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Voyager Joie de Vivre is Contagious Ann Hartley's City of Lights

Sense of Place Corrie ten Boom Her Hiding Place on the Emerald Coast

Giving Ronald McDonald House Lending a Hand When Tragedy Strikes

Plus Suzanne Rester Watson Christopher A. Kent Zeke Bratkowski Econfina Creek


VIE - Spring 2009


Lisa Powell weds Chris Ashley October 18, 2008

Photo by Leslie Cothran Photography VIE - Spring 2009 2

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VIE - Fall Spring / Winter 2009 2008

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VIE - Spring 2009

VIE - Spring 2009


People, in general, are resourceful and resilient. Throughout our world’s known history, others have had to endure so much more than we have—what we are experiencing now is tough, but nowhere near what others have had to bear in the past. In reading the story of Corrie ten Boom in this issue, I am amazed that, though the Holocaust occurred more than 60 years ago, the atrocities are still unbearable to ponder. I recently saw the movie Valkyrie, which gives a perspective different from that commonly associated with World War II Germany. Nonetheless, the message of the movie was made more poignant by the realization that some of Hitler’s own Third Reich officers were horrified at what he was doing. Hindsight is 20/20, and people always seem to have a better understanding of how or why things could or should have been done differently. Though it may be discomforting, we sometimes need to remember the bad in order to keep the good in perspective. If you see or know someone going through hard times, try to remember the ways in which you have been blessed, and reach out to them. You don’t have to do much—a friendly cup of coffee and a sympathetic ear can go a long way. If you have the resources and the desire to do more, then you could consider that as well.

Photo by Jessie Shepard

A Note from the Publisher


y role as VIE’s publisher has opened my eyes to seeing the “big picture” more clearly than in the past. As a business owner in a promising economy, I used to think of Northwest Florida as paradise and felt that there wasn't a better place to live. Though our local economy is not what it was a few short years ago, I still would not want to live anywhere else. However, the recent economic downturn has created a rough road and difficult adjustments for many (myself included), and I find inspiration in our SPRING issue about just that—adjustments. We've all had to adjust, adapt and accept new ways of doing things in the past, but the real difference this time is that we all seem to be adjusting at the same time. This group shift seems a bit strange, but as uncomfortable as it is for us as individuals, we can at least find comfort in numbers.


VIE - Spring 2009

The next time you see the joyful dolphins playing in Apalachicola Bay, the unbelievable glow of aquamarine waters off the shoreline on Miramar Beach, or the dramatic burst of a colorful sunset on Pensacola Beach, count your blessings and be thankful for the paradise in which we live—COLA 2 COLA! To life!


For more information, please visit:

In this issue:

110 36



88 80


52 VIEcation Portofino Island 11 People + Places Heart Healthy Extravaganza 30 Dugas Christmas Party 61 Taste of THE Beach 87 Emerald Coast Title 25th Anniversary / Destin Chops 30A 123 Feature Share the Beat 18 Giving Lending a Hand When Tragedy Strikes 32 Life Lessons: Zeke Bratkowsi 36 For the Love of Food Destin Chops 30A: The Legend Continues 42 School of Fish: Class Is In Session. First Class. 48 The Voyager Ann Hartley’s City of Lights 52 The Pensacola Chamber Explores the Cultural and Industrial Wonders of China 62 Fly Away and Save 66

Local Business Profile Changing With the Times 72 Dr. Varnadore’s Longevity Medicine 76 Perspectives A Subtle Force of Nature 80 The Art of Life Northwest Florida Ballet 88 So You Think You Can Dance 93 A Sense of Place Her Hiding Place On the Emerald Coast – Corrie ten Boom 98 Pensacola’s Art and Soul 107 Seaside – A Beginning and a Return 110 SoWal Took Off 119 Get Out Econfina Creek 126 Through the Lens Photographer’s Perspective – Econfina Creek 129 New Beginnings 130

VIE - Spring 2009


Letter from the Editor

Pensacola Chamber of Commerce organized a trip to China this past October and a story by their Vice President of Community Affairs, Natalie Prim, recounts her adventures there. Although we agree that “there’s no place like home,” it is fun to venture out, as it allows a new appreciation of our beautiful area upon return. As for getaways in our own area, congratulations to the winners of our first VIEcation Giveaway sponsored by St. Joe: Linda Reeves (Grand Prize), Andrea Donnelly (Second Prize) and Sonya Jeblonski (Third Prize). Chris Kent’s article, “Seaside—a Beginning and a Return,” is one of my favorites because it provides an interesting look back. Chris rarely reveals this much about his interesting career and private life. We thank him for having the faith in VIE to allow us to present him to you. Attending James Redford’s Share the Beat fundraiser in Atlanta was a magical evening and opportunity… it prompted us to ponder the importance of organ donation and how it truly is giving the gift of life to another. Appreciation for seeing Robert Redford up close and personal and then receiving his approval to have his image grace the cover of VIE goes beyond what words can express; we thank him, his son James Redford, and the James Redford Institute (JRI) for allowing us to share their incredible story. It is an honor to be able to share Quin Sherrer’s story about how Corrie ten Boom called Niceville her place of refuge in her later years; here is yet another of the beautiful threads that make up the rich tapestry of our area. For inspiration to help us persevere through troubled times, I cannot think of words that are more fitting than those of Corrie ten Boom: “Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable and reaches the impossible.”

Photo by Jessie Shepard


ell, we all survived 2008, though perhaps we are a little battleworn. In our SPRING 2009 issue of VIE – People + Places, we extend good wishes to all in the new year ahead and hope that we all come out on the other side of these challenging times stronger and wiser.

We at Cornerstone Marketing & Advertising continue to have faith by believing that we will all have a great 2009 by supporting our friends, families and advertisers, and by honoring COLA 2 COLA with VIE.

Several stories about travels abroad fill the pages of this issue as we had a serious case of wanderlust in the latter part of 2008. We share our incredible experience of shopping in Paris with Ann Hartley; our contributing travel writer, Kim Duke-Layden, reveals tips on how to travel to Europe on a budget; the

Gerald Burwell

On the Cover: Robert Redford walks the red carpet at the Tabernacle in Atlanta for Share the Beat fundraiser. Photo by Jessie Shepard Story on page 18


VIE - Spring 2009

VIECATION Give-Away Register by April 10th to Win This Great Prize!

W W W. V I E C AT I O N . C O M

Grand Prize A two-night stay for four in a twobedroom suite overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at beautiful Portofino Island.* - Bicycle Rentals for Four - Full-day Passes to Adventure Cove for Four Portofino Island is located on the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and Santa Rosa Bay in Pensacola Beach, Florida.

Sponsored By

Entry Information You must be 25 or older. Only one entry per person. Winner need not be present to win. This prize is guaranteed to be awarded and is subject to availability. No VIE - People + Places employee or employee’s immediate family member is eligible to win. The winner will be drawn on April 17, 2009. No substitutions for prizes and prizes are nontransferable and nonrefundable. Contest is open only to residents of the United States. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary to enter. Neither VIE - People + Places nor any of its agencies, employees or affiliates are liable for any property damage, personal injury or death occurring during or in connection with this program. * This offer is valid through March 1, 2010. The prize is not transferable or redeemable for cash. Reservations are based on availability. Not valid over holidays and blackout dates may apply.

Names and addresses from contest entries will be added to the database of VIE - People + Places and may be used for future marketing announcements/promotions via U.S. Postal Service or e-mail. We respect personal privacy; any information provided on this form will be held in the strictest confidence and will be used for no other reason than stated on this form. If you do not wish to be added to our list, please indicate in the appropriate place on the entry.

VIE - Spring 2009


Published by:

(850) 231-3087 114 Logan Lane, Suite 4 Grayton Beach, FL 32459 w w w . T h e I d e a B o u ti q u e . c o m

Contact us at

VIE Creative Team: Lisa Burwell Publisher

Gerald Burwell Editor-in-Chief

Art Direction / Creative:

Bob Brown VP of Creative Services

Eric Shepard Creative Director

Advertising Sales:

Lisa Comeau VP of Account Services

Jim Ryan Account Executive


Hui-Ting Tang Graphic Artist

Michelle Smith Ad Design Crystal Hamon Writer


Jessie Shepard


VIE - Spring 2009

Lannie Hartley Intern


Romona Robbins

Lisa Ferrick Social Correspondent

Renee Ryan Distribution Director

Contributing Writers: Sallie Boyles Bob Brown Rhonda Cloutier Christopher A. Kent Kim Duke-Layden Laura A. Lee Will Maberry Clark Peters Natalie Prim Kirsten Reed Romona Robbins Quin Moore Sherrer Margaret Stevenson Jennifer Tate Kitty Taylor Susan Vallee Sandra Kytle Woodward

Contributing Photographers: Steven Brooke Joseph Cloutier Leslie Cothran Lisa Ferrick Josh Savage Gibson Kim Duke-Layden Roark Photography Quin Moore Sherrer Kitty Taylor

VIE - Spring 2009



COLA COLA Distribution Areas by County:


ur stories and distribution cover Pensacola to Apalachicola, Florida as we explore the people and places of our region in the pages of VIE - People + Places. The magazine is found in all the Tourist Development Council Centers, Chamber of Commerce locations, Sundog Books in Seaside, Florida, boutiques, restaurants, bed & breakfast locations, special events and much more! We are excited you have picked up a copy of VIE and hope you enjoy exploring the people and places of our coveted area. With 20,000 magazines printed for the inaugural issue we are confident that we will be able to spread the good news with our stories and help our advertisers garner business. We have a passion for VIE, our area, and the people and businesses found within and hope you will share in the excitement and know that we live in a great place and that, "life is good."

VIE: People + Places is a registered trademark. All contents herein are Copyright © 2009 Cornerstone Marketing & Advertising, Incorporated (The Publisher). All rights reserved. No part of this periodical may be reproduced without written permission from The Publisher. VIE: People + Places is a life-style magazine of Northwest Florida (COLA 2 COLA TM) and is published quarterly. The opinions herein are not necessarily those of The Publisher. The Publisher and its advertisers will not be held responsible for any errors found in this publication. The Publisher is not liable for the accuracy of statements made by its advertisers. Ads that appear in this publication are not intended as offers where prohibited by state law. The Publisher is not responsible for photography or artwork. The Publisher reserves the right to publish any letter addressed to the editor or The Publisher. VIE: People + Places is a free publication and shall not be resold. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to CORNERSTONE MARKETING & ADVERTISING, INC., 114 Logan Lane, Suite 4, Grayton Beach, FL 32459; (850) 231-3087.


VIE - Spring 2009

CORRECTION: The photo caption that appeared on the top left photo on Page 92 of “The Seabreeze Jazz Festival” article in the FALL/WINTER 2008 issue of VIE – People + Places was incorrect. The correct photo caption is “Chante Moore” and not “Joyce Cooling” – we apologize for the error.


VIE - People + Places Magazine is Now Available Online!

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REDFISH VILLAGE • 850.267.0319 • 2050 W. COUNTY HIGHWAY 30A • SANTA ROSA BEACH, FL 32459 16

VIE - Spring 2009


"A craftsman at heart, I ascribe to the philosophy of taking pride in each and every project that I design." Gerald F. Burwell A r c h i t e c t

BurwellAssociates 114 Logan Lane, Suite 4. Grayton Beach, Florida 32459 P. 850.231.6377 F. 850.231.6375 E.

