Monday, December 30, 2013

Starting project not on New Year's Resolution list

Got going on a project that wasn't a New Year's Resolution.
That is, cleaning out my study.
Or "purging," as my wife put it as she made like a whirlwind going through her side of our walk-in closet. Since it's not wide enough for both of us to go cleaning out at the same time -- 300 Hawaiian shirts take up a lot of room -- I got busy on another room that needed it.
The fact the book case was buckling under the weight of all the books I'd stacked on it was a good sign that was the place to start.
Took me part of Saturday and most of Sunday, but I got 'er done.
Managed to fill up two cardboard boxes with old books I've read.
Deciding what goes and what stays was tough.
I've still got books my dad gave me and are like heirlooms.
Like, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," Dee Brown's gripping book on the U.S. government's betrayals of the American Indian.
Or "Goodbye Darkness," a vivid memoir by William Manchester, a Marine like my father, who served in the Pacific during World War II.
Or Jimmy Breslin's hysterical, "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight," fiction about mobsters in Brooklyn, N.Y., where I was born.
There are a bunch of sports books I kept, including "Always on the Run," Jim Kiick and Larry Csonka's memoir from the Dolphins' Perfect Season in 1972.
Then there are my Irish books, historical and fiction.
That includes Patrick Taylor's charming series that began with "An Irish Country Doctor" and continues with "An Irish Country Christmas" and so forth.
I've yet to read all of them.
The same can be said for books on Lincoln, Washington and Henry Clay, a colorful 19th century lawmaker  who has been called our greatest senator ever.
I'll get to them one of these days.
There are also books that were loaners from folks and I need to get them back.
Amazing what you find when you get serious about cleaning up and throwing things out.
Or purging.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Trying to bat .500 for 2014 New Year's Resolutions

When I ran down my list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2013, I laughed and shook my head.
I bombed on more than half of them.
To wit:
• I said I would pay more attention to whatever Sherri was saying so she didn’t have to repeat it three times. Consequently, a common refrain at home has been either, “Are you listening to me?” Or, “Don’t you remember me telling you that?”
• I said I wouldn’t monopolize the TV remote, though I did surrender it the nights “The Voice” was on. Ditto for “Major Crimes.” And “Nashville.”
• I said I would not make disparaging remarks when the country station played the same songs over and over every hour on the hour and we’re on a road trip.
But according to, folks who keep statistics on weighty matters such as New Years Resolutions, I may not have done too badly compared to people they surveyed.
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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Monsters Lacrosse squad eye fourth tourney title

The 2013 U11 Monsters Lacrosse team, an elite youth squad from Lakewood Ranch’s Premier Sports Campus, will play in Dick’s Tournament of Champions beginning Sunday in Wesley Chapel.
The players are Grayson Antritt, Nate Ashley, Michael Bavaro, Ryan Bolduc, Hayden Coakley, Luca Dominguez, Casey Fuss, Cody Gross, Brendon Herten, Owen Ingham, Stephen Markowski, Patrick McNelis, Trentt Melton, Conor O’Neill, Connor Rice, Joseph Palmeri and Ryan Sforzo. Coaches are Chris Markowski, Dan Rice and Chris Sforzo.
They won Boca Raton’s Casey Powell Orange Classic, Rippin’ at the Ranch in Lakewood Ranch and Clearwater’s Grip It and Rip It and were second in the Citrus Bowl Summer Face Off and the LB3 Summer Jam in Georgia.
• State College of Florida men’s basketball coach Elliot Washington, wife Nikke, daughter Brooke and son Elliot II, recently added another member to Team Washington. Son Brendan was born Sept. 30.
Al Cini, Al Saunders and Joe DeFrancesco, the grand ol’ men behind “Al’s Free Rods for Kids,” recently brought 40 rods and new reels to needy students at Daughtrey Elementary School.
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Monday, December 23, 2013

Sign of the apocalypse: Fighting over Air Jordans

When my wife came home from doing some last minute Christmas shopping Saturday she talked enthusiastically about what she had been able to buy and for whom.
Then Sherri remarked about seeing four Manatee County Sheriff's Office deputies outside Champs Sports in DeSoto Square Mall.
"I wonder what that was all about?"  she said.
I had a good idea.
It was all about the shoes: Nike's new Air Jordan Gamma Blue 11s, retailing for about $170.
Earlier in the week I'd read about the new sneakers going on sale.
I hoped it didn't mean trouble.
I should've known better.
According to the MCSO, about 20 deputies had to disperse a crowd Friday night that had become disorderly.
It was all because of the shoes.
The four deputies my wife saw were probably there to make sure there were no repeats of what had happened the night before.
A crowd between 400 to 500 were waiting to buy the new Air Jordans, but there was a little  problem. The store didn't have enough for everyone, so the Champs staff, getting an eyeful of the size of that crowd, decided not to release the sneakers for sale.
That didn't go over well with the potential customers.
“When word of the cancellation filtered to the crowd many individuals became unruly and began to bang on the Champs’ security gate demanding entrance into the store,” a sheriff’s news release said.
Ultimately, deputies were able to peacefully disperse the crowd.
That's good because B'town was able to avoid the kind of ugly incidents that broke out at sporting goods stores from Stockton, Calif., to Dallas to the Bronx, according to news reports.
We're not just talking young men, either.
There were women brawling outside a Foot Locker over the Air Jordan Gamma Blue 11s.
How asinine is that?
Fortunately, there were no reports of anyone getting killed, a not uncommon occurence associated with the release of the latest sneakers in past years.
I don't get it.
Paying that kind of mad money for a pair of sneakers is crazy.
Fighting for them?
No thanks.
Dying over them?
No way.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

How could a sharp guy like Kinnan get in this mess?


Say it ain’t so, Joe.
The headlines we’ve become accustomed to seeing about coach Joe Kinnan late in the year usually trumpet yet another deep state playoff run by his Manatee Hurricanes.
Not this week.
These headlines are the unflattering kind about Kinnan facing a 10-day suspension after the Manatee School District’s investigation of the former Hurricane baseball coach, Dwayne Strong, and his alleged financial and ethical mismanagement of the program.
Kinnan is accused of lying during the inquest and faces additional allegations in the investigative report:
• Immorality.
• Misconduct in office.
• Incompetence.
• Gross insubordination.
• Willful neglect of duty.
Kinnan may have made mistakes in this baffling episode, but I’m skeptical of some findings.
Joe Kinnan?
Come on.
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Good days for Palmetto High Dazzler, Raiders

Palmetto High School freshman Mia Holley is enjoying a unique Christmas. The freshman Dazzler dancer just turned 15 and performed in the Disney Christmas Day parade airing Christmas morning on ABC.
Taping was Dec. 5-8.
Mia was among 600 dancers and cheerleaders who qualified by being chosen as All-Americans at summer camps. Mia and the Dazzlers attended the National Dance Association camp at Rollins College.
Parents Veronica and Wes are proud.
• Big ups to Palmetto High’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Raiders team that took second in its category at the recent Florida State Raider Competition at Braden River High School. They are Leonel Barboza, Preston Daniel, Nelson Doire, Mikel Ebanks, Joseph Eicher, Joshua Fleming, Steven Neuman, Vincent Olson, Donald Preston, Matthew Savage, Ezequiel Urbano and Joseph White. The coach is Chief Warrant Officer (Ret.) John Edmond.
• There are still plenty of copies of, “Korea Reborn: A Grateful Nation Honors War Veterans,” a coffee table book available free to area Korean War those vets.
The books are available in Manatee County at these locations:
John Saputo’s Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, 7051 Wireless Court, Lakewood Ranch. Call 941-355-7685. Congressman Vern Buchanan’s Bradenton office, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Suite 305. Call 941-747-9081.
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Flood insurance hikes may flood us out

