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Scene & Heard


I am starting off this column with a plea for help. On March 13, the Naples-based charity Hope for Haiti is holding its gala at the Jubilee Center in Naples, and I hope all my readers will show their support and buy a ticket. In Haiti after the calamitous earthquake, I saw firsthand the valiant efforts of its staff and volunteers to bring water, food and medical supplies to the poorest of the poor. I’ve also got my heroes list of medical staff from Naples to celebrate. Fifteen minutes after arriving at a hospital there, Dr. Bill Murtagh, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, saved a young girl’s foot from amputation. During the next week, he handled case after case, providing much-needed skin grafts, repairing an eye socket and more. His wife, Barb, a nurse anesthetist, was at his side throughout the mission (and, beautiful person that she is, became like a sister to me). And, hero of heroes, retired orthopedic surgeon Jack Walsh, who performed many a surgery on the battlefields in Vietnam, was right back at it in Haiti, saving countless lives and limbs. I love you all for your goodness and your tireless efforts to help in the most desperate of circumstances.


But wait, there’s more heart and generosity to report. Listen to how I ended up heading to Haiti with $25,000 to support the rescue efforts. It started on Jan. 21, when Carole Stockard opened the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Bell Tower Shops for a fashion show to preview the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest the following month. I mentioned to the ladies at my table that I was headed to Haiti to document the horrible suffering there. As I was leaving, Tracey Galloway told me to stop by her family’s car dealership because they wanted to give me a $2,500 donation to Hope for Haiti. When I got there, her husband, Robert, raised it to $5,000 and then called me later to say his dad, Sam, wanted to make it an even $10,000. Building on the Galloway contribution, Joe Catti of FineMark Bank collected money for the cause from his employees—it came to $5,000—and his close friend David Lucas threw in another $10,000. “We can’t stand to see people hungry,” Joe told me. Thanks, guys. Your caring and giving say so much about you and the community spirit around here.  


And then there are the “It girls”—Karen Davis, Penny Brown and Renee DeAlmeida. Fashionable, fun and looking fine, these girls turn up at all the best parties in Fort Myers. Their legendary birthday bash every January requires a wig or party hat, and it’s always a blowout. This year, the girls asked all their guests at Blu Sushi in Fort Myers to make donations to Haiti victims instead of bringing gifts to the party. They even set up a 50/50 raffle, raising more than $1,000 with the effort. Toby Pombrio won and donated his take back to the fund for the Haitian survivors. Now there’s a party with a gift for good deeds.


NBC-2 reporter and noon anchor Michelle Burdo is engaged to architect Brian Zimmerman. He popped the question on Christmas Day, while the couple was visiting her family in New Jersey. Brian tells a very funny story about meeting the Burdo family. In some ways, he says, it was as if he had just stepped onto the set of the MTV show Jersey Shore. I think I’d better withhold the details to protect the innocent. In the meantime, Michelle’s just radiant and trying to figure out whether to hold the wedding here or in Jersey. No insult to New Jersey, Michelle, but how can you top a sunset wedding on the beach at one of our lovely resorts?


Talk about party animals. The Guadalupe Center of Immokalee’s Taste of Africa party in January at the Club at Pelican Bay inspired many of the guests to dress in jungle-themed outfits and go wild in their enthusiasm for the African artwork on hand. The turnout of 300 was twice that of the inaugural event last year and netted a very nice $270,000. The Center operates quite an impressive early childhood learning center, with more than 300 students on the waiting list to get in. It may be a jungle out there, but event chairs Linda Macartney, Bunny Salisbury and Sandy Vasey cut to the chase with a beautifully staged and successful party.


It was all positives and no negatives for renowned nature photographer Clyde Butcher as the featured player for a January fundraiser at The von Liebig Art Center. The guests dropped $250 tickets into a barrel, and the 60 random selectees were each granted 90 seconds to pluck one of his black-and-white framed photographs from the gallery walls. Screams of joy and delight rang out as the choices were made. The largest photograph was auctioned off, going to Dennis Holt for $9,500. “I saw Clyde’s picture in the paper and just decided to come to the event,” said Holt. As a new Butcher fan, he even signed up for one of Clyde’s famous Swamp Walk tours. In all, a picture-perfect evening.


Naples attorney Sharon Hanlon is happy to tell you what a gem of a daughter she has. Brittany, a graduate of Gulf Coast High School, is now attending law school. But it’s her sideline, designing jewelry, that is making news. In the style section of a recent issue of People magazine, reality star Kate Gosselin is seen wearing one of her necklaces. Brittany just started her jewelry line last year, and this sure adds a little sparkle to her business prospects. It’s www.brawlings.com, if you’d like to do some shopping.


Chris Schulz, the president and publisher of this magazine, never thought he’d make a tsar turn like the one he had at the David Lawrence Center’s gala in January at the Naples Yacht Club. The theme was “Land of the Tsars,” and guests were instructed to wear black-tie or Russian attire. Throwing himself into the spirit of this, Chris stepped forth in full Cossack outfit, complete with tunic, boots and fur hat. His gorgeous wife, Julie, looked lovely in her colorful Russian peasant dress. The only trouble was they walked into a sea of guests mostly clad in the black-tie mode. Just imagine some friendly Cossacks stomping about at your genteel mixer. Vodka, anyone? “It was a long 45 minutes,” says Chris, who felt somewhat rescued when Denise and Brian Cobb and Shirlene and Bob Elkins arrived as Russians as well. A doff of the fur hat to Chris for later stepping up as auctioneer and moving such prizes as a bottle of 1934 Chateau Margaux Bordeaux; a dinner at Joyce and Bill O’Meara’s; a stay in a cottage at the Swanson Vineyards in Napa; and a 19th century gold Russian cuff bracelet. He’s certainly cornered the market on Cossack auctioneers … should you ever need one.

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