Lic- Spring number AR-0017641 VIE 2009 17

Sharethe Beat The Gift of Life By Lisa Burwell / Photography by Jessie Shepard



VIE - Spring 2009

Amy Smith Heinz


arly on a Monday morning last September, Greg Barnhill’s wife, Amy Smith Heinz, told me that they were heading to Atlanta for the weekend to play a songwriters-in-the-round concert for Robert Redford’s son, James Redford, and his charity fundraiser, “Share the Beat.” She explained that this is one of many fundraisers that the James Redford Institute ( JRI) for Transplant Awareness has created to spread awareness about organ and tissue donation. I was impressed, as I usually am, with Greg and Amy and asked if she thought that VIE – People + Places would be able to obtain press passes to cover the event. Within 30 minutes, Amy had arranged access for us through Kristin Power, Public Relations Director for the Georgia Transplant Foundation which, along with JRI, was the event’s beneficiary. I have heard Greg sing before crowds, both large and small, and was thrilled to be en route to hear him again that Saturday, September 13, not to mention excited to have a chance to meet Robert Redford and learn more about “Share the Beat.” We honestly did not know much about the charity, its beneficiary, or the Tabernacle, the place where the event would be held. On our drive to Atlanta, VIE Editor Jerry Burwell, and Jessie and Eric Shepard (photographer and VIE art director, respectively) read up on the event, since we really did not know what to expect. Eric had been to the Tabernacle before and said it was a very cool place. Centrally located in downtown Atlanta and within walking distance of the Georgia World Congress Center, the Georgia Dome and Philips Arena, the Tabernacle is a venue for special events and private functions. It opened in 1910 as the Broughton Tabernacle, with Dr. Leonard Gaston Broughton as the pastor of a 4,000-member congregation. Broughton, who was also a

physician, started the Georgia Baptist Medical Center and nursing schools in the building as well. The congregation relocated in the mid-eighties, and the beautiful building remained vacant until 1996 when it was morphed into the House of Blues for the Centennial Olympic Games. Several venue operators later, it is now owned by Live Nation (, the world’s largest live music company. Upon our arrival, the old building did not look that impressive from the outside, but the streets were barricaded and the red carpet indicated that something special would be occurring. Excitement was brewing. We knew

Within 30 minutes, Amy had arranged access for us... James Redford with wife, Kyle, and Robert Redford VIE - Spring 2009


not completely; it is part church, part theater and part opera house, with room after room and alcoves galore. The overall feel of the venue is very bohemian. It is sad that they don’t make buildings like this anymore. As Eric said, it is a very cool place. The guests were ushered inside to take their seats. James Bignon & the Deliverance Mass Choir opened the night, giving an electrifying performance that sent chills through me. I could have listened to them all night but then I would have missed out on the other greats of the evening. After their performance, Jeff Hoffman, CEO of and the presenting sponsor for the event, welcomed everyone. Next, Allan Baitcher presided over a live auction that included a signed Styx guitar, Sundance Resort & Film Festival tickets, a Babe Ruth-autographed baseball and several other items. Robert Redford was seated in the main room with the rest of the guests, some of the performers, his family and Annie Aft, JRI executive director. From my balcony, I could clearly see their table, and I caught a glimpse into a special and personal moment for James Redford as his family gathered to support his charity and, as we were about to learn, to celebrate the very fact of his life. Master of Ceremonies Dana Delany gave special thanks to all of the sponsors and chatted about how she had met James when he cast her in a movie a few years ago. She then introduced Robert Redford.

Dana Delany that Desperate Housewives’ Dana Delany was the Master of Ceremonies and American Idol’s Bo Bice, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Greg Barnhill, Deana Carter, Alexa Wilkinson, Rivers Rutherford, and James and Robert Redford would soon be walking the red carpet. A television reporter with Inside Edition was perched out front waiting for the event to begin. Other than that, there were only four members of the media in attendance, and VIE was one of them. It was the start of what would prove to be a thrilling evening. The Tabernacle has been refurbished, although

The overall feel of the venue is very bohemian. 20

VIE - Spring 2009

This handsome, gracious and unassuming person is known to many for his philanthropic endeavors, the Sundance Film Festival, movies such as Barefoot in the Park, The Great Gatsby, The Way We Were, Butch James Bignon & the Deliverance Mass Choir

Fact: An estimated 10,000 to 14,000 people who die each year meet the criteria for organ donation but less than half become donors.




Fact: Acceptable organ donors can range in age from newborn to 65 years or older.


VIE - Spring 2009

Robert Redford

Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and much more. To hear Robert Redford’s distinctive and smooth voice as he spoke at the podium was surreal on a couple of levels. First, I have to admit to feeling a little awe-struck at being in such close proximity to a Hollywood powerhouse. Second, hearing the love and respect that this father has for his son was inspiring beyond words. He told a story about how his son, James, had

Hearing the love and respect that this father has for his son was inspiring beyond words. become very ill and in need of an organ transplant some 16 years earlier. Redford chose his words slowly and reverently, as this was not a rehearsed speech, but one from the heart and one that must have been somewhat painful to make. He said, “Educating people and raising awareness to become an organ donor is so important because it truly is giving the gift of life.� His most heartwarming comment was about how he could never begin to know the courage it must have taken his son to get through that time in his life when he did not know whether he would live or die. He spoke of how, 16 years earlier, James received a liver transplant that failed, and six months later underwent another one, which was a success. Redford

told the audience that, when good fortune comes your way, you need to give back. He added that Atlanta has a tradition and pride, as well as a generous spirit. He thanked all of the musicians, the Georgia Transplant Foundation, Dana Delany, and the goodness of people in general. And then his voice lit up as he introduced James. James Redford took the podium, and at that moment, there was enlightenment for most of us in the audience that organ donation is something to seriously consider. I knew then, being involved in this fundraiser was so much more important than donning a nice dress and being part of the celebrity scene.

... then his voice lit up as he introduced James. Deana Carter VIE - Spring 2009


James’ speech was followed by more heartwarming stories. One such story was that of Sebastian, Gerri Osman’s16-yearold son. He had shared with his mother about his experience with the Redford AnimAction Project, a grassroots partnership with schools where students learn about organ donation and help raise awareness by creating their own animated public service announcements. Gerri noted how Sebastian spoke of the importance for organ donation, but admitted that at the time she did not give it much thought. How was she to know, that a few weeks later, a car accident would take his life? She vividly recalled Sebastian’s passionate discussions and, in honor of his wishes, donated his organs. After Gerri, a small girl, Lexi, appeared on stage. A short while back, she had successfully undergone a heart transplant and looked to be in picture-perfect health and full of zest for life. She was thrilled to receive a guitar that was personally presented by James – and even more excited to see that it had been specially autographed for her by Miley Cyrus—or is it Hannah Montana? I always get the two confused. It was at this point in the evening that the audience was treated to what very few have the good fortune of seeing and hearing: songwriters performing their own works. Songwriters have a magic about them and do what most of us cannot do; they pen songs that touch us and then, hopefully, alJames Redford low well-known entertainers to perform them, turning them into hits. To hear the actual authors performing their own James is the physical embodiment of humility and gratitude. He is serious songs is very different from hearing the perfectly staged and crafted verabout his foundation’s mission and its mandate to raise awareness about orsions. Now, to say I am biased toward Greg Barnhill is an understatement, gan and tissue donation. “Most people avoid this topic,” he said, “as they as I am a big fan of his. But I will honestly tell you that in the 14 years I don’t want to admit they will die, similar to how many perceive life insurhave seen him perform, I have never seen him give a more stellar and pasance.” He recounted how, when he was in his twenties, he learned that he sionate performance. He was bold, engaging and mesmerizing. He belted it would need a liver transplant and said that he was amazed by the power of human generosity. It was a touching speech and one that made you stop Alexa Wilkinson and think that organ and tissue donation is truly a selfless act and a gift to another family when your own life is over.

James is the physical embodiment of humility and gratitude. 24

VIE - Spring 2009


Fact: Over 79,000 U.S. patients are currently waiting for an organ transplant, with nearly 3,000 being added yearly. VIE - Spring 2009



Fact: 26

By signing a uniform donor card, an individual indicates his or her will to be a donor; however, at the time of death, the next of kin will still be asked to sign a consent form to donate. VIE - Spring 2009

I left with a feeling of great appreciation for so many things. out of the park. “House of Love,” “Hotel Del Coronado” and “Walkaway Joe” were the songs he chose for the evening. He is gifted with talent and a generous, kind spirit as well. He is the real deal. Bo Bice was amazing. He has a natural charisma and confidence on stage that doesn’t come from being famous, but from… well, being really, really good. Alexa Wilkinson is a relative newcomer at twenty-five. She met actress Katherine Heigl who in turn introduced her to Josh Kelley, to whom Heigl is now married. Kelley helped Wilkinson to soar from girl-next-door to a touring national recording artist. Then there was Rivers Rutherford. He rocked the house with soul that you just don’t hear that often. He was The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers’ (ASCAP) Songwriter of the Year in 2006, as well as an Academy of Country Music (ACM) and Country Music Association (CMA) Song of the Year nominee. He and Greg performed a few duets that made us feel as if we were in the midst of greatness. Deana Carter was one of the last performers of the evening – she did not disappoint either. At the end of the evening, I left with a feeling of great appreciation for so many things. Life. Good people doing good things. I felt privileged to have witnessed such an intimate evening that felt more like a family gathering than a fundraising event. There was a lot of talent, many well-wishers and good intentions, and mostly, there was a lot of love!

Rivers Rutherford & Greg Barnhill

James Redford introduces Lexi, a heart transplant recipient.




waiting for a kidney transplant.


waiting for a liver transplant.


waiting for a pancreas transplant.


waiting for a pancreas islet cell.


waiting for a kidney-pancreas transplant.


waiting for an intestine transplant.


waiting for a heart transplant.


waiting for a heart-lung transplant.


waiting for a lung transplant.



learn more at : VIE - Spring 2009


When It Comes to Beach Safety, Make Sure You Know Before You Go!


ith the help of “Seemore” The Safety Crab, Walton County is committed to beach safety. We have a flag system that tells surf conditions based on what color safety flag is flying at

the beach. So recognize the flags that Seemore is holding and know before you go. We’re making safety a top priority!



MEDIUM HAZARD (Light surf and/or currents) LOW HAZARD (Calm conditions) MARINE PEST PRESENT 850-267-1216 w w w .SeemoreSafetyCra

Know the Facts About Rip Current • Stay out of the water or swim with caution when the flags indicate unsafe conditions. • Don’t panic or swim against the current. • Swim parallel to shore until you are out of the current (which is rarely more than 30 feet wide). • If you can’t escape, float or tread water. Lifeguarded beaches are available from mid-March through September, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.* at designated public beach accesses 28

VIE - Spring 2009

including Inlet, Santa Clara, Gulf View Heights, Ed Walline, Dune Allen and Miramar. * Non Daylight Savings days 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. – subject to change


VIE - Spring 2009




Heart Healthy Extravaganza The St. Joe Company donated the private and exclusive WaterSound Beach Club for the “Heart Healthy Extravaganza” on Saturday, Nov. 22. The evening featured healthy, gourmet cuisines prepared by five of the area’s best chefs, a silent auction, live entertainment, and dancing under the stars. The event raised $45,204 for the campaign to expand heart and vascular services at Sacred Heart Hospital. Casey Marcy, Suzanne DeFranco, Peggy Geppert, Debi Starr, Margie Zeitlin, Shay Bell, Joan Luchese, Martha Guernsey & Marie McKenna

Andrea Taylor & Amy Cooper

Michelle Smith & Lisa Ferrick

Meg Norwood & Roger Hall

Kelli Arnold & Kevin Boyle Photos by Lisa Ferrick


VIE - Spring 2009

VIE - Spring 2009



t 7:20 p.m. our baby girl arrived in this world, but our ears were not met with her cries. Rather, we heard the deafening silence of a child who was not breathing. I was given one minute to touch her hand through an incubator, and then she was gone. Words buzzed around in my muddled mind: “life flight to Sacred Heart,” “blood transfusion,” “intubation," “hours to live—maybe,” “unsure of her future.” I was alone in my hospital room under a blanket of sorrow and loneliness. That was the beginning of a nightmare from which I could not wake up. For the next six weeks, our sweet baby girl, Haleigh Amelia, battled for her life. She struggled for every breath, battled seizures, underwent surgeries and fought to grow. The test results were always the same— severe trauma to the brain. Her prognosis was grim, and her future was uncertain.

Lending A Hand When Tragedy Strikes Ronald McDonald House Aiding Families of Sick Children in Northwest Florida By Kirsten Reed The day was September 10, 1998. It was my father’s birthday, but my husband and I were preparing a celebration of our own. I was in labor, and we were certain to welcome the arrival of our second child within the next day. What would we have: a bouncing baby boy or another beautiful girl? Would there be football or princess birthdays in our future, with a grandfather sharing in the cake? The excitement mounted with each contraction. We would soon be meeting our newest family member, and we could not wait to shower this child with love. But the story didn’t unfold as planned. 32

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During Haleigh’s long stay at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, we were lucky to have the use of a nearby hotel suite through the generosity of a friend. This allowed my husband and me to make full use of the limited visiting hours without making a daily 100-mile commute. It is every parent’s nightmare to watch a child suffer or, worse, succumb to death. You can’t truly understand it unless you have walked that dark and uncertain road. A Lonely Path Made Brighter Not everyone has the same resources that we did—a supportive network of friends and lodging right next to the hospital. Luckily, Ronald McDonald House of Pensacola helps even the playing field. Its mission is to make life more bearable for families dealing with seriously ill children by providing a safe haven where they can lay their heads and still be close to their children. For these families, the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) is a place of comfort where they can eat and sleep, a respite from emotionally wrenching visits at Sacred Heart Hospital.

