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Scene & Heard

graduation trip

You needed a passport to get to this graduation party in May, and what a time it was! A new couple in the ’hood (Port Royal), Ralph and Shelly Stayer, invited some of their Naples neighbors to celebrate the graduation of their two daughters—Brittany from the University of Notre Dame and Brooke from TASIS (The American School in Switzerland) in Lugano. The party was at Villa D’Este in Lake Como, Italy, a very lovely, if distant, location. Adventurers Bob and Terry Edwards, Elliott and Retta Singer, Jim and Linda Malone, Scott and Simone Lutgert, Kirsten Ferrara and Al Rupp flew overseas for the occasion. Since Ralph’s family founded Johnsonville Sausage and Shelly is co-owner of my favorite restaurant in Chicago, SushiSamba, you can be sure that the guests were well fed. It was a summa cum laude performance all around, worth every frequent flyer mile traversed.


ellen comes through

Call her "Ellen DeGenerous." Ellen DeGeneres surprised Cape Coral’s Renee Gamblin on her wildly popular Ellen TV program in March by promising Renee a new car. This was after Renee had lost her job. In May, the producers showed up here to deliver a 2010 black GMC Terrain. "I’ve never owned a new car in my life," a very thrilled Renee said. May it get her started on the road to success. Thanks, Ellen.

think again

We’re good for another round of thinking and caring about our world and community. The Searching for Solutions Institute will be following this year’s successful conference at the Phil with yet a bigger production March 21– 22, 2011. This time, The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort will host the affair. A lot of heavy hitters will again be on hand, and I’m particularly looking forward to the section on Women and Leadership. You can book your tickets online for what is becoming a signature event for this area.

kick-line legend

The legendary Barbara B. Mann still knows how to kick up her heels. When those dancing Rockettes from New York City came in May to the performing arts hall in Fort Myers that bears her name, the 90-something trouper joined the kick line. In a snappy red dress and with a sparkle in her eyes, Barbara warmed and inspired the audience with her spirit and her moves. Right on, girl.

quite an honor

Samira Beckwith, president and CEO of Hope HealthCare Services, continues to distinguish herself as a community leader and familiar face on the charity circuit. The latest acknowledgement? Word comes to us that she’s received the 2010 Ellis Island Medal of Honor. The medal is presented to distinguished Americans who "represent the very essence of the American way of life, having greatly contributed to our national identity while preserving the distinct values and heritage of their ancestors," according to the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations Foundation. As a young girl, Beckwith left Lebanon with her parents for the United States, and has been on the fast track to success ever since. Way to go, Samira. A well-deserved award for sure.

rockin’ gala

Can it be? How many times at a charity ball in this town do you find the dance floor still packed and rockin’ at midnight? Well, that’s the way it was at this year’s Heart Ball in April at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa. The band finally had to tell the crowd on the dance floor that it was time to leave. Co-chairs Bob and Linda Simpson pulled in a big crowd and raised a tidy $400,000. This was the second year of combining the Lee and Collier events, and the net was 60 percent higher than last year’s. Big hearts indeed.

comic book hero

Illustrator Frank Frazetta died of a stroke on Mother’s Day in Fort Myers. He is famous for his comic book illustrations of swashbuckling heroes and scary monsters. Frank’s fine hand illustrated daily comics featuring such characters as Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Li’l Abner and Conan the Barbarian. He certainly left his mark on us.


hair today

Longtime stylists and business owners Vinnie and Will Hutt held their annual client-appreciation party in May at their gorgeous salon, tucked away off Cypress Lake Drive in Fort Myers. This is one party I always attend, just to see the latest hair fashions. The stylists at La-Te-Da always amp it up for the event, modeling the latest rages in hair and makeup. Think braided hair extensions and gray eyeliner. Wonders to behold.

judge and dad

State Rep. Nick Thompson, a Fort Myers native, has been stepping up these days. First, he won a seat as the area’s newest circuit judge in Southwest Florida. When no other candidate filed for the job, Nick automatically won. He’ll be following in the footsteps of his father, who previously served as a circuit judge. Nick Jr.’s also taking on another honored responsibility. He and his wife, Chene, an attorney, are expecting their first child this fall.

surprise ending

And now to a story about paying it forward. Local jeweler Mark Loren is grateful for all the success he has had in this community, so several times a year he hides a gift at a local charity event. Usually, it’s a bracelet he has designed. At the Grande Dames Tea in February to support the PACE Center for Girls, Loren placed a gift bag on a seat at Sandy Stilwell Silverglide’s table. It said, "You find it, you keep it." Well, the woman who found it, a single mother who works as a hair stylist in Fort Myers, tried to give it to Sandy, her host. When Sandy declined, the woman gratefully accepted it, and she was able to sell it to pay her back taxes. "The whole story brings a tear to my eye," Sandy told me. Mark Loren might never have imagined this use for his gift, but I just know he’d be very pleased to have brought such relief to another human being.

welcome to naples

New York State’s loss is definitely our gain. In protest to the rising taxes in the Empire State, Tom Golisano made headlines last year when he announced he was moving to Naples. The Rochester billionaire, founder of Paychex, owner of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team and three-time candidate for governor of the state, has swiftly become an impact player here. He donated $4 million to Ave Maria and in May announced a $5 million gift to the Children’s Museum of Naples, which will now carry his name as well. Welcome to town, Tom. You’ve made some pretty nice first impressions.

$20 million, anyone?

Gulfshore Life

has reported on the heroic efforts of the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida to serve ailing children throughout the area. One story was called "The Little Hospital That Could," and now fundraisers are out to corral $20 million to turn that "Little Hospital" into a nice, big new one. Contributions will be gratefully accepted. You might even get the naming rights if you’re generous enough. Dig deep, my friends, for this most worthy enterprise.
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