When the annual invoice arrived, I’d glance at it, nod approvingly and toss it aside for payment.
Sticker shock?
It never happened during the decade I had flood insurance, which was well under $1,000 a year.
The only beef I had was the fact my house, a classic 1928 Ware’s Creek cottage, wasn’t in a flood zone.
The edge of my backyard was.
Regardless, I had to have it, so I was told.
Well, I finally sold the place a year ago, a logical move for practical reasons, namely I’d gotten married and was now living with my wife in South Manatee.
Never thought I’d say selling it was a good thing because of flood insurance.
Given the spiraling rate hikes that began kicking in Oct. 1 and are now at the epicenter of a political battle on Capitol Hill, I would not be able to afford it.
Increases of up to 600 percent?
Good grief.
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Young Scrappers Ripken Rookie Division champions

Manager Lee Heintz’s 7-8-year-old Scrappers are Manatee Cal Ripken Rookie Division Champions. They are Parker Severs, Baden Wallace, Hunter Jackson, Camden Pope, Jonathan Stone, Ben Hedgepeth, Gage Hinds, Aiden Brown, Sam Heintz, Hunter Winneka, Cody Simpson and Ryan Swenson. Coaches are Brian Stone, Tim Simpson and Brian Hedgepeth.
Diane and Howard Small’s son, David, made it back to B’town for the holidays Wednesday. The Navy lieutenant had been serving as an airborne air traffic controller with the aircraft carrier USS George Washington during Operation Damayan, the U.S. military’s relief operation in the Philippines region devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.
Nick Zec’s North Central College Cardinals, Naperville, Ill., are in the NCAA D-III national semifinals against mighty No. 1 Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, Saturday. Go, Cardinals!
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Healthy Start's Project Moses fundraising success

It's going to be a happier and safer Christmas for 25 families in Manatee County's migrant community.
That's thanks to the generosity of folks who ponied up enough donations to "Healthy Start Project Moses."
"We did it within hours," said Luz Corcuera, program director for Healthy Start Coalition of Manatee County, Inc.
Moses bassinets are sturdy baby baskets  with liners, little mattresses and matching quilts made by volunteers. They're named for the iconic Biblical figure whose mother, according to the Book of Exodus, set him adrift in a basket on the River Nile when the Pharoah ordered all male Hebrew children be drowned in 1391 B.C. The Pharoah's daughter subsequently found Moses and raised him as her own child.
These bassinets serve a similar purpose: Keeping an infant safe.
Money to buy 25 bassinets was raised after board member Adam Tebrugge has submitted "Healthy Start Project Moses" to the Gulf Coast Community Foundation which approved it and kept the endeavor on its website.
"We raised the money in one day," Corcuera said. "Amazing."
Moses bassinets provide a secure place to sleep for babies up to three months old such as ones in the migrant community with difficult living arrangements.
"So many families live in crowded conditions, sleeping with their babies," she said. "They put babies in their own bed, then they fall asleep and accidentally roll over the baby without realizing it. In some cases, they don't have places to sleep at all. But now moms can still put a mattress on the floor and keep the bassinet next to them without accidentally rolling over the baby. They can also take it around, but our goal is making sure babies have a safe place to sleep."
Folks can still donate to help Healthy Start buy more Moses bassinets, too.
For details, visit

Monday, December 9, 2013

Some ol' habits, like good westerns, never die

Some habits die hard.
Or never die at all.
Yours truly is a bachelor again for a brief spell.
Sherri and one of her sisters left last Saturday for a few days of investing in the charm and culture and commerce of Biloxi, Miss.
Anyway, before my wife drove off, she made sure there were plenty of groceries in the house so I wouldn't starve.
Not a chance.
Saturday I had hot dogs for lunch and later, while watching the SEC and the Big 10 championship games on TV, I finished the rest of the chicken wings we'd had Friday night while watching my alma mater, Bowling Green, win the MAC Championship.
Sunday? Hot dogs for lunch again and, after watching football all day, I pulled out some coconut shrimp from the freezer and fired those up for dinner while I watched "3:10 to Yuma" with Russell Crowe.
There's a pattern here.
After work Monday, I heated a frozen pizza and enjoyed it with a glass of wine while watching my man Clint Eastwood in "Pale Rider" followed by "Josey Wales."
Movies, Sherri would say sarcastically, for which I should know the dialogue verbatim having seen them a thousand times before.
Some habits die hard.
Or never die at all.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Floridians should decide medical marijuana issue

Would you vote for medical marijuana in Florida?
I would.
So would 82 percent of Floridians, according to a recent poll by the recognized Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
If it ever gets on the ballot.
Whether the proposed medical marijuana amendment makes it to next November is presently in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court, which will decide on the constitutionality of its wording.
According to the proposed amendment, a debilitating medical condition is a prerequisite — i.e., AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple scleroris and Parkinson’s disease.
It also states there are other debilitating conditions — i.e., chronic pain — for which a physician could decide to prescribe medical marijuana.
Is that too broad?
Therein lies the crux of the issue, which went before the Supreme Court last Thursday.
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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Army paratroopers just two kids from Bradenton

Capt. Scott Hall and Pvt. Cowan Porter meet in Germany.
A funny thing happened to U.S. Army Capt. Scott Hall not long ago.
The 2004 Lakewood Ranch High grad was waiting to conduct a combat equipment jump with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Hohenfels, Germany.
“So, I struck up a conversation with a new paratrooper sitting next to me, asking him where he was from?” the company commander said.
“Bradenton, Florida,” said Pvt. Cowan Porter, a 2012 Southeast High School graduate.
A small world, indeed.
“It’s rare to meet someone from your own hometown in the Army,” said Hall, a six-year veteran with combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cowan is a vehicle mechanic in Hall’s unit, the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment.
Glenn and Jackie Cobb celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary Thanksgiving Day. Helping them celebrate were children and spouses Rick and Claudia, Ron and Denise, Janet and Rod and John and Karen.
• Remember Saturday’s rummage sale/fundraiser for Braden River High School’s chorus and band, 8 a.m.-2 p.m., at school, 6545 State Road 70 East. Call Maryann McDevitt at 941-742-3972 for details.
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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas in the Park to help church food pantry

Going to Palmetto’s Christmas in the Park Friday or Saturday?
Then how about bringing along a little something for a worthwhile cause?
The Palmetto Historical Park, 515 10th Ave.W., is collecting non-perishable food items to help stock the food pantry at First United Methodist Church of Palmetto.
There will be collection boxes at the two main park entrances in which to drop off your contributions.
This food pantry has provided food for 2,942 families since last January. The pantry is staffed and operated by volunteers not only from First United Methodist Church of Palmetto, but Family of God Methodist Church and Ellenton Methodist Church, too.
Christmas in the Park is 5-9 p.m. both days.
For more details, call 941-721-2034.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Boys & Girls Club can use Christmas decorations

You know those old Christmas holiday decorations you're thinking of tossing?
Got a place that can use them.
Like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County.
The DeSoto and Palmetto Clubs need them in particular.
If you have decorations that you no longer use, yet are in good condition -- i.e., lights, ornaments, artificial trees, lawn ornaments -- the Boys & Girls Clubs would gratefully accept the items to help give the clubs that magical feeling of Christmas for the kids.
The clubs have large areas to decorate, so larger items would be ideal.
Christmas decorations can be dropped off at:
• DeSoto Boys & Girls Club, 5231 34th St.W., Bradenton.
• Palmetto Boys & Girls Club, 1600 10th St.W. Palmetto.
Call the administration office at 941-761-2582. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving weekend? Christmas decorations!