Rooms are offered at little or no cost, which is a blessing during this time of strained financial resources. But RMH offers something much more valuable than a roof and a bed. It offers the emotional support of other parents sharing the same trials and tribulations—a priceless gift that cannot be duplicated. “The House is a huge help financially for the families,” says Kim Henderson, area manager for Ronald McDonald House of Northwest Florida in Okaloosa and Walton counties. “But even more than that, people in similar situations are there too. The emotional network of bonding and support is amazing. Those families are so important to each other.” Henderson has been involved with RMH for years, raising money and awareness for the cause and volunteering her time in a number of ways. Last June, Henderson assisted in the formation of a volunteer group called Helping Hands for the Ronald McDonald House, which, as the name implies, provides assistance with nearly every aspect—from fundraisers to the running of the House. She has recruited forty volunteers over the last year and hopes to expand those numbers as awareness of Helping Hands grows. The Roots of RMH The idea for the Ronald McDonald House came about in the 1970s, when Fred Hill, a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and a parent whose daughter had fought leukemia, turned his firsthand experience with catastrophe into something positive. After seeing other parents sleeping in their cars, in waiting rooms and on the hallway floors of hospitals to be near their ailing children, Hill decided to start a home away from home for families to stay in while their children were hospitalized. He approached Ray Kroc of the McDonald’s Corporation, asking him to lend the Ronald McDonald name to the home, since Ronald McDonald is an icon that represents happiness for children. VIE - Spring 2009


“Sixty-five percent of our families come from Okaloosa, Walton and Bay counties, and they want to find a way to give back by helping our organization...” -Kim Henderson

Thirty-four years later, there are more than 250 Ronald McDonald Houses in thirty countries, all designed to aid families during their darkest hours. Unfortunately, the need at Pensacola RMH continues to grow, due in part to local population influxes and the increased bed-count at Sacred Heart Hospital NICU. Funds for this growth are in short supply, however. Several fundraisers are in the works to generate money for expansion, which will allow the Ronald McDonald House to accommodate more families, rather than turning away increasing numbers of families each year. Plans for the new RMH will expand the existing seven bedrooms to twentysix and potentially serve an additional 551 families each year. Henderson emphasizes the need for expansion. “In 2006, we served 202 families. In 2007, we served 240 families. Due to the limited size of RMH, we turned away families 2,300 times in those two years,” she says. Because such a large percentage of the population served by RMH is east of Pensacola, Henderson has created more events that residents of those areas can support. “Sixty-five percent of our families come from Okaloosa, Walton and Bay counties, and they want to find a way to give back by helping our organization,” she said. “It isn’t always feasible for them to prepare a meal or come to Pensacola, so we decided to hold more fundraisers east of Pensacola.” 34

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Community fundraisers are an important way not only to help support RMH financially, but also to spread the word about the good work being done there.

A Community Effort Despite the “Ronald McDonald House” name, the not-for-profit organization is neither sponsored nor funded by the McDonald’s Corporation. It relies on donations from the public and business partners to sustain its mission. Henderson is quick to point out, however, that McDonald’s and Sacred Heart do offer support, though neither is required to do so. Community fundraisers are an important way not only to help support RMH financially, but also to spread the word about the good work being done there. One example of this community support occurred in July, when the Hard Rock Café at Destin Commons sold two-dollar raffle tickets throughout the month, with an autographed Gavin DeGraw guitar as the prize. The event raised $500 for RMH.

A major fundraiser for the House took place October 11 at Hurricane Lanes in Destin. The event, Black Tie Bowling, featured participants bowling in formal wear, sipping champagne and competing in contests for prizes—all to help raise money for the charity. To add to the evening’s fun, Henderson says attendees were asked to bowl in some unusual ways. “Sometimes we had them bowl backwards or roll the ball between their legs,” she explains, adding that the giveaways were also a big draw for people. Local businesses helped to offset the cost of the fundraiser by sponsoring frames and paying for strikes.

all too well the difference it makes to be close to a child undergoing treatment. And I remain forever connected to parents who walk a similar path. Thanks to organizations like RMH, the burdens of shelter and comfort will be lifted for other families—a true gift indeed. My story ended tragically on the morning of December 26, 2000, when my sweet baby girl Haleigh took her last breath as she lay under our Christmas tree staring at the twinkling lights.

For more information on Black Tie Bowling, or to learn more about Ronald McDonald House, call (850) 678-7243 or visit

Donations big and small assist the mission of the Ronald McDonald House and, in turn, the families dealing with life-altering situations. I know VIE - Spring 2009


LIFE LESSONS NFL ALL-STAR QUARTERBACK ZEKE BRATKOWSKI SHARES HIS STORY By Crystal Hamon Photos courtesy of Zeke Bratkowski and the Children's Advocacy Center

Zeke Bratkowski 36

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pportunities often arise in unexpected, ordinary places. I recently visited the Head to Toe Salon in Grayton Beach, where Marie Thacker, my longtime family friend and hairstylist, started to tell me about two of her favorite clients, Zeke and Mary Elizabeth (who goes by M.E.) Bratkowski. Soon after our conversation, Marie introduced me to M.E. and helped arrange for me to meet Zeke. Sitting at a sunny table on the terrace at the Smiling Fish Café in Blue Mountain Beach, I noticed Zeke’s friendly smile and warm brown eyes, which perfectly reflected his quiet confidence and down-to-earth humor. He seemed so comfortable that I wouldn’t have pegged him for a celebrity. This former All-American and NFL All-Star quarterback for the Green Bay Packers played in the first Super Bowl, in 1967. With his casual eloquence, over a bowl of split pea soup, Zeke shared remarkable stories about his incredible life and career. Originally from Illinois, he became a son of Georgia when he attended the University of Georgia, where he led the nation in passing in 1952 and in punting in 1953. Zeke was not only inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and the University of Georgia Circle of Honor for his college football performance, but as a professional, he landed in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. Fresh out of college, Zeke was drafted by the Chicago Bears. After only one year, however, he had a military commitment to fulfill. At that time, this country still had draft numbers, but attending college and joining R.O.T.C. exempted him from the draft. With R.O.T.C. summer training camps and other specialized courses in flight operations under his belt, Zeke was able to enter the Air Force as a second lieutenant. “It was kind

of nice going into the Air Force as an officer, but none of us knew what we were doing,” Zeke said. “We just had bars on our shoulders and saluted everything that went by!” During his three years of military service, Zeke was stationed at Duke Field, just north of Niceville. Not only did he develop a love for flying, but Zeke and M.E. also fell in love with the area. “I wouldn’t trade my experience in the Air Force for anything,” he said. “If not for the op-

to Green Bay,” Zeke explained. “They needed someone to back him up because the team was so good. I was happy to do my part.” In fact, the two instantly became great friends. Zeke added, “Bart and I are still really close friends. We spend holidays together, and our wives are like sisters.” Together, the two football stars won three world championships in a row, including the first two Super Bowls. No other team has done that since. “A love exists amongst us to this day because we

“If not for the opportunity to play ball, I would have stayed right here. I had a great job and got in lots of flying.”

—Zeke Bratkowski

portunity to play ball, I would have stayed right here. I had a great job and got in lots of flying.” Zeke added that he was no less dedicated to the military than he was to football. “The wings that I put on my chest mean every bit as much to me as those championship rings. Being a pilot is special to me; I accomplished things I never imagined would be possible.” Today, Zeke continues to visit Duke Field to speak at Commander’s Call and in the summer of 2008, he was made an Honorary 919th Special Operations Wing Top 3 Association Member. After leaving the military, Zeke returned to the game he loved, first with the Chicago Bears and then with the Los Angeles Rams. Halfway through the season in 1963, the Green Bay Packers’ lead quarterback, Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr, broke his hand. Green Bay made a trade for Zeke as replacement quarterback while Bart was injured. Zeke’s tremendous success earned him the nickname “Super Sub.” However, if anyone expected the two players to become rivals, they were wrong. “I knew why I was going

were a part of something unique,” Zeke said. “We still get together every year at the alumni game and enjoy seeing each other.” Knowing the near-national holiday the Super Bowl has become, I asked Zeke what that first Super Bowl in 1967 against the Kansas City Chiefs was like. He replied, “Back then, there wasn’t the same level of hype as now. We had a little buildup to the game, but not as much as today. We played a championship game one week, and the next we played the Super Bowl.” The game was played before nearly 70,000 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and a television audience of approximately 60 million viewers. A one-minute television commercial sold for $75,000–$85,000. Zeke said, “For winning the game, we each earned a $15,000 bonus, which was a lot of money to us.” Today, a 30-second ad for Super Bowl 2009 costs $3 million, and each player on the winning team will receive $78,000. The Super Bowl trophy is named for Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi, who was one VIE - Spring 2009


Some of those players have included Patrick Ramsey, Matt Flynn, Brody Croyle and Ryan Fitzpatrick. “I enjoy seeing how they do in the pros. But the most fun I have now is working with the younger high school players.” Colton Kane at J.R. Arnold High School and Randle Spain at Choctawhatchee High School are two local high school quarterbacks Zeke currently coaches on a regular basis. “I enjoy working with those young ones as much as anyone else. They’re lots of fun and have great futures ahead of them. They work hard and they listen. They’re coachable.”

Zeke Bratkowski

“A number of guys under Coach Lombardi’s guidance became highly successful. He was a great motivator.”

—Zeke Bratkowski

of Zeke’s major influences during his playing career. “Coach Lombardi’s leadership destined us for what we did after football. At the time, we viewed him as a highly demanding taskmaster who ingrained the basics. We didn’t realize how much we learned under him, or what he was trying to do for us, until we moved on. A number of guys under Coach Lombardi’s guidance became highly successful. He was a great motivator.” After playing professional football for 14 years, Zeke began a 26-year coaching career in 1969. “I loved coaching, though maybe not as much as playing. The only thing that got to me was 38

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the routine. Then, too, coaching became harder because the character of the players was changing with the money involved getting so huge. It’s hard to coach people who are earning so much money. They become careless in their study and work habits. I grew tired of dealing with that.” Zeke added, “The best teams out there are careful about who they allow to play with them. They will select players with lesser skills but better character because the character eventually comes out and reflects in what they do on the field.” Although Zeke retired from coaching in 1996, he still works with select college quarterbacks.

Both strong work ethics and athletics run in the family. The Bratkowskis’ son, Bob, is now the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, and daughter Kassie has participated in numerous triathlon events. Zeke and M.E.’s son Steven was a talented quarterback at Arizona State University and a successful commodities broker before losing his life in a tragic jet ski accident. With the loss of Steven, the family began a new chapter in their lives. Zeke said, “The legacy of my son’s life lives on.” He explained, “After his death, we learned that Steven had actively supported an orphanage in Memphis where he lived. When some of his friends found out about Steven’s altruism, they came together to organize a charity golf tournament. We have hosted it now for 20 years in support of The Brat, the foundation we created in Steven’s memory. I can’t tell you just how many millions of dollars we’ve raised, but it’s a substantial amount of money. We’ve been able to put that funding into causes like St. Jude’s Hospital and several other projects.” Susan Plunket, who now runs the foundation, was Steven’s fiancée. He died two weeks before the wedding. The establishment of The Brat kick-started Zeke’s involvement in a variety of charitable works. “You know, when you’re retired, you sit back and

Children’s Advocacy Center

look at all the things going on and think, gee, there has got to be a way we can help.” Locally, Zeke is most involved in the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center in Niceville where he is currently on the Board of Trustees. In the past, an abused child would bounce around between hospitals, police departments, child services centers and numerous other facilities in order to make and legitimize a claim that he or she was being harmed. The process was so daunting, invasive and confusing for kids that many of them would give up rather than report abuse. Now, the Children’s Advocacy Center has created, as they describe it, “a child-friendly space where all of the interviews, examinations and assessments from various agencies can be conducted in a supportive environment under one roof.” In March of every year, Zeke and Bart co-host a charity golf tournament at Kelly Plantation to benefit the Children’s Advocacy Center. “It’s just a one-day tournament, but we get a huge response from the community because we make it really good.” M*A*S*H star Wayne Rogers and his wife, Amy, are among the local community members who strongly support the auction portion of the tournament. Zeke said, “Whether

“Zeke has such a big heart for kids. He has allowed us to help so many children throughout the years. Without him, we just wouldn’t be here.” —Julie Hurst

the economy will allow for our typical level of fundraising this year, I don’t know, but all the incentive you need to give is to learn how many children are abused on a monthly basis. The numbers are astronomical! We have to help.” One of the great prizes auctioned off every year is a trip to Green Bay’s Alumni Weekend with Zeke and Bart. Zeke adds that his efforts are small in comparison to the dedicated people who work in the trenches. He said, “Julie Hurst, who runs the Center, is a saint. She and her staff work tirelessly.” Julie Hurst commented, “Zeke has such a big heart for kids. He has allowed us to help so many children throughout the years. Without him, we just wouldn’t be here.” Zeke further hopes to utilize the unique aspects of this area to help the disadvantaged. “I’ve been talking to people about a dream I’ve had for years. I would like to unite all of the charities in this area and have one big charitable golf tournament using all of the beautiful golf courses we have available to us. It would take a lot of hard work and a lot of people, but it would be worth it.”

