October 24, 2014

Scene & Heard

Lively nights: Above, JoAnn and Joe Catti, CEO of Finemark Bank and Trust, celebrate the company’s fifth anniversary. Right, dancers entertain the crowd at the David Lawerence Center’s lively Evening in Old Havana at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.Bank on the Chef

Sure, money attracts people to banks, but when Finemark Bank and Trust celebrated its fifth anniversary with a bash at the Fort Myers bank in February, the big lure was, yes, the company’s chef, Michael Gavala. More than 600 guests turned out and were served such treats as his grilled lamb, chocolate teacup tiramisu and other fab concoctions, with wines paired as appropriate. The evening was pure profit for Finemark, measured especially in calories and goodwill—and Michael, the former owner of Sasse’s restaurant in Fort Myers, had a fine hand in it all.


Spirit of Havana

Many of the men wore linen suits and straw hats; others showed up in white dinner jackets. The women? You saw ruffles and head wraps and flowers in their hair. This was, after all, An Evening in Old Havana in January to benefit the David Lawrence Mental Health Center—and the 455 guests at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, really got into the spirit of it. The dance floor was surrounded by palm trees all lit up to replicate a glorious courtyard of the past and well past midnight dozens of couples were still out there stepping to the beat. The first ever Legacy Award went to the Bathey family, with Dick Bathey accepting on behalf of his brother David Lawrence. Dick urged everyone to “cross the bridge” from where the dream began and keep David’s legacy alive. Executive Director Carol Shaw reported a record-breaking net of just under $500,000. (Straw) hats off to a Havana gone wild for a good cause.

 


War Stories: WWII veteran and POW Rudy Froeschle and Jack Burns at Paige Field in Fort Myers.A True Hero

Call this experience just plane glorious. my eight-year-old son, Jack, is a war history buff, and, when I took him to the Wings of Freedom Tour at Paige Field in February, we just loved inspecting all those great fighter planes. But the visit got extra-special when we met an elderly man sitting on his scooter near a B-17. He was none other than Rudy Froeschle, who told us he had co-piloted a bomber like this and had been shot down over Stuttgart, Germany. Rudy, a retired doctor living in Fort Myers, said he had spent nearly two years in a prison camp before allied forces liberated him at the end of World War II. How’s that for a living history lesson for young Jack? I googled Rudy when I got home and learned more about his bravery: He had even been awarded a Purple Heart. It isn’t every day you meet such a legitimate American hero. A major salute to him.

 


Well Deserved

It’s easy to look up, also, to two of my favorite philanthropists in Southwest Florida—Jay and Patty Baker. The tributes pour in for them and there they were last February at the Aspire Gala in Baltimore being honored by the Cal Ripken Jr. Foundation. The event celebrates leaders in business, entertainment and sports—and who could dispute the Bakers’ credentials? Jay is the former president of Kohl’s Department Stores and was the driving force in building the company from 40 stores to 200 when he retired. Patty has lit up Broadway with producing credits for Memphis, Legally Blonde and Bonnie and Clyde. The enthusiasm for the Bakers was such that both their speeches were interrupted several times by applause. We add our cheers as well (and are happy to report that the event raised $2.5 million for the Foundation).


A Winner Once Again

As the wall street journal tells the world, “you had better have a really big bank account to attend or go with someone with an even bigger account.” The paper was talking, of course, about the Naples Winter Wine Festival and our signature event didn’t disappoint this past January. Co-chairs Bob Clifford and his wife, Joan, put on a grand event that brought in $12.2 million for children’s charities in Collier County. The most expensive luxury auction lot proved to be a yacht trip overseas for six couples that went for $600,000. Bob and Terry Edwards have been tapped as co-chairs for next year and I’m sure they’ll validate the Journal’s observation with another big year for needy children.


Touch of Class

What class and touch she has. Judith Liegeois of Judith Liegeois Designs threw an exquisite reception at her place for artist Iran Issa-Kahn in February and attracted quite a gathering. There were artists, architects, art collectors and more. One guest told me she had “never been to an event in Naples with a more interesting, sophisticated and cool crowd than this one.” Attendees included Bruce and Cynthia Sherman, Julie and Tim Dalton, Linda Malone, and Martha and Jim Fligg. Lots of good stuff going on, including the stunning works of Issa-Khan.


Nice Payoff

The guadalupe center of Immokalee’s signature fundraiser, A Taste of China, had it all back in January at the Port Royal Club: the cause (educating hundreds of low-income children), the heart (meeting Yvette Destine, who got to go to college, thanks to the generosity of the center and its supporters) and the payoff (netting more than $500,000 in donations). Quite a Taste, thanks to the yearlong efforts of co-chairs Alice Arena and Sue Dalton.

 


Anchor Departs

And a tearful goodbye to my co-anchor Len Jennings, who’s off to new anchor glories in Kansas City. The single women of Southwest Florida have been chasing this Gulfshore Life bachelor honoree for years—and with good reason. This is a kind, hardworking and humble man who’ll light up your day with his wicked sense of humor. Len, it has been a pleasure working with you over the last decade and sharing the anchor desk for this past year. You’ll be greatly missed. Good luck in K.C.


CORRECTION
In last month’s column report (“Kids Step Up”) on a fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, misinformation led us to write that Chase Hoover was still alive. He died in May 2011. In the editing process, we switched the names of brothers Chase and Jerred Hoover. We regret the errors.—The Editors

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