Social Scene


Scene & Heard: A 'Titanic' Birthday

What a way to ring in a new decade. About 30 girlfriends surprised Sheri Loren for her 50th birthday at Gulf Harbour Country Club on Feb. 16. BFF Georganne Williams and Debra Hobbs secretly invited all of her friends to celebrate the special day. Mary Love brought a Norman Love cake and chocolates. Sheri even shed a couple of tears when her pals presented her with a gift they had all chipped in to buy for her. Sheri had always wanted a Louis Vuitton handbag, and her friends made her wish come true. The fun really began with the green screen set up for pictures, titled “Unsinkable Sheri.” …

The good people of the Gulf Harbour community showed how much you can “Love Your Neighbor” by raising $285,000 at a cocktail party for The Heights Foundation at the home of Sonja and Stephan Burkard. They also received a $10,000 pledge from FineMark Bank and an anonymous pledge of $100,000 for the new Harlem Heights Community Charter School. The Harlem Heights community represents a little pocket of poverty, right outside the gates of this exclusive country club community. Many of the people who live in Gulf Harbour help support Heights families through various nonprofits. The highlight of the auction was a special VIP experience at an AC/DC concert donated by bass player Cliff Williams. Williams himself attended the party …

After two years of anticipation, Hertz opened its global headquarters in Estero on Jan. 22. Gov. Rick Scott joined in the celebration with hundreds of staff members and local dignitaries. Hertz president and CEO John Tague gave a shout out to Florida Gulf Coast University, when he asked how many FGCU alums were employees. Many hands went up. Nick Cid, a Barron Collier High School grad, who has worked at Hertz for two years, is an alum who is now pursuing his MBA. “I have great pride in the area, and it’s a good feeling to know I can fuel my passion at work,” Nick said …

Forty-five descendants of Capt. Fernando Gonzalez Jr. (right) spent the weekend of Feb. 19 sharing some stories and adventures about their famous ancestors. With three other teenage boys, he had sailed to America from Spain in the 1840s and landed in Fort Myers. Organized by his great grandson Jason, the weekend started at The Veranda restaurant, where Capt. Gonzalez’s oldest son, Manuel, had built the two houses that now make up the historic eating spot. The family also attended the Edison Festival of Light parade. “This was the first time in 40 years we had all been together,” said Jason Gonzalez. …

What a find. When Estero retiree Steve Schluessler went “treasure hunting” with his metal detector, it turned into a priceless heirloom for a Lee County family. In January, while he was combing over a baseball field in Estero, he found a state championship ring won by the 1997-1998 Estero cross country team. Turns out the man who had owned the ring had recently passed away. And that man was Jeff Sommer, the Wildcats coach and athletic director who had died in May. In a nice touch, Schluessler presented the ring to Sommer’s wife, Sue, at the Estero High School cross country team banquet at First Baptist Church of Estero. It was a complete surprise to the family and a great way to acknowledge a champion …

A fond farewell to the executive director of the Guadalupe Center of Immokalee. Barbara Oppenheim has been leading the nonprofit center for 11 years, providing educational services to some of our poorest families. When she arrived in 2005, the center was serving 250 children a day; when she leaves on June 30, they will be serving 1,100 per day …

Hundreds of people dressed in orange and blue in honor of his beloved University of Florida mourned the sudden death of longtime Fort Myers pediatrician Dr. John (Jack) Bartlett at his service Feb. 19. He started Physicians Primary Care, one of the oldest and largest practices in Southwest Florida. He cared for three generations of families and the grief over his death was profound. Everyone, it seemed, had a story about him, a way he touched their family or made them feel special. “To my children,” said Courtney Black, “he was the kind and funny man who always helped them feel better. To me, he was the knowledgeable and calm presence who laid to rest my new mommy fears. It speaks volumes that so many people trusted Dr. Bartlett with their precious children.” …

Rocky Patel staged a pretty hot night of custom cigars and celebrities at Burn on Feb. 18. The entrepreneur/club owner/cigar aficionado collaborated with football great Ray Lewis and baseball star Gary Sheffield to develop the athletes’ own cigars, Legends 52 and HR500. “The energy was awesome, the music was perfect, and it was truly a classy, star-studded night,” said local stylist Jen Couture, who attended with party with friend and yoga studio owner Heather Holland. Other professional athletes were on hand as well, including boxer Antonio Tarver. …

“I hope someone will take ‘Mercy’ home and enjoy her as much as I did.” That was the Naples historian and food critic talking about her 1970 SL Mercedes that she donated for auction to benefit the Neighborhood Health Clinic. The irrepressible 90-plus celeb stole the show as 350 guests celebrated the clinic in February at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Longtime supporters Vince and Pat Foglia sponsored the evening and brought three tables of friends, making for a rousing auction and cash call. Doris’ heartfelt speech about the good work done at the clinic for the working poor moved the guests and her talk of “carving out adventures in her ‘Mercy’” tickled them as well. It all added up to a fun evening and $750,000 raised for the clinic.