Another of Zeke’s significant contributions has been organizing the relief efforts of his congregation at St. Rita’s Catholic Church after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. “Our priest was looking for someone to just kind of ramrod it, so I volunteered. Many dedicated parishioners contributed their time and energy into making our hard work successful. We made about 25 visits over to Alabama, but I can name some who have been more times. We just loaded up trucks with food, clothes, cleaning supplies— everything you can imagine.” Working primarily in Bayou La Batre, Zeke and his group operated with a straightforward strategy: show up, ask people what they need, and then try to get it for them. “The needs were so basic. On our first trips there, 300 people would be waiting in line for food. The first woman I met in line was cuddled up in a blanket because it was cold. We asked her, ‘What can we do for you?’ and she said, ‘Can you get me some pots and pans so I can cook?’” For three consecutive years, they fed Katrina victims turkey dinners from Cracker Barrel in Mobile. When asked, Zeke’s volunteers VIE - Spring 2009


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Zeke Bratkowski (center) honored by Air Force at Children's Advocacy Center Gala 2008 supplied 2,000 desserts to round out the meals. Meanwhile, schools in Bayou La Batre needed 800 blue sweatshirts to coordinate with the schools’ colors. Zeke called a friend, who proved to be a top-notch resource. In addition to school uniforms, the group also supplied book bags and a number of other useful provisions. Today,

Zeke continues to lead his church’s efforts to aid Katrina victims. “As I sit back and go through the stuff that I’ve done in my lifetime, the question that I most think about is, ‘If you had it to do all over again, would you do it differently?’ And if I had that

chance, I think I would have started promoting charitable causes earlier in life. There are so many worthy causes for which the so-called ‘celebrity’ card can be used to raise money.” With that question in mind, when he speaks to young people, Zeke says that he tells them to live without regrets, try new things and learn as much as they can. That’s good advice for people of all ages. It is exciting to meet an important football personality, but I feel that the real honor was getting to know this compassionate person who is so wholeheartedly dedicated to helping others and giving back in a meaningful way. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Zeke Bratkowski, I am sure you will agree.

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The Legend Continues. By Sandra Kytle Woodward Photos courtesy of Destin Chops 30A

Owner/Proprietor Jim Altamura Photo by Gerald Burwell


tep inside Destin Chops 30A in the Villages of South Walton Beach and find yourself transported to that fine dining place of your dreams: Warm, intimate, sophisticated. Serious about food. A favorite of locals and accommodating to all, with both children’s and early dining options. One look at the menu confirms that you’re in for a lovely evening, although proprietor James Altamura’s previous offerings, Destin Chops and the Marina Café in Destin,


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are the only provenance necessary to ensure a memorable meal. While the name signifies a carnivore’s delight, and prime cuts of beef are the restaurant’s pièces de résistance, this venue offers a renowned sushi bar and selections of local seafood, pork, lamb and poultry to please everyone. We began with shared appetizers that were more than generous and special indeed. The crisply

delicate, perfectly executed calamari featured deep-fried lemon slices and a lightly tangy, justgarlicky-enough chipotle aioli. The only thing that could have topped it…did: an amazing eggplant meunière garnished with crabmeat and drizzled ever so lightly with the buttery, deeply seasoned sauce that lends the dish its name. Other offerings, such as pepper-seared ahi tuna, jumbo lump crab cakes, shrimp cocktail and lobster tail with key lime mustard aioli, left us vowing to return for an appetizers-only evening.

But not this time. This evening, we were geared up to experience the full range of this creative and hearty menu, and we followed the appetizers with a couple of salads, both chosen for their simplicity and their classic appeal. Both received high marks. The classic lettuce wedge was presented de rigueur with Maytag blue cheese and applewood smoked bacon dressing. Our other choice was the Ugly Tomato Salad. Some may wonder why a restaurant would insult a tomato salad by calling it ugly, but the locals know. Ugly in name only, the UglyRipetm is an intensely flavorful, if less-than-perfectly-round, heirloom hybrid tomato that has received national notoriety over whether it may be shipped outside Florida (the answer is yes). Served here with balsamic vinaigrette on a bed of spicy arugula,

If it’s red meat you are after, consider Destin Chops 30A your ultimate destination. complemented by not-too-many rings of fresh sweet onion and topped with fragrantly nutty curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano, it is indeed a thing of beauty. At this point, we could have given high marks for culinary savvy without venturing further. Obviously, these folks know when not to gild the lily. The understated approach continued, happily. Just let us say: If it’s red meat you are after, consider Destin Chops 30A your ultimate destination. The luscious house special filet takes the Oscar appellation to new heights. A meltingly tender, perfectly cooked (in this case medium-rare) prime filet of beef accented with crabmeat, Béarnaise sauce and tendercrisp asparagus could not have been improved upon. The American Kobe hanger steak with creamy avocado Béarnaise, a spicy chimichurri

DESTIN CHOPS 30A WINE CELLAR The Destin Chops 30A wine list has been awarded Wine Spectator’s prestigious Award of Excellence for the past eight years. Domestic wines from Napa and Sonoma Valleys grace this award-winning list chosen by Jim Altamura, in addition to several rare reserve finds from Australia, Italy and France. An extensive selection of wines by the glass can also be found in this dimly lit classic steakhouse.

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Photo by Lisa Ferrick

and crispy sweet potato fries offered interesting combinations of terrific flavor. One of our group rounded out the red-meat selections with the purist’s approach, pronouncing her unadorned filet cooked to perfection. Ordering seafood in a restaurant whose name flaunts its affinity for red meat can be risky. Ah, but not here. One of our party chose the black grouper, which arrived pan-seared on a bed of white beans with grilled onions and avocadogrape tomato salad with basil oil. This toothsome Tuscan interpretation of what is perhaps the Florida Gulf Coast’s signature fish was pronounced “the best fish I’ve ever tasted” by an Emerald Coast native who has traveled extensively in Tuscany. You will want to save room for dessert. We shared a mile-high banana cream pie that featured banana puree, instead of the traditional sliced banana, folded into the custard, lending it a mousse-like lightness. And we cannot rave enough about the crème brulée. This deep-dish version, garnished with fresh raspberries and blueberries, was the perfect end to an exceptional meal. We left promising ourselves that next time we would do justice to the excellent wine list, indulge ourselves by sampling the “decadent chocolate of the day” and top it all off with one of several tempting specialty coffee drinks. Or perhaps a nice port or cognac. You decide. For more information, please visit...


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Chef Gordon Ramsay

A New Chef with Attitude Joins Destin Chops 30A from Hell’s Kitchen By Lisa Burwell Photos courtesy of FOX Broadcasting Company


orn and raised in France, Giovanni Filipponi came to the United States to train at The Culinary Institute of America in New York. With 20-plus years of experience, some of his most recent credits include serving as executive chef at Tim Creehan’s Copper Grill, Marina Café and Destin Chops (at its previous location overlooking Destin Harbor). He joins Destin Chops 30A as executive chef when the doors reopen for the season—just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend. The last year has been an interesting one for Giovanni. Not only was he the executive chef at Seaside’s Café Rendez-Vous, but he also found time to be a contestant on the fifth season of FOX Broadcasting’s culinary reality TV show Hell’s Kitchen. The season premiere aired Thursday, January 29th on the FOX Channel.

“World-renowned Chef Gordon Ramsay is back for a fifth course of the sizzling and unscripted series,” according to the show’s website When I asked Giovanni how he landed the gig on Hell’s Kitchen, he replied that a friend of his who works at a casting agency in New Jersey suggested that he audition. He said he went to Orlando last year to audition “just for kicks,” adding, “What would they want me for, as I’m half crazy?” I jokingly said, “Maybe that alone helped you get selected.” He went to Los Angeles for six weeks to film the fifth season and, just as you would imagine, said it was the experience of a lifetime. “We’d get up early every day to prep, and our main and only goal was to please the chef,” Giovanni continued. He went on to explain how living in a

Chef Giovanni Filipponi

house with sixteen people you’ve never met before was somewhat of a daunting experience, but one that he does not regret. Giovanni would have seen the show for the first time, just like the rest of us, during its television premiere. We wish him well on the show and in his new position as executive chef of Destin Chops 30A.

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VIE - Spring 2009

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VIE - Spring 2009



A Review by Sandra Kytle Woodward / Photography by Jessie Shepard


e’re not kidding. It’s no exaggeration to say that everything about School of Fish in WindMark Beach is firstclass. And, really, what else would you expect from the folks at JOE, the developers of WindMark, or indeed from Clark and Blake Brennan, third-generation members of New Orleans’ famed “First Family of Food,” who operate and manage School of Fish? Nevertheless, restaurants that are part of development properties are sometimes noteworthy more for their convenience than for their culinary quality. School of Fish, we are pleased to report, is swimmingly different. From the menu to its prime location, from the breezy sophistication of the open-air bar and the upstairs dining room to the WOW! factor of the first-

floor main restaurant, this is a place you will be delighted to add to your list of favorites. Factor in the Brennan Big Easy hospitality and you know it’s going to be a special evening. When we enjoyed School of Fish on a recent family outing, our party of five arrived just before sunset. The upstairs bar, open to the Gulf breezes, tempt-


VIE - Spring 2009

Upstairs Dining Room

ed us to linger, but since our table awaited us, we mentally bookmarked the inviting space for a later visit.

The chef must even have taken into account the number of steps the server would need to get our herb-crusted black grouper to the table.

In the intimate dining room, we found another welcoming setting that takes advantage of the sunset view. The scene is casual and playful, but definitely for those who care about food. We pondered a deliciously tempting menu over drinks – including a sampling of the evening’s featured wine, a pinot grigio from Cool Fish. We teased our delightfully accommodating server by suggesting the wine may have been featured as much for its name and its bottle, which is

covered with brightly colored fish, as for its taste. But the flaw in our foolish assumption was soon revealed: Cool Fish Wines is a line developed by California-based Stonehedge Vineyards, specifically to complement seafood. We can only hope the other four wines in the group live up to this exceptionally priced winner. Although seafood is center stage at School of Fish, the menu features beef, chicken and even country ham options. Locally caught fish, local produce and local organic chicken indicate the Brennans’ stated commitment to a Florida-based menu. In all, there is an array of small plates, salads, entrees and side dishes for every conceivable palate. We began with an assortment of small-plate selections, where the famed Brennan Creole influence is evident yet subtle, and exceptionally so in the superb corn and shrimp chowder with andouille sausage that featured tiny, tender kernels of yellow corn, succulent shrimp and spicy bits of andouille in a silken, lightly creamy base. The chilled crabmeat plate was beautifully accented by its tangy lemon/shallot/pepper dressing. The excellent duck pâté was accompanied by a very pleasant selection of cornichons, whole grain mustard and other accents that enhanced the duck liver beautifully.

Herb-Crusted Black Grouper VIE - Spring 2009


Blake Brennan

the menu. Grilled skewered Gulf of Mexico shrimp were accented by a lovely mango sauce, and the grilled scallops arrived in a buttery lemon sauce, also perfectly prepared. Don’t let the term “sauce” fool you – the chef ’s light hand is evident here as well, with the less-is-more concept lending that perfect enhancement. Dessert offerings were generous enough for sharing, and we opted for two with a distinct Brennan heritage – Creole crème caramel and New Orleans bread pudding. Both were exceptional, but the crème de menthe parfait and chocolate hazelnut marquise were equally tempting and reason enough to return. This is the Brennan family at its best. The commitment to fine food, to a casual family atmosphere and to local providers makes School of Fish a welcome addition to the region.

Don’t let the term “sauce” fool you – the chef’s light hand is evident here as well, with the less-is-more concept lending that just-right enhancement.

Here is a kitchen that celebrates seafood by first pairing it with flavors that enhance its subtlety and then knowing when to stop…cooking, that is. The chef must even have taken into account the number of steps the server would need to get our herb-crusted black grouper to the table. It arrived perfectly prepared in a luscious lemon truffle sauce and accompanied by tender-crisp asparagus. We indulged in an additional side dish of the spicysweet, aromatic island rice, one of several Caribbean-influenced items on

Grilled Scallops 50

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Sandra Kytle Woodward began her food-related career as a waitress at the age of sixteen. Sandy has run the gamut from freelance food writer and cookbook author, to restaurant owner, cooking instructor and restaurant reviewer. Her reviews, articles and essays have appeared in publications across the Southeast and her Norfolk Cookery Book: The Culinary Heritage of a Southern Seaport was a regional bestseller. Sandy served as the restaurant reviewer for Greenville Magazine in Greenville, S.C. in 2005 and 2006.

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t was slightly after 5 a.m. on Friday, October 10. Lisa and I were trying to get our bags packed and ourselves to the airport. The talking heads on the morning news were in rare form over the Dow tanking 680 points the previous day. It made us wonder if it would not be wiser to cancel our trip and stay home to enjoy some downtime in our own beautiful Northwest Florida. It took only a second to know that we would not be doing that. Cancel the trip? No way! We were going to Paris! The theory is simple: enjoy the world and life while you can. Most people probably would have had a change of heart, but we were committed. We had a very important appointment with a very special person, Ann Hartley, as our host. Ann Hartley is one of those rare people with a true zest for life… a joie de vivre, as the French say. I first met Ann during the preparation for the inaugural issue of VIE –People + Places, for which she was a contributing writer. We found her story to be very captivating and heartfelt. Her article was about how some of her life experiences gave her the idea for a new and exciting venture. The venture, Shopping Paris with Ann Hartley, is Ann’s dream of sharing “her” Paris with two to four women at a time, a type of trip that has been called a “girlfriend getaway.” She gives each of her shoppers a questionnaire to provide important information as to individual preferences in clothing styles, food and specific shopping experiences that she is seeking. Ann has painstakingly researched the best accommodations, restaurants, stores and sights of interest throughout Paris. Using the expertise and experience she has gained from her research and past shopping excursions, Ann custom-tailors the shopping experience to each of her shopper’s profiles. She continues to research and mold her shopping experience with each and every trip.

