Beloved Jeanne Parrish is 93. May she stay forever young.

The new all-weather turf at Ohio’s North Canton Memorial Stadium’s was named Don Hertler Sr. Field this season. The Imperial Lakes winter resident coached Hoover High for 20 years, leading the Vikings to a 163-43-3 record.

Say it ain’t so! Kenny Terrell hit the Big 7-0!

Manasota ARC and The Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County will salute the "10 Magnetic Men of Manatee," 6 p.m. Saturday at a Diamond Jubilee fundraiser at the Bradenton Auditorium, 1005 Barcarrota Blvd.
The irresistible honorees are Dr. John Ayres, State Sen. Mike Bennett, Jim Butler, Dan Callaghan, Bruce Cassidy Sr., Dr. Richard Fletcher, Scott Kallins, Hugh Miller, Billy Rice and Dr. Andy Varga.
Call Dawn Mishler at 941-518-4997.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on