"Honey, guess what we’re doing next weekend?”
My wife’s words pierced the noise of whatever NFL football game we were watching on TV like a bullet pass last Sunday.
Sherri always accuses me of never listening to her, but I heard her this time.
Loud and clear.
It was a rhetorical question, actually.
If it’s the weekend after Thanksgiving, then we are going to be putting up our Christmas decorations!
Can I get an amen, fellas?
Think I’m in good company when it comes to getting around to this annual pre-holiday exercise.
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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Delaneys' busy Veterans Day in Washington

Lakewood Ranch’s Bob and Billie Delaney were in Washington for a series of Veterans Day-related functions, including a wreath-placing ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and visiting war wounded.
He also spoke to an audience of 1,300-plus about operational stress/post traumatic stress education and awareness.
The former NBA referee even got out the ol’ whistle and worked a basketball game between troops stationed at Quantico, Va.
Judge John Lakin and  London's Sarah Pooley
• Twelfth Judicial Circuit Judge John Lakin recently spoke at the American Bar Association International Conference in London.
• Don’t forget Jeanne Parrish is 95 years  young Monday.
If you’d like to send a card, her address is:
6410 21st Ave. W.
Bradenton, Fl. 34209.
• There’s a rummage sale/fundraiser for Braden River High School’s chorus and band, 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Dec. 7 at school, 6545 State Road 70 East. Call Maryann McDevitt at 941-742-3972 for details.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holiday raffle by Women's Leadership Initiative

Want to help Manatee County youth and get a limo ride for your generosity?
Then the United Way's Women's Leadership Initiative wants to talk to you.
These devoted women are sponsoring a Holiday Treasure Chest Raffle loaded with goodies like fine dining, the theater, golf and so much more.
There will be a holiday celebration 5:30-7:30 p.m., Dec. 5 at Ezra Cafe, 5629 Manatee Ave.W., Bradenton.
Among the goodies to be had are:
• Longboat limousine/3-hour rental (tip extra) valued at $350.
• Perrier Jouet champagne and flutes.
• Eat Here gift certificate valued at $75.
• Sandbar Restaurant gift certificate valued at $40.
• Ferraro's gift certificate valued at $25.
• Two tickets to Selby Lights in Bloom valued at $30.
• A pass for four to Longboat Key Club Islandside Golf Course valued at $300.
• A pass for four to Longboat Key Club Harborside Golf Course valued at $300.
• American Express gift card valued at $50.
• Two flats of Honeyside Farms strawberries valued at $50.
• Two Island Players Theater tickets valued at $40.
• Two massage gift certificates.
Visit for more details.
Or call 941-748-1313.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Black Friday craziness not for this husband

Black Friday was never for me.
Or my wife.
So I thought.
When it comes to shopping of any kind, I'm a hit-and-run guy.
I get what I need and get out.
The exception is when Sherri and I are grocery shopping at  Publix.
Our Friday night date, I like to call it.
Sometimes it's Saturday morning.
Whenever, it takes us awhile and I'm OK with that.
It's spending quality time together.
Or something like that.
But Black Friday?
When I hear friends gush about their experiences waiting on long lines outside a store in the wee hours before crashing the place to scoop up deals on who-knows-what, I just shake my head.
That is not for me.
Which is why I was amused when Sherri said she and her mother were going to join countless other Manatee County folks in this week's nocturnal shopping madness.
They've got a bead on one store that's got some great discounts on items of family interest and are gearing up to do their thing Thursday night.
Since the family is coming to our place for the traditional meal, we could be having Thanksgiving lunch.
Or breakfast.
When Sherri asked if I wanted to go along, I said no thanks.
She has Friday off.
I don't.
So I'll be sleeping.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bradenton Naval officer promoted to commander

A salute to Dan Brown, recently promoted to the rank of commander in the U. S. Navy.
The oldest of 11 children, he earned a degree in physics from The Citadel and an MBA in business from Embry-Riddle University and is stationed in Yokosuka, Japan.
Parents Margaret and George are proud. So are siblings Katie, Paul, Greg, Beth, Maureen, Megan, David, Maria, Carlos and Agustin.
• The indefatigable Jeanne Parrish, a beloved longtime English teacher at Manatee High School, will be 95 years young Dec. 2.
Like to send her a birthday card?
Mail it to:
Jeanne Parrish
6410 21st Ave. W.
Bradenton, Fl. 34209.
• Boston native Dora Langlois must be the oldest Red Sox fan in Manatee County, hands down. She’s 98 and followed them since childhood. Her secret to longevity? Besides a lifelong passion for the  Bosox, she told BayNews 9’s Summer Smith, she’s never drank or smoked and always used Ponds Cold Cream.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Christmas comes early at Palmetto Historical Park

Christmas lights are already sprouting up around our community, have you noticed?
Well, circle Dec. 6-7 on your calendar as we continue getting ready for the holidays.
That's when the Palmetto Historical Park and Manatee County Agricultural Museum, 515 10th Ave. W.,  will celebrate its annual old fashioned Christmas from 5-9 p.m. both days.
There will be creatively decorated buildings, kids’ crafts, entertainment and, of course, Santa!
Themed around the 1940s, featured activities include letters to soldiers, a “Memory Tree” in the Military Museum, “Cooking on a Ration” recipes to collect in each of the park buildings, contests for prizes, model trains, a petting corral and letters to Santa.
St. Nick will arriving by fire truck at 6 p.m., so bring your camera for a photo.
Food vendors on the premises include Word of Mouth BBQ, Demetrio’s Pizza, Impact  Community Church and Snack It To Me. Alex’s Lemonade Stand will be raising funds for children’s cancer research and the Sweet Shop will raise funds for family programming.
In the spirit of Christmas, help needy families by bringing canned goods for First United Methodist Church of Palmetto’s food pantry and drop them off at park entrances.
On Friday night, the Palmetto Public Library across the street will be doing face painting, holiday photos and a children’s book and holiday ring giveaway.
Call 941-721-2034 for details.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Old ghosts, wild game a birthday present make

My 64th birthday was in October, but a gift arrived two weeks before.
It was up on the Lakeland College scoreboard, lights aglow in the gathering darkness enshrouding Taylor Memorial Field on Oct. 5 in Sheboygan, Wis.
HOME 40, GUEST 34.
Coach Kevin Doherty's Muskies had triumphed in one of the craziest and longest football games I'd ever attended, beating Wisconsin Lutheran in overtime.
Lakeland's season ends Saturday, but that was a memorable homecoming for several reasons.
I had not seen the Muskies play in many, many moons.
Try 46 years.
In fact, the last Lakeland football game I saw, I played in it.
It was Nov. 4, 1967 in Watertown, Wis.
I was 18, a freshman walk-on and the Muskies were blowing out Northwestern College.
With an insurmountable 61-13 lead, assistant coach Gary Wynveen sent me in on defense during garbage time -- the only time I ever got into a game -- during our eighth straight win for the Gateway Conference championship.
It was also our season finale because we just missed the NAIA playoffs.
We'd have done some damage for sure.
That squad was loaded with talent, led by Pat Curran, who played 10 years in the NFL, and ornery players who gave no quarter between the sidelines.
Our head coach was John Thome and he was another reason I'd come back to campus that rainy weekend.
He died in 2011 and the college was dedicating a monument and practice field in his name.
We were his first team at Lakeland and he and athletic director Duane "Moose" Woltzen gave me my chance to be part of something I will cherish always.
Thome coached the Muskies 14 seasons, won seven conference championships and was the program's winningest coach.
His widow, three children and grandchildren were at the ceremony.
Hearing a son and daughter talk so proudly of their dad sent me back.
Coach had gotten engaged to their mother my freshman year.
There were a number of former Muskies present at the ceremony from Thome's teams, but it was just me and Greg Weinfurt, an offensive center, representing the 1967 team, a squad that produced 14 Lakeland Hall of Famers, Weinfurt included.
I was hoping more of our teammates would be there, but time moves on and it hasn't been kind to us all.
Kit Redman had died recently, Greg said.
Kit and I were the two smallest players on the squad, each of us weighing about 145 pounds.
He was a hardnosed kid from Columbus City, Ind., and kicked my butt a few times in practice.
I wondered whether Kit and I could've played for the 2013 Muskies, now an NCAA Division-III program.
It would've been a gas in that wild homecoming game that began at 1 p.m. and didn't end until almost 6 p.m.
Just before halftime, the daylong fog turned into a nasty storm that chased players and fans from the field.
Lightning and a torrential downpour lasted nearly two hours.
It was just like Florida.
I spent some of the downtime cooling out in my rental car, a sweet canary yellow Camaro that drew some amusing reactions on campus.
When I arrived Friday evening, a couple of co-eds yelled out, "Nice car!"
Happened Saturday, too.
Too bad it wasn't 1967 again.
Before the second half resumed, the few of us who remained climbed back into the old stadium stands and I gazed around a place that's still got a hold on my heart, a grip on my soul.
Though mist still cloaked the campus, fall colors were beginning to show in the surrounding forests.
My favorite ghosts were out there and we were together again for a memorable Saturday afternoon in rural Wisconsin.
Lakeland and Lutheran traded touchdowns through the second half.
There would be 999 yards of total offense, 10 touchdowns and 42 first downs before it was over.
We just weren't sure when it would end.
Or how.
The last thing Muskie fans wanted was overtime.
Taylor Field has no lights.
Yet OT was exactly what happened.
The Muskies scored first, but the PAT was blocked.
If Lutheran scored and kicked their PAT, it was game over.
But the Muskies held.
When that fourth-down pass sailed incomplete, they ran together in a mad celebration, joined by the few fans left.
Yours truly was among them.
I shook hands, bumped fists, slapped shoulder pads and congratulated as many Muskies as I could in the merry melee.
A college football commentator, once a player himself, observed a similarly joyous scene after an SEC game earlier this season. He said it was the kind of rapturous moment former players wish they could all share again, but never really can.
I came close.
'Twas a fitting 64th birthday present, indeed.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Somber anniversary brings back many memories