Ann Hartley

Ann Hartley is one of those rare people with a true zest for life… a “joie de vivre,” as the French say. The idea intrigued Lisa so much that she wanted to experience it firsthand. To fill the required quota of between two and four shoppers, she tried her best to entice her two sisters and a sister-in-law to make the journey for the experience of a lifetime. But their busy lives with soccer practices, after-school activities and the general responsibilities of motherhood made it impossible.

others. But that was over ten years ago and Ann said that, since then, times have changed and that there really was not a section of town considered to be “bad.” And with Ann’s connections and knowledge, what would normally have taken months of careful preparation to find a suitable place to stay took only a weekend.

Lisa could not make the trip on her own; there needed to be some camaraderie during those “off ” hours and, additionally, it had to be an equitable solution for Ann as well. As a general rule (and for some obvious reasons) Ann does not allow husbands on these trips. Lisa asked Ann if she would make an exception for me to come along as a photographer for VIE. She agreed. The last time we were in Paris, some sections of the city were definitely considered better than

Photo of Lisa & Jerry by Ann Hartley VIE - Spring 2009


We wanted our experience to feel as authentic as possible, so we opted for the apartment. According to Ann, the choice between a hotel and an apartment depends upon the experience her clients are looking for. The hotel offers a more pampered and carefree lifestyle, while the town apartment gives the sense of a true Parisian-style life experience. Hotels are relatively easy to find—anyone can do this with a good travel book and a little research on the Internet. On the other hand, finding a good quality apartment through a reputable source is considerably harder. Ann is an invaluable resource, with suggestions and contacts for either. We wanted our experience to feel as authentic as possible, so we opted for the apartment. To choose an apartment, Ann recommended the apartment-leasing agency, Holidays France Rentals (HFR). HFR’s website ( is well organized and each apartment has photographs, detailed descriptions, its location within the city and booking calendars to help make the selection and booking process easy and carefree. I don’t think there is one apartment that could be considered undesirable. They range from traditional to modern and small to large. After a little coordination with Ann, we made our selection—“Avenue Rapp,” located near the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondissement. We then finalized our flight plans and were ready for our adventure. Having made trans-Atlantic flights at least fifty times, I am very accustomed to what crossing 7 to 9 time zones does to the body. The preferred plan is to arrive in Europe in the morning, well rested and ready to tackle the sights and sounds of the new and exciting surroundings, without skipping a beat. Unfortunately, that did not happen for us. We landed Saturday morning at 5:40 a.m. Too tired to mess with the less-expensive trains and Métro, we cabbed it into town. Paris was showing the first signs of life as our driver made his way through the neighborhood near our 54

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"Avenue Rapp"

apartment. We came upon a café that was just opening—La Terrasse, located on the corner of Avenue de la Motte-Picquet and Avenue Bosquet, near École Militaire. As our apartment would not be ready for a few hours, we settled in with a coffee and watched Paris awaken with a first-class view from inside this trendy yet comfortable café. If there was a worldwide credit crisis happening, you would never have known it sitting at this busy little corner of the world. And, we were surprised to see that more than half the patrons coming in and out of the café were American. As we approached the apartment entrance of “Avenue Rapp,” Ann’s friend and owner of HFR, Bernard Vidal, appeared from inside the lobby to personally greet us at the door. He is middle-aged, handsome, charismatic and gracious. Later, we would find out that he was much more than the entrepreneur of an apartment management company. The building’s lobby was clean and contemporary; as with most of the apartment entrances that we saw while in Paris, the entrance was secure with a lock and electronic security keypad. Though we had seen photos of the apartment, they did not do it justice. It was cozier and quainter than we had expected, and it felt like

it hugged us as soon as we walked in. Bernard opened the casement windows in the sitting room, and the sounds of the bustling street five floors below flowed in. Ahhh, Paris! But the flight over was starting to take its toll, and we were fading fast. After some polite chatting, Bernard said, “Au revoir.” We put our bags aside and got into bed faster than you could say “Bon soir.” The Adventure Begins Sunday as a whole was a great day. We were out for our first real taste of Paris since arriving. That day, Ann was with a friend—Isabelle Delahaye Vidal (Bernard’s wife). Together, Ann and Isabelle had planned a day that is reserved for her more adventurous shoppers. But first, we had lunch at La Fontaine de Mars at 129 rue Saint-Dominique, a few blocks away. It was in an old stone building with elegant Roman arches adjacent to a beautiful little plaza with a sculptural fountain. It was so picturesque that for a second, I felt that this could not be a restaurant in the middle of bustling Paris but instead a side-street café in San Gimignano or Siena, Italy. It was the perfect setting where the ice of being strangers was broken and we became more like long-lost friends getting reacquainted. Isabelle was every bit as attractive and gracious as her husband, Bernard. Besides being incredibly intelligent and insightful, she is a very talented decorator who specializes in antiques—which brings us to the next portion of our day.

Isabelle Vidal with flea market vendor

That day, Isabelle was our host, guiding us through Porte de Clignancourt on the north side, just outside Paris’ perimeter highway, about a twenty-minute drive from the center of town. I would venture to say that this is one of the most interesting shopping experiences in the world. Upon approach, do not be fooled or disappointed by the ultra-touristy and trinket-laden shops that surround and veil the true gem within. Porte de Clignancourt is blocks, maybe miles, of nonstop flea market, a mecca for the hardcore bargain or antique hunter on a quest for the rare and unusual. For the newcomer, it would take days to explore and soak it all in. Some of the most memorable experiences that day were Moments et Matières, which offered curious and fascinating handmade lighting fixtures; Laurence Lenglare, brimming with truly interesting and authentic antiques; and Ebony & Ivory, which boasted some of the most spectacular art deco decorations and furniture. I was completely blown away by Carpentier Antiques, flaunting its over-the-top creations made from avionic remnants (aircraft parts). What a treat it was to experience this type of shopping excursion—definitely something that we would not have felt comfortable doing as foreign tourists or without the security of being in the company of veterans like Isabelle and Ann, who gave us a first-class introduction and escort. A Week of Discovering Ann’s Paris The remainder of the week from Monday through Friday was spent with Ann. The idea is to have the day’s events scheduled around the shopper’s time clock. We wanted to experience the trip the way we like to spend our holidays— nothing should feel rushed or “planned”—that’s just the way we like to travel. Each day, Ann would meet us at our apartment around 11 a.m., which enabled us to get a great night’s sleep and maybe even grab a cappuccino from the corner café. We would then head out and explore what the many different and interesting neighborhoods (arrondissements) of Paris have to offer.

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whether in a beautifully tailored dress or in a pair of men’s handcrafted leather shoes. Putting aside the obvious tourist sights that continue to draw spectators from around the world, there is an entirely separate culture that draws people to the City of Lights on a daily basis—the culture of excellence. And this culture is found throughout Paris whether it is in fashion or in the retail experience itself.

Louis Vuitton

As an artist and craftsman, I notice and appreciate the effort and passion that go into details, whether in a beautifully tailored dress or in a pair of men’s handcrafted leather shoes. Paris is undoubtedly one of the most amazing cities in the world, and there are experiences to be had there that cannot be found or duplicated anywhere else in the world. Our time with Ann was an amazing adventure filled with discoveries that we certainly would not have encountered otherwise. The shops, the restaurants and the people were a special and unique mix that only she can deliver. Ann has extensive backgrounds in retail and travel, and she has used these to develop her skill as a personal shopping concierge to the City of Lights. She does this from the perspective of an American hosting other Americans as her personal guests. Her many jaunts to Paris have enabled her to morph into a conduit, bridging the cultural and language gaps between the Parisians and the American visitor, not to mention that she knows the Paris Métro about as well as 56

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any Parisian and knows the quickest way from point A to point B before you can even get your map out. As an architect, I was in awe of the architectural marvels such as Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower—the first a prime example of how visionary architects and skilled artisans from long ago could construct magnificent stone structures in a way that seems to defy logic and gravity itself; the latter an engineer’s beautiful interpretation of structural design during the height of the Industrial Revolution. Originally built as a temporary exhibit for a World’s Fair more than a century ago, it is hard to believe that the Eiffel Tower has not only remained but also become the most iconic symbol of the city today. As an artist and craftsman, I notice and appreciate the effort and passion that go into details,

In fashion, you will find the world’s best-of-thebest in places like Louis Vuitton on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées with over-the-top, opulent detail in both the merchandise and the store itself (the likes of which I had never seen before). Beautifully crafted luxury items abound at Hermès on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Across the street, discover the most incredibly detailed crystal-studded shoes of Rene Caovilla—shoes so stunning they should have been in a jewelry case. The most striking perfumes and unique colognes of Annick Goutal can be encountered at 14 rue de Castiglione. Nearby, for those who have a glove fetish, Causse has the most unbelievable array of distinctive gloves to be found in one store. In addition, in Paris, catering to the customer is almost an art in itself. The retail shop is as personal and special a place as a home. The shopper is treated with the respect accorded a special guest and, likewise, the shop owner/manager is treated with respect as the host of that special place. They take immense pride in everything they do; it is their livelihood, their craft.

that you travel to, there is no better way than to be welcomed into their home. Lisa and I were honored to receive an invitation to an intimate dinner with Ann at the Vidal residence.

The Paris hotel, restaurant and sidewalk café are no exception to the best-of-the-best rule in quality and service. The average person could not afford to stay at the perfectly appointed hotel George V but could certainly enjoy a muchneeded end-of-the-day cup of tea or glass of wine in the lobby while listening to a talented pianist. Take a fanciful step back in time to quaint turnof-the-century parlors like Café Angelina for a flawless hot chocolate or a shopping break at Ladurée (located inside Printemps) for great food and macaroons. And if you want to watch the ultrachic, the fashionable Le Café Marly at the Louvre is the place to see and be seen.

Their home is, by any city’s standards, a large but charming apartment dating back to the early 20th century and located in the reputable 6th arrondissement. The interior had very little modernization, keeping the charm and flavor of the original architecture. It was as if we had walked into the pages of Metropolitan Home or Architectural Digest. The décor was very artsy and eclectic—much like you would imagine a New York loft to appear. This came as no surprise knowing Isabelle’s design background and that Bernard lived in New York for more than twenty years as a successful fashion and portrait photographer. Actor Robin Williams and author Mary Clark Higgins are just a couple of his celebrity clients.

Before dinner, we convened in the parlor to get better acquainted with the Vidals. As we enjoyed a tasty pâté de foie gras paired with a lovely French pinot noir (from a vineyard formerly owned by Bernard), we learned how Ann’s relationship with Bernard and Isabelle began six years ago, flourishing into a close friendship

I could tell that Lisa was thoroughly enjoying her time with Ann (and so was I). The week proved to be far more than just an interesting shopping spree. Paris is truly a magical city and we couldn’t have experienced it like we did without Ann’s knowledge and perspective. Everything seemed to fall into place. Daily schedules were not so rigid that something couldn’t be changed on the spur of the moment. And when we did make changes, Ann was ready and armed with the ideal suggestion, whether it was an impromptu visit to a store she had discovered that week or a stop at a little sidewalk café to having an endof-the-day glass of wine or cup of tea. The Vidals If you really want to get a good feel for the world perspective of the average person in the country

Bernard Vidal & Ann Hartley

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Kudos to Ann I really did not know what to expect on this “shopping Paris” experience. Before our trip, I had not spent much time thinking about it. All I could think about was getting to Paris. I mean, I knew who Ann was and that I liked her writing, but I had never traveled to a foreign country with a stranger, let alone shopped with one. This was a shopping spree for women and I was an outsider looking in. To most men, just the thought of such a thing might be equal to impalement with a large, sharp object.

From the moment we arrived, it was almost as if our trip was set on automatic and the wonderful experiences were delivered to us on a silver platter. as she nurtured her Paris shopping venture. We also met the Vidals’ two beautiful and very wellmannered daughters and another distinguished family member, Achoo (gesundheit!), a West Highland Terrier. When it came time for dinner, we withdrew to the kitchen where the family usually dines family style. (Throughout our stay in Paris, I was amazed to find that, in a city that most Americans perceive as culturally advanced, the Parisians are actually very traditional.) The kitchen was out of a Norman Rockwell illustration—old-fashioned and unassuming—and I felt as welcome and comfortable as if it were my grandmother’s kitchen. In that time cocoon, we continued to share life stories between us as it has probably been done for generations. Also, the food was excellent. I can only hope to enjoy another sea bass as I did that night. 58

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When the evening came to a close, we were saddened that, as with all good things, it had to come to an end. It was truly one of my most memorable traveling experiences ever—something that I will always cherish and only hope to be able to do again—hopefully soon.

But I was able to discover some amazing things about Paris in a way that I have never experienced anywhere else. And it would not have been possible without the personal concierge service that Ann provides. You know the old saying, “Just sit back and leave the driving to us”—well, that is just how it was. We didn’t have to think or plan. From the moment we arrived, it was almost as if our trip was set on automatic and the wonderful experiences were delivered to us on a silver platter. Ann showed us Paris and the landmarks; the boutiques; the Métro; the best hot chocolate that I have ever had; thrift stores; the 1st, 6th and 7th arrondissements; and her friends Bernard and Isabelle Vidal. But the most important experience we had was that Ann showed us herself. She is effervescent, affable, with a smile that lights up. And seeing that smile in the City of Lights made for a memorable and luminous getaway.

Two days after our departure, longtime 30A resident Kitty Taylor and friend Kate Hughes arrived in Paris to meet up with Ann. Kitty shares her thoughts and pictures from their “girlfriends’ getaway” on the following page. If you are interested in finding out more about Shopping Paris with Ann Hartley, please visit or e-mail Ann directly at Enjoy! Le Café Marly

Kitty Taylor & Kate Hughes

hen it comes to traveling with Ann, it’s always a funfilled adventure. Ann and I are great friends and, before our Shopping Paris excursion, we had already traveled together to New York City and San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, as well as on family trips to Crested Butte, Colorado. I loved the way she organized us according to our likes and dislikes. She will sit down and plan out the whole day! We seemed somehow to get everything in. Ann has the most fantastic sense of direction—thank God! She got us where we needed to go and on schedule!

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

The Vidals Winged Victory

After my friend Kate Hughes (from Houston) departed Paris, Ann and I were on our own for one last day. I had never been to the Louvre, so before heading out for our last shopping fling, Ann mapped out a really condensed tour.  In the Louvre, she said “Okay, we have two hours in here, so I’ll show you the highlights. Here’s the Winged Victory… there’s the Venus de Milo… and ta-da!... the Mona Lisa.” We finished right on schedule! I loved the Parisian designers that Ann took us to—especially the jewelry designers. Kate and I were her bargain shoppers and we found lots of treasures that didn’t cost a ton of money.

Meeting Bernard and Isabelle Vidal was a highlight of the trip. Isabelle was a real treasure at the antique market. When I would find something, she would negotiate the price in French for me. She also enjoyed practicing her English with us. At lunch, we sat at a communal table in a nearby café. Kate was chatting away in English and French to a couple that was sitting next to us— Isabelle had to jump in periodically to translate before she got into too much trouble. We were all laughing! Ann has the best sense of humor and is so much fun to travel with. Now, we can say that we have giggled hysterically in Paris as well as San Miguel!

Kitty Taylor is owner/broker of Grayton Coast Properties real estate company located in charming and historic Grayton Beach. Kitty’s grandmother owned a cottage in Grayton where Kitty spent every summer since birth. In 1992, Kitty became a full-time Walton County resident. She and her husband Alan Riehl live on Hewett Bayou where they enjoy bayou living. She serves on the board of the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors and mentors at the Seaside Neighborhood School.

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Dugas Christmas Party Lynn and Steven Dugas opened their beautiful home on the bay in Santa Rosa Beach as they hosted over 200 friends and family members on Saturday, December 20, 2008 to a festive holiday celebration. Guests were asked to bring unwrapped gifts for Toys for Tots, yielding hundreds of toys for children in need. A beautifully adorned Christmas tree was decorated by Christian and Tyler Dugas.

Steven, Lynn Dugas, Laura & Wayne Dugas

Lynn Dugas & Robbie King

Mick Dunn & Annie Mangrum

Clayton Bonjean & Sparky Lovelace

Mike, Harrison, Yvonne & Sidney Freeman

Debbie & Bruce Craul

Steve Riggs & MaryJane Kirby

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北京 中國

China 北京BeijingCHINA 北京

The Forbidden City, Beijing





ooking toward the horizon, we readily appreciate the lure that tempted Old World merchants to trade overseas, where exotic items, interesting people and unlimited opportunities awaited them. While the risks and returns are quite different in today’s world, mutually rewarding business ventures and cultural exchanges are inspiring a new breed of adventurers to explore possibilities abroad. Likewise, the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce spearheaded a trip that took community members to China in October.


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CHINA By Natalie Prim

Along with Evon Emerson, president and CEO of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, a group consisting of small business owners, business consultants, a doctor, a manufacturer of veterinary pharmaceuticals, and an investment banker, made the trip. Our group of one hundred felt large until we arrived at the Beijing International Airport, which boasts the world’s largest terminal. In fact, the sheer number of people everywhere we visited was impressive. Beijing, the capital city, is home to fifteen million people.




北京 北京BeijingChi

Our first tourist stop was Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing. Seeing thousands of people milling about, we quickly realized that photographs fail to convey the massiveness of the square; the area can accommodate up to one million people. At the center of Tiananmen Square is the Monument to the People’s Heroes and the portrait of former leader, Chairman Mao. Once a place of protests and bloodshed, the site (which is also the entrance to the Forbidden City) now attracts snaking lines of visitors who wait hours to enter Chairman Mao’s final resting place in the Memorial Hall.


Grand Canal, the world’s oldest and longest waterway. While touring by small boat, we observed families carrying out their daily activities of living, such as cooking, cleaning, and washing clothes, just as they have done for generations. The old ways and quaint canals exist in stark contrast to new hotels and skyscrapers. Suzhou, which has a population of six million, is teeming with commerce.

“Business booms, but making a connection takes time. The process simply requires mutual trust, the kind that starts with an old-fashioned handshake.”

Next on our journey was another spectacular sight, the Great Wall of China. The section we toured had seven hundred steps from the bottom of the wall to the top. Each foot forward reminded us that we were treading on stairs constructed over 2,200 years ago. Throughout our visit, we encountered elements of Chinese culture as it existed centuries ago. Traveling in rickshaws through the narrow streets of old Beijing, we relished the chance to have lunch with a local family. They lived in one of Beijing’s oldest hutongs (neighborhoods), which features modest homes with courtyards. Eating and talking with our hostess, who has lived in her one-room house for forty-five years and raised her family of three children there, we gained a friend, as well as acquiring a more personal sense of an important segment of the Chinese population.

Our adventure continued to Hangzhou, the tea capital of China, and home to seven million people. The scenic tea plantation we toured was —Natalie Prim lush. There we met Dr. Tea, who taught us about green tea, particularly its medicinal benefits, and much more. We learned more from spending nine days in China than we could have from years of study at home. The country presents an array of contradictions. Amid the anonymous crowds are individuals who are delighted to make The Great Wall of China

Each time we encountered individuals among the crowds, we seemed to spark a meaningful connection. As we photographed them, they took pictures of us. They were warm and eager to shake hands. All in all, the Chinese were just as curious about us as we were about them. Our tour guide, Alan, told us that visiting the United States was his dream. Shifting our focus to commerce, our delegation met with business and government representatives to discuss future business opportunities. Ping Ping, a senior manager of the global purchasing department of the China International Electronic Commerce Center, told us about the phenomenal growth of small and medium-sized enterprises in China. The small business owners in our group took particular notice of this. From Beijing, we traveled by car to the enormous city of Suzhou, a little more than three hours southeast of Shanghai. The area is known for the

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中國 北京

CHINA China 北京 中國 北京


Photo courtesy of The Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce personal contact. Many perform the daily labors of their ancestors, while industrious entrepreneurs conduct global business deals. In one area, we would be reminded not to drink the water, while another locale would be totally modern. With such large populations, daily traffic snarls were common, yet the infrastructure is surprisingly up to date. Business booms, but making a connection takes time. The process simply requires mutual trust, the kind that starts with an old-fashioned handshake.


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Natalie Prim is Vice President for Community Affairs at the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. Natalie has a background in legislative, community and workforce development and she has been with the Pensacola Chamber for eight years. Natalie’s work keeps her involved in local and statewide legislative initiatives focused on building better communities. This was the Chamber’s first tour to China.


GREEN Imagine cleaner air in your home with a simple Comfort Diagnostics test! SEEING IS BELIEVING This new state-of-the-art technology identifies common problems in your home in 10 steps. Measure home’s total leakage Measure total duct system leakage Locate thermal envelope bypasses Dominant pressure testing Measure current insulation levels Test exhaust fan performance Evaluate dryer ventilation Airflow testing External static pressure testing Comfort system inspection According to the U.S. Department of Energy: “Typical duct systems lose 25 to 40 percent of the heating and cooling energy put out by the central furnace, heat pump or air conditioner.”


Call 850-872-1004 or visit to arrange for your Comfort Diagnostics test today! 65 VIE - Spring 2009

Fly Away and Save T R AV E L I N G E U R O P E O N A B U D G E T Story and Photography by Kim Duke-Layden


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ong gone are the days when the almighty U.S. dollar gave Europebound Americans more bang for their travel buck. Within the past decade, even countries reputed to be travel bargains, like Spain, Portugal and Greece, became travel busts after the bittersweet introduction of the euro. Admittedly, one united currency for fifteen European Union countries is magnifique for traveler convenience; however, almost overnight the exchange rate in less expensive E.U. nations became the same as in their costlier counterparts. Couple that with the devaluation of the American dollar in recent years, and you’re left asking, has Europe become too expensive to consider as a viable vacation destination? Absolutely not! With some savvy insider “know-how” and strategic planning, you’ll be saying “bonjour” before you know it!

Considerations on Airfare If I were Moses, my eleventh commandment would be: Thou Shall Not Waste Airline Mileage Points! Every year for the past nine years, both my husband and I have flown to Europe FREE using frequent flyer tickets! Most of our mileage points were earned from purchases on award program credit cards rather than from miles flown. With today’s stiff competition among credit card companies, some offer as many as 20,000 bonus points upon enrollment. And, by strategically charging rather than paying cash for all allowable purchases—from gas and groceries to the down payment on your next ve-

hicle—you can quickly rack up enough mileage points for one round-trip economy-class ticket to Europe (usually 50,000–60,000 points). Plus, a growing trend among award programs is to allow members to purchase supplemental miles at low incremental rates in order to obtain enough points for ticket redemptions. For shorter-term planning, you’re in luck! Typically, in the first quarter of the year, you’ll find European airfares discounted up to 50%! In March, the average cost of round-trip airfare from Pensacola (which consistently has the lowest rates), Ft. Walton Beach or Panama City to Rome, Paris or Athens is approximately $700–$800. In com-

parison, during June, July or August—Europe’s most expensive travel season—the same flights cost almost double. When researching flights on popular discount travel sites, like and, compare prices on the airlines’ websites—the airlines don’t charge booking fees and often offer better flight times. Also, flights departing Monday through Wednesday usually cost less. Interested in package deals? You’re in luck again! Mid-September through March are the best times to find travel deals on European packages. Offerings range from “fly and drive” packages with only international airfare and car rental, to fully escorted trips inclusive of airfare, guided itineraries, lodging, meals and sightseeing fees. Online booking sites, such as www.gate1travel. com, and, offer extensive European travel packages at budget-friendly prices. For “smart luxury” deals on more upscale travel, visit or

Suggestions on Accommodations Finding charming, affordable accommodations in Europe is absolutely possible, but it requires additional effort and ingenuity. Last fall, when the euro was at a record high, we stayed at several rental apartments in Austria and northern Italy for a fraction of what traditional hotel accommodations would have cost. Our first four nights were spent in a gemütlich (cozy and charming) duplex nestled on a vineyardclad ridge in Austria’s Styrian wine region—a popped-cork away from Slovenia. For approximately $95 per night, we stayed in a roomy selfcatering apartment which was part of a lovingly restored, centuries-old converted farmhouse. Our accommodations featured a bedroom, bath, eat-in kitchenette, separate living/dining room and multiple terraces with breathtaking views. Each evening we imbibed delectable wine, which VIE - Spring 2009


our gracious and perfect English-speaking host, Kurt Leitner, supplied from his weingut (winery) for $8–$20 a bottle. Prost! Apartments (or flats), in comparison to home rentals, offer greater flexibility for stays shorter than a week. Plus, they are abundant in large cities and provide the same cost-saving benefits. Countless websites claim to offer affordable European properties. These are a few of my favorites:,, and

Additional Booking Tips: Select rentals that provide bedding and linens or you’ll find yourself shopping at Boudoir & Beyond once you get there. Many owners accept cash only, but you’ll save on international conversion fees that are imposed by most credit card companies. If you’re exploring an entire region, cut costs by staying at a nearby location rather than the area’s “hot-spot” destination; OR book in the off-season— for instance, if you’re interested in the Alps, think summer hiking vacation rather than winter ski trip. Bed-and-breakfasts, or B&B’s, are great options for inexpensive accommodations, much more so than in America. Renowned European budgettraveler guru Rick Steves’ website,, contains one of the best blog sites


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ing costs carefully and making advance reservations stateside, but beware of undisclosed taxes and fees! For all-inclusive rates, I prefer, a Europeanbased consolidator offering online bookings primarily with European agencies, like Europa or Sixt.