The school play had just ended when the principal came to the podium that Friday afternoon at Nazareth High School in Brooklyn, N.Y.
I’m not sure whether any of my classmates realized the terrible irony in what Brother Thaddeus was about to tell us after we’d watched “Julius Caesar,” Shakespeare’s tragedy about assassination.
It was Nov. 22, 1963.
President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, the stately Xaverian Brother prelate said, and news reports were he was dead.
Let us pray for him, he commanded.
Almost as one, the entire student body of Catholic high school boys fell to their knees.
I will never forget it.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Will Poston leave his two-headed coin at home?

Mayor Wayne Poston, here with architect Rick Fawley at McKechnie Field, will venture onto Hawkins Stadium's allowed turf for a pregame ceremony Friday night.
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston will do the coin-flip honors before Friday night’s Class 8A-Region 3 quarterfinal between Vero Beach and Manatee at Hawkins Stadium. Hizzoner swears it won’t be a two-headed coin.
• VFW Post 10141’s Dan Suca is the Manatee County Veterans Council’s Auxiliary Member of the Year.
Jeff Hernden’s Braden River Pirates JV girls soccer team defeated his alma mater, Manatee, 2-0. Emma Tallas and Athena Kavis scored the goals and keeper McKenzie Moritz got the shutout.
• That wily ol’ stork is due April 17 for Chandler McClung and sweetheart J.T. Goode.
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Imagine hunter's explanation about fake Bambi

Brett Russel Thompson must be embarrassed these days.
Mighty embarrassed.
He's the Myakka City fellow who got busted last Saturday morning after Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers nabbed him for shooting a deer in rural East Manatee, according to the arrest report.
Except it wasn't a real deer.
It was a robotic deer.
Love to have been the fly on the wall when Thompson tried to explain that to his hunting buddies.
That ol' boy was in for some serious ragging.
I can hear it now.
A fake deer! Son, how'd you fall for that?
Sounds like he's not the first one.
Turns out the FWC has been using a fake Bambi for years to put a dent in poaching.
Evidently, the area they caught Thompson, south of State Road 70, has been a popular spot for hunters who figured they can bag a deer out of season and nobody knows better.
Well, when residents complained, the FWC listened.
Fake Bambi strikes back!
"It has been a great tool," said an FWC official. "Once word gets out there is a fake deer out there, it deters the bad hunting."
Bad hunting that can be expensive, too.
Oh, yeah.
Thompson posted $1,120 in bonds to get out of jail and faces a Dec. 12 court date.
If convicted, he's looking at a year in the slammer and $2,500 in fines.
Wonder if Thompson will take another crack at deer hunting before then?
Hunting season south of SR 70 opens Nov. 23 in Manatee County.
It opened north of SR 70 Nov. 2.
Maybe the man got his dates and directions mixed up, eh?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Salvation Army needs turkeys for Thanksgiving

Brother, can you spare a turkey?
If so, the Salvation Army Manatee County can use it.
A bunch, actually.
For the annual Thanksgiving dinner, 4-6 p.m. Nov. 28, the nonprofit at 1204 14th St. W., volunteers and staff are preparing to serve 500 meals, but in order to do so they need turkeys.
An estimated 100 turkeys will be used.
“The Manatee County community has always been so generous providing us with the supplies needed to prepare a traditional holiday meal for our neighbors,” saids Major Dwayne Durham, Manatee County Regional Coordinator. “Once again we are asking our friends within the community to journey with us as we make the commitment to journey with others.”
For many struggling families a consistent meal is the first step in their journey towards stability.
In addition to turkeys other needs include pies and desserts, vegetables, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
Anyone interested in donating a turkey or other supplies to the community Thanksgiving dinner can drop off donations at 1204 14th St. W., 8:30am to 4:30pm. Monday through Friday.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday night lights shined brightly for Paul Maechtle

The job feeler had come from one of the Manatee school district’s assistant superintendents several years ago.
Paul Maechtle was asked if he might be interested in working downtown in administration some day.
Southeast High School’s venerable head football coach politely passed on the idea, which, given his droll sense of humor, he probably found amusing.
Paul Maechtle, a suit?
No, thank you.
It would’ve meant giving up coaching, something ingrained in him since he was a kid in Wisconsin, and doing it on a familiar tableau in an annual autumn ritual so many had the privilege of sharing with him for 40 years.
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ohlman 2013 Carolina League Player of the Year

Big ups to Michael Ohlman, the 2013 Topps/MiLB Carolina League Player of the Year. The Frederick Keys catcher won the league batting crown (.313), took first with a club record slugging percentage (.524) and was third in on-base percentage (.410). Over 100 games, the ex-Lakewood Ranch Mustang had 29 doubles, 13 homers, 53 RBIs and a .934 OPS.
• Please remember Jane Evers in your prayers.
• Cortez author Joe Crawford signis his new book, “Arianna and the Spanish Sardines,” Saturday at the Boatyard Bash at the Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. W.
As in his previous book, “Nathan and the Stone Crabs,” Crawford keeps it here, writing about Arianna visiting her grandfather in the fishing village of DeSoto on Perico Island. Arianna learns about bait fishing by hauling up Spanish sardines and finds out about local history and local landmarks.
• A salute to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Justin Ingraham, promoted on Oct. 1 at Forward Operating Base Tagab in Afghanistan. Ingraham is a squad leader with the 10th Mountain Division.
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Monday, November 4, 2013

River search sobering contrast to Riverwalk event

The helicopter circled high over the Manatee River, rotating around the DeSoto Bridge and just west of it.
A boat with its lights flashing trolled the same area beneath the chopper.
It was a grim ritual on a beautiful Sunday afternoon as law enforcement maintained its search for 51-year-old  Gary Robinson, who family members said jumped from the bridge around noon Saturday.
It was a sobering scene for the thousands of people who flocked to Taste of Manatee on the Riverwalk.
People ate ice cream along the railing, watching the quest for the missing man, then turning back to the sprawling affair for more fun and frolic.