A highlight of our latest trip was an unforgettable overnight stay in a four-star 17th-century French château... I have found for traveler recommendations on quaint, affordable B&B’s, apartments, small inns and farm stays. Click on his Plan Your Trip tab, then Graffiti Wall, and then Sleeping. Thanks to one blogger’s recommendation, last September we stayed in a spacious two-bedroom apartment restored from a 450-year-old farmhouse, complete with roomy bathroom, kitchenette/dining room combo, and a balcony overlooking northern Italy’s spectacular Dolomite mountains. It cost only $73 a night! On, we found a cozy one-bedroom efficiency apartment near the ritzy resort village of Kitzbühel in Austria’s central Alps. The $100 nightly rate included a balcony with great views, biweekly housekeeping, 24-hour English-speaking front desk assistance, and for a small surcharge, freshbaked breads delivered daily. Hotel stays are sometimes unavoidable, especially the night before your international departure flight home. And, typically, big city hotels are the priciest. My favorite online booking site for affordable hotels (plus a few B&B’s and flats) is European-based, which doesn’t pre-charge your credit card, impose booking fees or penalize for advanced cancellations. For years I’ve booked numerous accommodations with wonderful results. In 2007, we stayed in an extraordinary hotel within walking distance of

downtown ancient Rome. Situated within a medieval tower, our two-room suite oozed charm and cost an amazingly low $150 per night! A highlight of our latest trip was an unforgettable overnight stay in a four-star 17th-century French château situated near the Swiss/Italian border and within 35 minutes of Milan’s Malpensa International Airport. Amidst fairytale surroundings, we slept like royalty and feasted like kings on the breakfast buffet—all at “pauper-friendly” prices: $160!

For driving across international borders, significant penalty fees often apply if rental vehicles are returned in countries other than where they were picked up. For example, last fall it would have cost us $750 more if we had returned our Austrian car rental in Italy, as compared to renting a car in each country. Instead, we drove to Innsbruck—the nearest city to the northwestern

Tips on Trains, Planes and Automobiles Depending on your itinerary, some form of internal transportation may be necessary. Depending on the driver and the destination, self-driving can be fun and adventurous, or terrifying and frustrating! When renting cars, save money by compar-

Austria/Italy border—and returned our car to the agency’s airport location (usually easier to find than a downtown office). From there, we rode via taxi to Innsbruck’s nearby train station where we exchanged two first-class rail tickets (pre-purchased on-line for $50 each at www. for a scenic train ride to our next destination, Bolzano, Italy. Upon arrival, we cabbed it to Bolzano’s airport, where our second rental car awaited us. It was a slight inconvenience and took a few hours longer—but considering the money we saved, it was well worth it! Flying within Europe used to be cost-prohibitive, but in recent years several super-saver airlines appeared on the radar, offering flights priced comVIE - Spring 2009


parably to train travel. Ryanair (www.ryanair. com) sells flights within Europe to countless destinations for a steal! (At press time, sample rates for one-way flights next summer: from Venice to Paris—$50; from Frankfurt to Barcelona—$60.)

Advice on Eating and Entertainment Being able to prepare your own meals is one of the biggest cost-saving advantages to staying in vacation rentals. Plus, it allows you to feel like a local as you shop for provisions at grocery stores, or better still, fabulous outdoor markets—“must-sees” on any itinerary! One of my fondest vacation memories is of a cozy, candle-lit dinner spent relishing brats, kraut and dunkle (dark) bier as the radio in our kitchen yodeled away.

Picnics and street-vendor foods make for great inexpensive lunches and are perfect for sightseeing-filled days on the go.

Picnics and street-vendor foods make for great inexpensive lunches and are perfect for sightseeing-filled days on the go. Plus, parks and “green spaces” are popular and prevalent throughout Europe and make for easy impromptu picnic stops.

good way to tell that a place is not a “tourist trap” is that they won’t have their menu displayed in several different languages. In France, they’re typically called bistros; in Italy, trattorias; and in Greece, tavernas. But no matter the name, the characteristics are the same…the food is usually tastier and less expensive, and the service is friendlier. Plus, you’ll save BIG on wine. Marking the price up 2½ times is, thankfully, not a European custom!

For dining out, your best bet is to seek out those non-touristy hideaways where the locals eat. A

Spending hours in a café people-watching is a quintessential European pastime. For the cost of

a cup of coffee, linger as long as you like. And, only when you are ready to leave will your server bring the bill. For the budget-minded traveler, street festivals are the best of both worlds—free entertainment and inexpensive food all in one! In a convivial environment, you can taste regional specialties, buy handcrafted souvenirs, hear area bands and rub elbows with locals and visitors alike. If you don’t speak the language, no worries—just SMILE; it’s universal! Regardless of the fluctuating exchange rates, with my trusty tips and savvy suggestions, an affordable European vacation is possible! If you have your own cost-crunching travel pointers, please share them with me at Kim Duke-Layden is an avid international adventurer whose mantra is “I have not visited Everywhere, but it's on my list!” She and her husband, John, live at Sandestin where she's worked for 14 years.


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D E S T I N R E A L E S T AT E C E L E B R AT E S I T S 1 0 - Y E A R A N N I V E R S A R Y By Will Maberry, Marketing Director, Destin Real Estate Company / Introduction by Lisa Burwell / Photography by Jessie Shepard

Introduction: En route to take photographs for this article, I pondered how much things truly have changed. The skies were grey and misty that Tuesday morning in December, and an eerie quiet blanketed 30A. It resonated from the 24/7 doom-and-gloom news on national television as well as from the realization that businesses in Walton County had failed this past year due to the economic downturn. To many, we live on the upside of life here in paradise, but the past few years have brought some sobering reflections to all of us. Therefore, when I entered Destin Real Estate Company with photographer Jessie Shepard to see a company filled to capacity with people rapidly walking up and down halls, phones ringing and agents wearing headsets conducting business, just as one would have seen a few short years ago, it was a breath of fresh air. I have known Blake and Melody Morar for several years, and they have always been hardworking, dedicated people. Growing a business is not something that happens overnight, and growing one into a success takes many long days and nights. The following article is a quick glimpse into how to turn a negative into a positive, or as many of us have said this year, “turning lemons into lemonade.”


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ow quickly things change. That remark is true about many elements in life. It certainly applies to real estate along the Emerald Coast. For instance, in 2008 you could buy a home located along Scenic Highway 30A for nearly 30% less than it would have cost in 2006. At the same time, 2008’s market had significantly more buyers for those homes than in 2006. Even though the average sale price of a home along 30A is still less than it was during the height of the market in 2005, Destin Real Estate Company has come a long way from the slump that followed the heyday. Doubling our sales force in one year, we now employ 13 agents and, according to data collected from the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service (ecar mls), are ranked third in total sales volume, generating just over $90 million in sales for 2008. According to the ecar mls roster, the offices ranking ahead of us have between 40 to 100-plus salespeople weighing in!   Just as the market has changed, so have the faces of real estate. Companies have folded, new ones have been established, and many realtors have moved on to other things or sell what they can on the side. However, in this profession, just as in life, with change comes opportunity.  

As breaks in life often do, our opportunity came to us in disguise. During the summer of 2007, a few of Destin Real Estate Company's veteran associates departed after being presented with other career options. Our already-modest real estate boutique was suddenly smaller, and the idea of conducting business in an eroding economic environment with fewer associates was daunting.   Then, as the dust began to settle, our perspective changed. We, too, had been given a new opportunity. We had grown complacent, and we needed a shakeup. In a sense, we were also starting over with a fresh focus on who we are and what we do.   Our unique team dynamic—quite the exception for a real estate company— had long been a source of cohesive pride. By putting our team approach to work, we became more acutely focused than ever. Together we sought clarity, and we began scrutinizing the fundamentals of our business. We examined our culture and identified the factors that differentiated us from other companies. (For instance, we took great pains to evaluate our compensation plans to ensure we could confidently offer what other firms could not.) Finally, we looked closely at how we market our company, our associates and our real estate inventory to the community. The strategic review enabled us to see that our situation was not dire. In fact, we were excited to uncover and address areas for improvement. Building and embracing a more defined company culture would lay the foundation for all that followed. We wrote down on paper our mission statement and the core values that would guide us. Our underlying mission is to be the brand with the highest level of professionalism and with the finest properties that the Emerald Coast has to offer. To fuel that initiative, we had to be a company of action. Real estate, in particular, is an ever-evolving business. Operating  within our highly dynamic realm, we embraced change in our persistent effort to deliver client satisfaction. Specifically, we have conducted ongoing education, focused on the client, looked for the positive, and persisted without exception. We remain mindful that the next opportunity lies just around the corner! Before endeavoring to recruit Realtors who shared our values, we wanted to know how we stacked up against other local real estate companies. We conducted a study of the landscape to tweak our operation. Using this information, we designed a recruiting program that ensures we hire not only the best in the business but also the best for our business. We go to great lengths to protect the environment we have created. Some say our bar has been raised too high. We aim to raise it even higher!   We have also continued to pioneer new marketing tools and strategies to enhance and promote both our brand and our real estate inventory. Our flagship marketing tool is SPIRIT, a 40-page, professionally designed, full-color magazine showcasing all of our luxury listings. It has evolved over its seven semi-annual releases, continually setting us apart from other companies. Soon, SPIRIT will be available in digital format, expanding its reach even further.

Then, as the dust began to settle, our perspective changed. We, too, had been given a new opportunity. As a result, Destin Real Estate Company’s office generates more volume per agent than any other general real estate office on the Emerald Coast, according to data collected from the ecar mls. For the past three years, we have successfully positioned our company among the top ten volume-producing real estate offices on the Emerald Coast. Even though only a boutique-size company, our ranking in that group has risen each year. In one year, we have completely transformed the face and size of our company. It is no accident that we have experienced fortune at a time when people have had to work much harder for business. In short, we accepted the challenge to implement change. Thus, we persisted through our fair share of ups and downs and have continued to thrive, as we intend to keep on doing.

Destin Real Estate Company is a boutique, luxury real estate sales and marketing firm located in Blue Mountain Beach on Scenic Highway 30A. The company specializes in unique, highly desirable properties that represent exceptional values in the market, largely in South Walton County from Sandestin, east to Rosemary Beach. To learn more about the company and view all its luxury listings, please visit Will Maberry has helped guide the innovative marketing efforts of Destin Real Estate Company as its marketing director for the past three years. Will is a longtime resident of the Emerald Coast and graduated locally from the University of West Florida in 2005. He is a past president of the Emerald Coast Advertising Federation in which he has maintained an active role in for several years. Originally a student of architecture in college, Will taps into his appreciation for good design to enhance his real estate marketing perspective.

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line, quick-visit restrictions imposed by trying to properly serve so many. As he puts it, “I decided that I wanted to give in-depth health care to a manageable number of patients, rather than the time-constrained ‘best efforts’ to many.” As the term “optimal health” implies, Dr. V. now works collaboratively and at length with each patient to optimize his or her health. As one of his patients myself, I have experienced what a refreshing change this is. After an extensive physical examination (comparable to that given to our presidents), including exhaustive hormone and blood panels, the doc explained at length what the data meant, why variations from the norm might be worrisome, the likely result if we didn’t fix these trends, and a range of options as to how to get the patient (me!) tuned up and moving toward optimal health.

DR . VARNADORE’S l o n g e v i t y

m e d i c i n e

By Clark Peters / Photography by Jessie Shepard


hough termed “health care,” our American medical system could more accurately be called “sick care.” Consider that most of us see our physicians only after the fact—in other words, when something is wrong. But a new trend, variously dubbed anti-aging or longevity medicine, preventative medicine, regenerative medicine and rejuvenative science, is an approach to health that changes the focus from treating major illnesses to preventing them. Few people today die of mere old age or natural causes. Most fall victim, before their time, to one of the major degenerative diseases, like cardiovascular (heart) disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s or diabetes, and the list goes on. Americans tend to think that these outcomes are inevitable based on genetics, glandular conditions, luck, or the “normal” deterioration that comes with getting older. Not true! It is possible to extend life well 76

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into the triple digits without sacrificing quality of life. One can, in fact, remain energetic and optimistic; sleep restfully; enjoy mental acuity, a lean physique and a healthy libido; and continue to pursue one’s favorite activities—all the qualities that make for a joyous and fulfilling life. Such is the premise and the promise of Dr. Ed Varnadore’s new clinic, the Southeast Institute for Optimal Health (SIOH). Dr. V., as his patients affectionately call him, is a familiar figure to the many local residents he served during his six-year stint as a resident physician at Seaside. Dr. Varnadore holds board certification in family practice, a discipline that trains doctors to treat the entire family. Thus, while at Seaside, Dr. V. covered the range of family medical needs ranging from maternity to geriatric care. Indeed, he became so popular, that he ended up with over 3,500 patient files. Over time, he became increasingly frustrated by the assembly-