Dance teams of little girls sang and performed at the bandshell before an appreciative crowd, while not far from there, Robinson's relatives kept a vigil underneath the DeSoto Bridge.
A jarring juxtaposition, if there ever was one.
More than a day later there was still no sign of the Bradenton man, described as someone who was fun, smiled a lot and had a knack for making people laugh.
They said he was going to get married soon, too.
Which makes you wonder what drove him to jump from the DeSoto Bridge.
Robinson had served more than half his life in jail, but had been a free man for the last two years.
Were not the bad times behind him?
Authorities finally found Robinson's corpse around nightfall.
But that was a few hours off when we left Taste of Manatee to go home.
The helicopter was still circling overhead.
The boat with it lights flashing stayed on its mission. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

School district budget mess? What year is this?

We may have gone back in time last week and we didn’t even realize it.
That it was near Halloween is appropriate, because it was scary.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t make believe.
To wit:
The Manatee County School District revealed on Monday its budget was short $3.9 million in unaccounted expenditures.
The school board was shocked! Shocked!
“We were not prepared and the information was not provided ahead of time,” said school board member David Miner.
If you think you’ve heard that somewhere before, you’re right.
Can you say deja vu?
It was about a year ago when a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall was divulged and forced Tim McGonegal’s abrupt resignation as superintendent. Amidst a public outcry, it brought about an overdue and significant overhaul in the district administration, not to mention the arrival of a new superintendent, Rick Mills.
Well, here it is a year later and we’re back to this bad budget business again?
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bradenton girl Miss Florida’s Outstanding Teen

A bow to Leah Roddenberry, who will assume the title of Miss Florida’s Outstanding Teen Sunday at a crowning ceremony in Jacksonville.
The Cardinal Mooney High freshman was first runnerup at the state pageant last July, but when winner Leah Sykes captured Miss America’s Outstanding Teen a month later, the crown automatically passed to Leah.
Sunday’s function makes it official for the Cougar JV cheerleader.
• Check out Wild Root from 7-10 p.m. Friday at Blue Marlin, 121 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach. Lead singer/guitarit Paul Fournier played drumline for the Manatee Marching ‘Canes. Bassist Andrew Waltrip is a Sarasota High grad and Sarasota County firefighter. Saxophonist Justin Green is a Riverview High grad and attends State College of Florida. Drummer James Hershey moved to B’town from New York City to play for Wild Root.
• Good to hear Brent Laudicina is back to work at the Manatee County Water Department. Krystal Weaver’s fiancĂ© was injured burning a brush pile outside their Myakka City home last month and had to be hospitalized at Tampa General Hospital.
• Ballard Elementary kindergartener Rashad McCall was dressed up as a pirate Thursday.
When asked where his pirate ship was, the 6-year-old frowned and said, “They wouldn’t let me bring it to school.”
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Red carpet treatment for Bradenton mom, blogger

Who wouldn't want to trade places with Kelly Stilwell?
Two years ago, the married mother of two started a blog, Virtually Yours, focusing on travel, entertainment, product reviews, giveaways and other family friendly content.
She figured it'd be a good way to make some part-time income and, hey, maybe get some cool products, too.
But then Kelly got an invitation via email from Disney, Marvel & DreamWorks that knocked her socks off.
What was it?
Why, a personal invitation from the entertainment titans to attend Saturday's Hollywood movie premiere of "Thor: The Dark World."
"We would like to invite you to a very special Disney, Marvel & DreamWorks hosted event in November -- exclusively for our top Bloggers!" it read. 
Kelly would be getting the red carpet treatment and interviewing the stars!
“It took reading that email a couple of times before I could believe it,” she said.
Kelly will be among 24 national bloggers and get the chance to interview Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki in the movie, as well as Jaimie Alexander, who plays Sif.
Not only that, but Kelly will also meet and interview Vince Vaughn and Chris Pratt, who star in the upcoming movie, "Delivery Man," due in theaters later in November and visit the sets of "Trophy Wife" and "The Neighbors."
She will also get a look at the In-Home releases of "Planes" and "Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United."
Sounds like a few busy but fun-filled days for  Kelly, whose interviews with photos should be up on her blog by mid-November.
Visit Virtually Yours at

Monday, October 28, 2013

I-75 rowing signage? Nah, makes too much sense

This is great.
Whether you're a fan of the sport, there's no denying the burgeoning Benderson Park rowing facility has the potential to be a regional economic engine.
So mounting a sign on Interstate 75 near University Parkway to let visitors know where the venue is, makes sense, right?
Not to the Florida Department of Transportation, evidently.
At a Monday transportation planning meeting, the Sarasota-/Manatee Metropolitan Transportation Organization board asked if such a sign could be erected along the interstate. With thousands of rowing enthusiasts expected for the 2017 World Rowing Championship, it might be a good idea to help these out-of-towners and tourists in general find the new rowing center.
No dice, said an FDOT official.
Apparently, the proposed sign doesn't meet state administrative guidelines -- whatever they are -- so it cannot be put up on I-75, according to the FDOT's Roxann Lake.
Such a sign, she said, must provide some benefit to motorists using the roadway.
Excuse me, but it isn't that the purpose of mounting said sign?
Florida has signage all along its interstates to assist tourism, the state's lifeblood.
But Benderson Park doesn't make the cut?
The FDOT official did say, however, state guidelines permit such a sign three days or so before  the event.
What do they think the 2017 World Rowing Championship is?
A neighborhood festival and fundraiser?
Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle pointed out there will be a host of national and international events leading up to it.
“We owe it to ourselves to capitalize on what we have there,” Bustle said.
Not to mention the fact the taxpayer has more than $5 million invested in its success.
The board passed a motion to ask FDOT to reconsider its administrative code to allow signage along I-75.
Good. There's time to make it happen and do it right.
Not three days before the main event, either.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ending gill net ban personal for Cortez matriarch

Plum Taylor spread butter on a slice of banana bread a neighbor brought over, poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down.
Sunlight streamed through the big living room window overlooking Sarasota Bay and the docks and fishing boats, their to and fro a constant in all her years in what she likes to call that “big ol’ shanty” at the end of 123rd Street West in the Cortez fishing village.
The 78-year-old matriarch had just heard about a Leon County judge’s decision to overturn the gill net ban that has been the bane of every Cortezian’s life and livelihood for the past two decades.
Hers and late husband Alcee’s included.
They’d poured themselves into the fight against the 1995 ballot amendment that brought about the ban and lost, a sting that lingers still.
So word of last week’s development in the Panhandle was a most welcome omen.
“It’s a start,” Plum said.
Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, October 24, 2013

McKechnie Field in top 50 minor league parks

Cord Sandberg at Pirate City last summer in Gulf Coast Rookie League.
McKechnie Field, site of the 2014 Florida State League All-Star Game June 14, was ranked 45th out of 160 minor league ballparks in the 2013 Minor League Baseball Stadium Rankings. No. 1 was Pensacola Bayfront Stadium, which opened in 2012 and is home to Cincinnati’s Southern League Double-A Wahoos.
• Speaking of baseball, the Phillies are sending Cord Sandberg to the Dominican Republic instructional league for three weeks.
• Saxophonist Dr. Melvin Price and his band, NuJazz, are playing at the 2013 Doctor Idol, which begins 7 p.m. Friday at the Sarasota Hyatt Regency. Visit
Heather Hacket, author of “The Pretty in Me,” will address Buffalo Creek Middle School students Nov. 6. Her book is about a girl who is made fun of by others because of her body size. A victim of bullying herself, Hacket is an advocate for building self confidence in children and will speak to students about that issue, individuality, respect and self-esteem.
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Marching Canes three-peat as Lions Pride champs

Manatee High School's Marching ‘Canes warmed up for Saturday night's Florida Bandmasters Association district festival in fine fashion.
They pulled a three-peat, earning top honors as Grand Champion award winners for the third straight year in at the Lions Pride competition at Tampa King High School Oct. 19.
Manatee High topped 13 bands from  Hendry, Hillsborough, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk as well as Manatee County.
“These students strive for excellence in every area and it pays off,” said Jim Bruce, Manatee High's director of bands. "We are very proud of their talent and hard work.”
Each band was evaluated for music performance and effect, general effect, marching and maneuvering, percussion, auxiliary and drum majors.
The Marching ‘Canes band comprises 155 students under the direction of Bruce, Linda Boone and Amber Platowski.
Manatee will host the annual Florida Bandmasters Association district festival at Hawkins Stadium.
The event begins 5 p.m. Saturday.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A heartening homecoming for family's warrior

The soldier’s homecoming was unannounced.
No loved ones at the airport with homemade signs and balloons.
No TV camera crews.
Nothing like that.
Rather, Staff Sgt. Kevin Haddon’s welcome home after a long flight from Afghanistan and a long taxi ride from McGuire Air Force Base came in the emotional embrace of his grieving grandmother in South Jersey.
Kevin is my nephew and served with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne).
Marjorie Haddon is his paternal grandmother, who just lost her husband. Robert Haddon was 86.
A wonderful couple, they were married 63 years.
Since my dad had passed when Kevin’s mother, my sister Maureen, was a teenager, Bob Haddon was the only grandfather he knew.
A good man.
His health had deteriorated lately, and being concerned for their oldest grandson in Afghanistan probably didn’t help.
It’s understandable.
We all were.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Parishioners collect $4,500 for brave 4-year-old

Pastor Joe Connolly had a surprise for 4-year-old Davien Martinez and his mom, Diana Lopez. It was a check for $4,500 from their fellow parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church.
Davien was accidentally shot in the head during a drive-by shooting July 27 and is on a long road to recovery.
While Mom teared up over the money, her resilient son was more interested in the M&Ms in Father Joe’s office.

• Bayshore High 2012 grad Olivia Trevorrow recently met a genuine American hero. Now a third class (sophomore) midshipmen at the Naval Academy, Olivia had her photo taken with Jim Lovell at a Human Space Flight forum.
The Annapolis Class of 1952 grad and former NASA astronaut commanded the dramatic Apollo 13 (“Houston, we have a problem”) mission. 

• Palmetto High School’s Class of 1970 will hold its inaugural “Saturday in November” reunion dinner at the Riverhouse Reef & Grill, 995 Riverside Drive, Palmetto, 6:30 p.m. Nov.2. Contact Chris Billeris-Boast at for reservations.
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Marching Band Festival at Manatee Oct. 26

Marching Canes to host 26th straight festival
 If you enjoy high school marching bands, you’re in for a treat.
The Manatee High School Marching ‘Canes will host the Florida Bandmasters Association District 11 Marching Band Festival Oct. 26 at Hawkins Stadium.   
More than 1,400 performers representing 15 marching bands will perform.
Besides Manatee County, Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough and Sarasota will also have talented scholastic bands on hand.
It is the 26th year the festival is being hosted by Manatee High, 902 33rd St. Ct. W.
The big show begins at 5 p.m.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to see our area’s high school bands at their best,” said Jim Bruce, Manatee High’s longtime band director. “The bands work all season toward this event. We encourage our community to come out, support the kids and watch some impressive performances.”
Each band is evaluated by two music judges as well as judges in the categories of marching, general effect, percussion and auxiliary units.
Tickets will be available at the festival.
Prices are $7 for ages 13 and up and $5 for ages 6-12.
Children six and under are free.
Parking is $3 per car.
Middle school band students may get a voucher from their band directors to attend the festival free of charge.
All gate proceeds go to support the bands in District 11 of the Florida Bandmasters Association.
For details, call Manatee High at 941-714-7300, ext. 2182 or 2093.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chowdown for Charity raises funds for future chefs

Renaissance on 9th's Lobster Mac & Cheese.

The fifth annual Chowdown for Charity was a scrumptious affair Oct. 10 at the Riverhouse Reef & Grill in Palmetto and raised $11,332 for school culinary programs and the Food Bank of Manatee County.
The results of the event were:
Restaurant Division
Judges Choice
'CTQ's Maverick Johnson was a judge
1st: Walnut Crusted Yellowtail Snapper, Riverhouse Reef & Grill
2nd: Short Rib Sliders, Anna Maria Oyster Bar
3rd: Lobster Mac & Cheese, Renaissance on 9th
People's Choice
1st: Peach's
2nd: Anna Maria Oyster Bar
Best Booth Display
1st: Riverhouse Reef & Grill
2nd: Anna Maria Oyster Bar

School Culinary Program Division
Judges Choice
1st: Peach Almond Crostata, Manatee Technical Institute
2nd: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, Southeast HS
People's Choice
1st: Southeast High School
2nd: Manatee High School
Best Booth Display
1st: Manatee Technical Institute
2nd: Manatee High School

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Shutdown's indignity toward fallen angers vets

The image of young soldiers solemnly carrying a flag-draped coffin down an Air Force transport ramp always gives pause to area veterans wherever they might be watching a TV.
Some at Kirby Stewart American Legion Post 24 on 75th Street West.
Some at Disabled American Veterans Chapter 18 on 63rd Avenue East.
Some at the Veterans of Foreign War Post 10141 on 51st Street West.
There may be a moment of silence, a bowed head, or a raised glass in a toast to another departed warrior.
Last week, however, circumstances surrounding that too familiar TV scene triggered entirely different reactions around our nation, including here.
“I’m outraged,” said Don Vecoli, a Navy veteran.
“I’m disgusted,” said Russ Otto, who was in the 101st Airborne.
“I’m pissed off,” said Dick Alvarez, a Vietnam Army Ranger veteran.
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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Southeast FFA team District 10 forestry winners

Kaylee Betts, Zach Butler, Colt Travis and Luis Solorzano.
Props to Southeast High School’s FFA chapter, winners in the 2013 District 10 Forestry Career Development Competition at Punta Gorda.
Among the categories Kaylee Betts, Zach Butler, Paula Strasser-Dykxhoorn, Luis Solorzano and Colt Travis aced were identifying trees based on leaves, tree disorders, forestry tools, the amount of wood in a plot of trees based on diameter and height and how to interpret a topographic map.
Next up for advisor Mike Buckley’s quintet are the November state finals in Perry.

• Big ups to Bella Winter, who won the G.T. Bray Junior Slam’s Girls 12 division. She never lost a set, finishing first in a field of 39 in the USTA Tennis tournament.
Mary and William are proud.
Bella trains at Elite Tennis Development in Bradenton.

• The crosstown volleyball showdown between the Braden River Pirates and Manatee Hurricanes JV and varsity takes on added meaning Oct. 14 at the Manatee gym. It will be the annual Volley for the Cure breast cancer research fundraiser.
Everything and everybody will be in pink — ball, players, referees, etc.
Games begin at 6 p.m.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Grabbing a chance to help another working man

The man's name was McDaniel.
Nate was his first name, I think.
I never saw him before and may not see him again, even in a small town like ours.
But our chance meeting Wednesday evening was one of those moments that make the world go 'round.
I was headed home, driving east on Cortez Road and turned right on Fifth Street.
As I slowed for the stop sign at Orlando Avenue, I spotted McDaniel in his beat up work van, ladder on top, trying to get the beast restarted.
He nodded at me. I nodded at him.
I drove on for a few seconds and slowed down.
Got to give the man a hand, I said to myself.
I looked in the rearview mirror and he was out in the street, driver's side door open, trying to push the vehicle to a safer location.
I wheeled my pickup into an apartment complex parking lot, locked it and ran toward the man and his van.
Before I got there, a young man had joined McDaniel, using the passenger side door to push.
When I got there, I just leaned on the van's caved-in back door and pushed, driving my legs like I did hitting a blocking sled many, many moons ago.
It felt good.
"Where we going?" I yelled to McDaniel, who shouted something about getting his van into the driveaway just ahead.
We made it a few minutes later, safely.
McDaniel thanked us and asked if he could get us anything.
Not a chance.
The kid, whose name I didn't get, shook hands with me.
"Just helping another working man," he said to the McDaniel, who wore a Sherwin Williams T-shirt.
I asked if he needed a lift somewhere.
"No," he said. "I got my boys coming to help me."
I shook hands with McDaniel and headed back to my truck and home.
Just helping out another working man.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Rays rule on this couple's TV arrangement

For the past several weeks, Sherri and I have had both TVs in the living room.
One is usually in the bedroom and we used to bring it out only on Saturdays for college football, then move it back inside.
Not lately, though.
Not with the Rays.
Especially the Rays.
It doesn't matter what we've got on the other TV --- "The Voice," "MNF," "Bluebloods," etc.
The Rays have been on the other TV, even with the sound turned down.
Not Monday night.
No "Voice," either.
Monday Night Football was on the other TV with the sound off.
The only other sound was either or both of us yelling when something good or bad happened in the game.
Like when the umpire called the Red Sox pinch runner safe at second.
Or when Longo smacked his 3-run homer.
Or when Matt Joyce struck out with bases loaded.
But definitely when Jose Lobaton went yard in the bottom of the ninth, bombing the rays' fish tank in dramatic fashion, keeping the Rays postseason alive another game.
Did you catch the look on those Red Sox fans' faces when the game-winning home run ball sailed over their heads?
Oh, yeah.
Can't wait for Tuesday night's game.
Who cares what's on the other TV?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

North River firefighters give Lincoln an assist

Lincoln Middle students get busy  in Urban Farm Program.

Props to North River Fire Department Chief Ken Cluley, Capt. Jeff Dirling, Capt. Donald Bathje and firefighters Tony Cioni, Matt Stone and Zach Steinberg, who provided a big assist to teacher Kimberley Lough’s Lincoln Middle School Urban Farm Program.
Charmian Miller and Debbie Pinkley will be selling “AMI Day Tripper” stickers at Tarpon Pointe Grille, 801 Riverside Drive E., Bradenton, 4-7 p.m. Saturday. All proceeds go to the Anna Maria Island Community Center.
• Just for Girls Alternative School still has room for middle school students. Call Dee Ralph at 941-722-1475 for details.
Matt LaVallee and Gary Theiler want to spread the word to fellow former high school coaches in the area to drop in 6 p.m. Oct. 23. for some fellowship at LaVallee’s Boiler Room, 5600 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.
Call him at 941-792-7176.
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A journey back in time 40 years in the making

Barry Zimbler flanked by Mike Knecht, Jeff Corenblum, Alex DeCubas, Jeff Cutler and Julius Pratt.

It was high school wrestling season in the early 1970s and a chartered bus carried the Miami Palmetto Panthers to a Saturday night dual match on the other side of the state.
Some place called Bradenton.
Coach Barry Zimbler's team was going to wrestle the Manatee Hurricanes at the Manatee Junior College gym.
One of the people on the bus was yours truly, then a 23-year-old sports editor for the South Dade News Leader, a small evening newspaper in Homestead.
What a ride it was covering those guys, a wonderful memory that was recently rekindled in their company once more 40 years later.
They were kids no more.
None of us were.
They were all gathered in a South Miami restaurant to present Zimbler with the inaugural John and Helen Vaughn Award on behalf of the Florida chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
It was a poignant occasion for another reason.
Zimbler was battling throat cancer.
"I'm going to beat this," he said softly, cradling the award at the podium.
His old wrestlers expected no less.
They were honoring the man who'd instilled a genuine never-give-up attitude in each of them.
Barry Zimbler wasn't just their coach, but a mentor and a father.
What a team of surrogate sons he had, too.
An astronaut.
A commercial airline pilot.
A former Marine fighter pilot.
A corporate  lawyer.
There was a black sheep there that night, too, a former drug smuggler who'd just gotten out of prison.
One of his former Palmetto teammates was a DEA agent.
Go figure.
They were all coach's kids again that evening, one filled with hugs and kisses and tears, too.
Zimbler coached just 11 years at Palmetto before moving onto a new school as an administrator.
But what a legacy.
Two state championship teams.
Numerous individual state champions.
Eight of them were there that night, kids who went onto wrestle at college programs like Appalachian State, Florida, Georgia, Northern Illinois and Ohio to name a few.
What meets they wrestled for Palmetto, especially the dual matches with Coral Park.
Like the 49-7 bludgeoning the Panthers gave the Rams in their own gym, scoring a series of thunderous pins that rocked the house.
I can still see Julius Pratt running across the mat, thrusting his index finger at the packed Coral Park stands before Zimbler and an assistant dragged him away lest there was a riot.
Ironically, Coral Park went on to win the 1973 state championship.
But then came 1974 and my favorite and final memory of Palmetto wrestling.
The state meet was back at Fort Lauderdale Stranahan High School.
As fate would have it, Palmetto trailed Coral Park again and needed a pin at heavyweight to win that coveted crown.
It was up to Alex DeCubas, a sophomore who normally wrestled 188 and was pitted against a big kid from Jacksonville Ribault.
The match went down to the final seconds in a packed gym.
The crowd was on its feet, roaring.
Incredibly, DeCubas pinned his opponent and ecstatic Palmetto fans rushed the floor, mobbing the young hero who held Zimbler in an emotional bear hug.
It still gives me goose bumps.
Forty years later they were all together again, Zimbler and his champions.
A beautiful night.
After the dinner ended they were taking more pictures, but it was getting late and I said my goodbyes.
I had a long drive ahead of me to get home.
Home to Bradenton.

P.S.: Doctors recently told Barry Zimbler his condition had improved so much he didn't need any more chemo or radiation. No surgery, either. He celebrated by enjoying his first steak in two months.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fire at Rod & Reel hits home for many of us

The two years I lived on Pine Avenue in the City of Anna Maria, my dining destinations were fairly regular.
Duffy's for a burger and a beer.
Bistro at Island's End for dinner.
The Rod & Reel for breakfast.
This was back in 1999-2001.
Since then Duffy's moved from its funky digs opposite Manatee Beach to its present more modern location.
The Bistro closed.
And now the Rod & Reel is out of action after Monday morning's fire.
A one-alarm electrical fire caused an estimated $100,000 damage, according to the Bradenton Herald.
That's a serious chunk of change, especially for a "Mom & Pop" joint that's a throwback to Old Florida on the beach.
More than a decade ago, I'd usually ride my bike down to the Rod & Reel on Saturday or Sunday mornings.
It was close enough to the place I was renting, I could even walk.
Even during the season, I could always get a seat at one of its handful of tables in its cozy second-floor dining room.
Invariably, I'd linger after breakfast, too, enjoying another cup of coffee and read the newspaper.
I'd enjoy the view, too.
Or hang around the dock watching folks fishing on a lazy weekend morning.
No doubt there are countless folks who treasure and have treasured their time at the Rod & Reel all these years.
Pray those times will come back soon.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ready or not, Obamacare arrives on Tuesday

One of my favorite tasks every year about this time is re-enrolling in the company health care plan.
Truly, I jest.
It’s necessary, I know, but it’s still a hassle.
Used to be you were renewed automatically if you weren’t changing anything year to year.
Not anymore.
Now you’ve got to go through the whole drill.
Hoo, boy.
That’s why I do not envy folks around town, who will attempt to start shopping for health insurance online Tuesday when they delve into the online marketplaces offered by the Affordable Care Act.
Obamacare is here, ready or not.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Just-for-fun 'AMI Day tripper' tags sprouting up

The brouhaha over “day trippers” on Anna Maria Island has certainly inspired the creative and entrepeneurial spirit in some folks.
First, there were pals Charmian Miller and Debbie Pinkley, who produced oblong stickers that read, “AMI Day Tripper.”
Now there’s Nick St. John, who owns Speed King Signs in Palmetto with brother James.
Coaxed by dad, Sandy, Nick printed up more than 100 3-inch by 4-inch green-and-white decals that say: “AMI Day Trip Parking Permit Manatee County Taxpayer.”
Finnegan Daniel McGarry is 2. Cheers from parents Jill and Josh, who are expecting the imminent arrival of the birthday boy’s baby sister.
 • The Manatee High School Class of 1963’s 50th reunion is Oct. 11-13. Visit www. to register. Or email for details.
Lynn Pierce is 39. Again. Cheers from Fred, Lauren, Kim, Sherri, Chris, Jim and Sue.
Steve Ross had a special guest in town to help him celebrate turning 44. It was daughter Sloane Lewis, Miss Kansas 2012 and former Miss America contestant
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Port Manatee's problems aren't going away

Under normal circumstances, news that a corporate communications manager had been let go would not merit more than a passing glance.
Not in the case of Julie Yeh.
Yeh happened to be the spokesperson for Port Manatee, which you may have noticed has been making headlines the last few months and not all of them good.
To revisit:
  • First there was the June 11 arrest of port employee Robert B. Armstrong, who was fired and charged with stealing thousands of dollars of port property.
  • Two weeks later, Robert J. Armstrong, his father and the port's No. 2 man, was fired and charged with a single count as an accessory after the fact after returning said stolen property to the port.
  • Then on Sept. 27 Carlos Buqueras, the port's executive director, was arrested on a domestic battery charge.
So when word got out that another port executive had been fired, Julie Yeh's name was not the one the public probably had in mind.
Her termination was a "performance-based decision," was the official reason rendered.
Given the roiling waters surrounding Port Manatee management these days, pardon me if I take that explanation with a dose of salt.
It just so happens Yeh alleged in a June letter to Buqueras she'd been "illegally bullied and intimidated" by the elder Armstrong,  when he was still port deputy executive director and chief financial officer.
That couldn't have something to do with her unceremonious exit, could it?
Can't have someone in her position making allegations about cover-ups and how the elder Armstrong bullied others into looking the other way when it came to junior's shenanigans.
Naturally, Armstrong denies it.
Well, it'd be one thing if this was the first time we've heard accusations about a "hostile work environment." improper behavior by superiors and so forth.
But it's not.
A woman named Jill VanderPol filed a similar complaint with port management last winter.
She eventually resigned.
Her job?
Port communications manager.
A coincidence?
I think not, especially viewed in the context of the series of events preceding it.
Sacking the messenger doesn't alleviate the growing perception something is wrong with the culture of Port Manatee's administration.
This just made it worse.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Board trifles with public comment at its peril

The issues and challenges facing the Manatee County School Board are many and have been well chronicled.
The budget.
Teacher's salaries.
Standardized test scores.
You name it.
But trying to change its policy regarding the public comment portion of its meetings?
Oh, yeah.
Serious enough to make it an item on a to-do list for not one but possibly two consulting firms the board is considering hiring to help it update board policies and procedures.
Our tax dollars at work.
That school board members feel an urgency to do something about the public comment portion at its meetings makes you continue to wonder about its priorities.
Good grief.
If this is truly that much of a concern, they've got way too much time on their hands.
Or they really don't get it when it comes to understanding why the community perceives them as really out of touch.
This is a non-issue.
Can the public comment portion use some tweaking?
The usual time limit for speakers is three minutes which is fair.
The digital clock overhead is there for a reason.
As for school board member Barbara Harvey's suggestion enabling senior staffers to address matters brought up by speakers, that  makes sense, though I thought they did it already.
But any move to severely limit or even eliminate public comment would be a huge mistake.
This whole business smacks of the school board trying to stifle its constituency.
School board attorney James Dye's statement that time spent on public comments is time not spent on other agenda items suggests the former is not as important as the latter.
Well, the public's right to speak is just as important, if not moreso.
"It is the opportunity to share concerns about education," said school board member Dave Miner, who used that platform regularly before being elected.
The school board works for the public and serves at its pleasure, not the other way around.
Does it really need to be reminded of that?
Wait until elections.

Friday, September 13, 2013

What's going on with Port Manatee leadership?

Port Manatee has always seemed to be its own little world, tucked away in the county’s northwest corner right off U.S. 41.
@BR BodyRR:Usually, the only time it’s in the news is when there’s a photo op with some visiting politicians.
Or the port just received another shipload of expansion money.
Or some unlucky stevedore is crushed by falling cargo.
Otherwise, the port carries on, what with tropical produce, forest and petroleum products, phosphate fertilizers, cement, steel and such coming and going.
Business as usual.
Until lately.
A series of disturbing events over the past four months makes you wonder, what in blue blazes has been going on with the top people who were supposed to be running that multi-billion dollar enterprise.
Where to begin?

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

F.E.L.T. golf helps feed homeless school kids

USF pitcher Steven Leasure with dad, Mark.
Remember F.E.L.T’s second annual Golf Classic to help feed empty little tummies of our homeless school children, Sept. 23 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. Registration is 7:30 a.m. Call Jane Evers at 941-747-8804. Or email
David and Mary Ann Hardy, members of Southeast High’s first graduating class in 1963, are wed 50 years on Saturday.
Robert Boone expects to climb back in the saddle in a few days. The Manatee High German and English teacher has been battling a staph infection since August, but anticipates being back in the classroom Tuesday.
• After wrapping up a two-year stint as a University of South Florida relief pitcher, Steven Leasure is trying to put his USF marketing degree to work in Tampa.
His combined record with the Bulls was 5-1 with seven saves and a 2.24 ERA over 40.1 innings.
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Where were you the morning of 9/11?

It was getting toward 9 a.m. that Tuesday morning 12 years ago and I was at the Eye Center on Cortez Road waiting for new glasses on the way to work.
The reception area TV set was always tuned to BayNews 9.
The few people there that morning paid it no mind, until the TV anchor said they were switching to New York City for breaking news.
They showed a live shot of the World Trade Center, a column of smoke billowing from high on the North Tower.
All eyes were on that TV.
Probably a commuter plane crash, I said to myself.
Seven years earlier, I'd flown one from Newark to Cape Cod for a wedding.
We'd gone right over the lower Manhattan skyline, close enough to admire the WTC, before crossing over to Brooklyn, Queens and beyond.
A puddle jumper got too low, I figured.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
When I got to the office, everyone was huddled around the big TV in the Herald's sports department.
What's up? I asked.
Another plane had hit the WTC, someone said.
It was the South Tower this time.
The network replayed the terrifying scene we've all witnessed too many times, the second jet coming low, momentarily blocked from view, and in the next instant the upper portion of the building erupts in a horrific geyser of fire and smoke and debris.
It is only a few minutes after 9 a.m.
A day truly from hell had begun for America.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Years pass, but 9/11 anniversary still resonates

Bill Ruth's gravemarker permanent reminder of 9/11.
Providence Community School will dedicate a memorial with 2,977 American flags Tuesday at 8:46 a.m.
Manatee Technical Institute will host a remembrance at the same time Wednesday morning. A “Tribute to Heroes” will be held on Riverwalk 45 minutes later.
Then Lakewood Ranch Main Street will hold a commemoration at 11 a.m.
Undoubtedly there will be other ceremonies around our community to memorialize the somber 12th anniversary of a day that has been seared into America’s soul.
Forget 9/11?

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

New centenarian celebrates milestone in style

Mark Twain impersonator Rod Rawlings with birthday boy Donald Thompson

Sounds like Donald Thompson's 100th birthday was a big ol' time for the World War II veteran.
Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee celebrated the milestone in style for its Daybreak Adult Day Care Center client Wednesday at Renaissance on 9th.
The birthday boy received a Donald Thompson Day proclamation from County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, a letter of congrats from Congressman Vern Buchanan’s special assistant Gary Tibbets, and a proclamation from the Florida House of Representatives arranged by state Rep. Jim Boyd.
Thompson is a Navy veteran who saw combat in the Pacific, enjoys card playing, western novels and has been a Meals on Wheels PLUS client since 2005.
• Lt. Michael Foust has been promoted to lieutenant commander at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. Wesley and Sharon are proud parents.
Andrea Teves Smith will be sworn in as a 10th Circuit Court judge in Lakeland on Sept. 12. She attended St. Joseph Catholic School and Manatee High School, where she was a Hurricane cheerleader.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on