His practice now truly engages the patient. None of the all-too-familiar “Take this pill and call me in a few weeks. Trust me, I’m a doctor.” Frequent follow-up consultations allow both patient and doctor to closely monitor the patient’s progress. Gradually, as the SIOH protocols—bio-identical hormone replacement, supplementation and lifestyle changes—take effect, the resulting change in how an SIOH participant looks and feels is little short of profound. Although the progress is gradual, it is continuous. Imagine getting older and feeling better each day! Dr. Varnadore’s credentials to practice this cutting-edge medical science are impressive. While at Seaside, he came to two conclusions. The first was that preventing illness makes a lot more sense than treating people after they contract a life-threatening disease. Of, course, as a doctor, he addresses these issues if and when they arise. But the major focus of his current practice is close scrutiny of each patient’s progress toward optimal health, thus avoiding these afflictions and extending life, and, as importantly, improving their current and future quality of life. To accomplish this goal, he took the time (over the course of several years, while still continuing his regular practice) to obtain an advanced degree called a Fellowship in Anti-aging, Regenerative,

and Functional Medicine; hence the letters FAARFM that now follow his name. Although the ranks of this discipline are growing, Dr. V. is one of only a few doctors worldwide to have been awarded these credentials. Most others who have FAARFM credentials are located in major cities (including Hollywood, of course), and are very expensive. We are fortunate that Dr. V., a military brat (his dad was a Marine) who grew up all over the country, always considered Florida as the family base and elected to practice in this area. It is unusual to have access to this kind of expertise in such a small market, and especially so since Dr. V. has structured membership fees to be affordable to most area residents. Dr. Varnadore’s second conclusion was that the current paradigm for treating patients must change. Thus, he explored another emerging trend called “concierge medicine.” As the name implies, concierge medicine entails indepth involvement with a limited number of clients. SIOH will therefore decline to accept new members when the practice reaches 300 patients. For these members, Dr. V. is available 24/7 all year. Some clients live as far away as South Africa, so one need not reside here to benefit from membership; but, of course, those who do live nearby can take advantage of his availability to frequently consult and participate in their journey to optimal health. Many members, including locals, consult via phone, fax or e-mail; all such communication is facilitated by the concierge approach. Just how extensive is the involvement of a practitioner of concierge medicine? While I am unfamiliar with other patient files, I can recount one person’s experience. After becoming a member, my wife advised Dr. V. that she was being treated for osteoporosis—basically, a thinning and weakening of her skeleton. After thorough testing and analysis of her condition, he concluded that her current prescription was not helping and that her condition was worsening. He then did extensive research on the current wisdom about the disease and the latest treatment options. He

Doctor Varnadore and patient Clark Peters on the Body Composition Analysis (BCA) machine which is a state-of-the-art machine to determine Body Mass Index.

A revolution in medicine is quietly but steadily gathering momentum. found a new protocol which was very promising and switched her to it. The new prescription is showing improvement and, importantly, exhibits none of the worrisome side effects of her previous prescription. But the real kicker was that my wife’s insurance policy did not cover the new treatment. So Dr. V. called and wrote the insurance company until he was able to convince them to cover her new meds! How many other doctors would have the time or the passion for this level of involvement?

Although a new science, the collective body of knowledge about anti-aging is exploding. Literally daily, discoveries and study breakthroughs are announced in medical journals and seminars. Dr. V. now has the time to keep up with the latest science available and assiduously pursues this knowledge. It is not uncommon for SIOH members to get a call from the clinic requesting they come in to discuss a new treatment for one of their existing issues. Similarly, breakthroughs applying to all are communicated promptly. It is VIE - Spring 2009


comforting to know that you are being treated with the very latest and best protocols medical science has to offer.

Dr. Varnadore's office overlooking the town square of Rosemary Beach

It is startling, and more than a little ironic, to realize that, despite our current economic uncertainty, the United States is the most affluent nation in the world and boasts of having the best medical schools and instruction, the besttrained doctors, the best hospitals and the best medical equipment and technology, spending some $2 trillion each year on “health care”— YET leads every other nation on the planet in per capita rates of heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, all the “itis” conditions (arthritis, diverticulitis, etc.), and so on. The list is depressingly lengthy and the trends are worsening. We also, by a wide margin, enjoy the dubious distinction of being the heaviest nation on earth—hardly coincidental, since obesity is closely correlated with most, if not all, of these afflictions.

Shop. Dine. Relax. on the east end of Scenic 30-A 78

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Clearly, while we may be the best at treating these major afflictions once they occur, the current practice of medicine falls woefully short of what health care should be about—preventing disease and illness. A small but growing number of far-sighted physicians have now begun the thrust toward changing our approach to health and longevity. Dr. Varnadore is one of them... and he is in our own backyard! Please visit:

Clark Peters grew up in the Boston area and holds a BA from Harvard and an MBA from Boston University. He served in the U.S. Navy and is a veteran of the Vietnam Conflict. His career background is in market research/consulting and bankruptcy consultation. The 67-year-old Peters has resided in South Walton with his wife, Leslie, since 1994. They were the first patients at Dr. Varnadore’s SIOH clinic in Rosemary Beach.

- FOOD & DINING Courtyard Wine & Cheese Cowgirl Kitchen Onano Neighborhood Café Restaurant Paradis Summer Kitchen Café The Sugar Shak Wild Olives Market ~Deli ~ Bakery - FASHION Bamboo Beach & Surf Beach Buzz Dunes Gigi’s Fabulous Kids’ Fashions & Toys Moonpize Rosemary Beach Trading Company Willow -HOME, BEAUTY & GIFTS Pish Posh Patchouli’s Shabby Slips Tracery World Six Gallery

- SERVICES Aesthetic Clinique Digital-I Design Studios Dungan & Nequette Architects Law Offices of Kiefer & Toney Looney Ricks Kiss Architects Regions Bank Solace Day Spa Southeast Institute of Optimal Health TMc Architecture - LODGING Rosemary Beach Cottage Rental The Pensione Bed and Breakfast -RECREATION Bamboo Bicycle Company Rosemary Beach Racquet Club Sea Oats Beach Service

luxe apothetique

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A Subtle Force of Nature By Kirsten Reed / Portrait by Jessie Shepard / Interior Photography by Josh Savage Gibson


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Suzanne Rester Watson has the goods. Reserved and unpretentious, Suzanne Rester Watson protects her celebrity clients with attorney-like discretion. However, if you ask her about her interior design business, she describes elements like furniture, artwork and materials with passion. In turn, many of her peers consider her to be in a league with New York’s top interior designers. Grayton Beach, then, would seem an unlikely home for Watson and her interior design firm, Inside.


atson attributes her success in the field she loves and her good fortune to live in such an idyllic setting, in part, to being in the right place at the right time. A student of art history and Italian, she did not plan to be an interior designer, but she was certain of her need to be “hands-on creative”—a trait she likely inherited from her father, a real estate developer, and her mother, an interior decorator. Still, Watson did not make the natural connection to the field until she had an informational interview with a design firm. “Immediately, I knew that interior design was the ideal fit,” she says. She immediately returned to school to earn her degree.

the same level of excitement and opportunities,” explains Watson. “Tom convinced me that our quality of life would be better on the beach.”

What neither anticipated was how accurately Tom had predicted the future. As it turned out, opportunities unfolded for Watson, and she acted upon them. Launching her own firm in 2000 seemed a natural progression for Watson, who comes from a family of entrepreneurs. “Almost immediately, I was introduced to two fantastic architects. Both were tremendously helpful in kick-starting my business,” she says. “I have worked closely with them on several exciting projects.”

From there, Watson seemed to have fate on her side. “I landed the perfect job with Dilger-Gibson, a high-profile firm in Atlanta,” she says. “I had the good fortune to work closely with the two young principals as they grew their business, and the hands-on experience and exposure were invaluable.” In fact, quite early in her career, her projects included Elton John’s house in the South of France, along with John and Elaine Mellencamp’s home in Indiana. “Above all,” Watson says, “Dilger-Gibson taught me to develop great collections for my clients. That was perhaps the most important philosophy that I brought to my own firm.” Watson admits that her bold move toward self-employment occurred far sooner than it otherwise would have without a push. Essentially, she thought her career had met an untimely dead end when her husband, Tom, secured a job in Walton County, Florida. Moving from Atlanta meant leaving a tremendously gratifying job, and she doubted that she could find a similar experience in another city, much less Northwest Florida. “I never thought that I could replace the quality of work that I had in Atlanta with

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“The interiors should feel as if the look has come into being over a period of years, not a matter of months,” Watson explains. “The details should reflect who the clients are and how they live, as each of those elements gives a home its character.”

nside has enabled Watson to work with a wide variety of clients and styles. One of her greatest challenges was a total remodel of a Victorian home in Telluride, Colorado. The clients have an impressive collection of modern art, and they wanted the home to complement their mid-century modern style. “We took down the old wallpaper and painted the dark wood to create a clean shell,” explains Watson. “We then carefully juxtaposed vintage modern and classic pieces to tie the architecture to the clients’ taste. For instance, we placed 1950s Cherner chairs around an antique French oak farm table. A classic wing chair upholstered in apple green wool went next to a George Nakashima chest of drawers. The modern pieces throughout the house looked sculptural against the traditional background.

The contrasts created a completely fresh look, transforming a dated interior into a home with character and soul.” Watson’s gratification comes from creating beautiful spaces as she satisfies her clients. She finished a Savannah client’s home around Christmas 2007, after several years of working with her. “All of the elements—the furniture, the art, the finishes—had finally come together, and it was such a joy to relish that moment of reflection with her. She and her family enjoy this home, and the wonderful pieces of furniture and accessories will be passed along to future generations.” Giving a project an identity and sense of history, even if the construction is brand new, is important to Watson. “It takes effort to produce, in a newly constructed house, the warmth and rich patina that comes with time,” she says. She prefers to work with the client from the creative inception, as well as with the professional team, including the architect, builder and master craftspeople. Together, they develop and follow a shared vision. “The interiors should feel as if the look has come into being over a period of years, not a matter of months,” Watson explains. “The details should reflect who the clients are and how they live, as each of those elements gives a home its character. Therefore, we take care in selecting materials, finishes, fittings and hardware. Our full-service design includes everything—down to choosing the soap dishes. Still, I never want to overdecorate or hide the personality of the people who will live in the home.” To provide the right elements for her high-end residential projects, Watson travels to the finest antique stores in New York and Atlanta. She spends equal time at local flea markets. Her goal is to locate exquisite collectibles, uniquely beautiful objects, and one-of-a-kind treasures. On any shopping trip, her purchases might include reclaimed hardwood floors, salvaged vintage lighting, artwork, and antiques. She always keeps an eye out for clean lines and timeless design. Even so, Watson clearly states that her projects reflect her clients’ dreams, not hers. “Their needs come first,” she says.


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“When the project is complete, we have food in the refrigerator, linens on the beds, and new china in the pantry,” Watson says. “Everything is handled precisely—no matter who the client is— because everyone is a celebrity in his or her own right.”

urrently, her firm is working on a residence on the property of The Greenbrier in West Virginia. Over the past three years, Watson has selected furniture to showcase the classic architecture of the home and the rich history of its surroundings. Natural and organic materials play an important role in ensuring that the interiors coexist with glorious mountain views.

four years. Organized as usual, she has read “all the books” to prepare for the adventure of motherhood. “Of all of our life experiences, this will be the most incredible.”

Being organized is an essential trait to which Watson lays claim. “When the project is complete, we have food in the refrigerator, linens on the beds, and new china in the pantry,” she says. “Everything is handled precisely—no matter who the client is—because everyone is a celebrity in his or her own right.” Despite her knack for precision, Watson confesses that she is a little klutzy by nature. “Shortly after I launched Inside, I was invited to a New York architect’s posh home for dinner. We dined in the library amidst the most incredible collection of art and architecture books that I had ever seen. Wouldn’t you know that when it was my turn to take a Cornish hen from the platter, I dropped it right on the fine antique table! Everyone turned away as if to pretend it did not happen, but the rest of that dinner seemed to go on forever. Fortunately, the host didn’t seem to mind my mishap, and our working relationship has long survived that evening.” When not meeting with architects, traveling or working with clients, Watson relishes the beauty of the beach. “I love living in paradise. We realize how lucky we are and take full advantage of the natural environment.” Watson and her husband enjoy kayaking on Western Lake and mountain biking in Point Washington State Forest. And the next project on her agenda? It will be a family affair. “We are adopting a son,” says Watson, who has been dedicated to the process for the past

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Taste of THE Beach Wine enthusiasts and aficionados, gourmets and gourmands, philanthropists and successful friends combined talents and passions to create an unparalleled four-day gala at the Taste of THE Beach-Wine.Dine. Donate event November 6-9, 2008. A unique fusion of pure sophistication and Southern charm combined with the fun and relaxed ambience of the seaside set the perfect tone. Add to the mix the world’s greatest vintners, culinary masters, exhilarating auctions, and the opportunity to positively impact the lives of needy children and you’ve got a recipe for success.

Ron Moliterno, Kate Price, Dawn Moliterno, Beth Reindl, Jeanie Zepponi & Eric Babin

Mike & Deidra Stange

Ken Hair, Lynn & Steve Dugas

Mike Chouri & Chris Renterio

Pam Holloway, Ali Barrett & Stacy Murphy

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Children gathering around the Christmas tree during the Nutcracker.


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Northwest Florida



hile budget cuts threaten cultural arts programs across the country, the citizens and institutions of Northwest Florida continue to embrace, support and inspire artistic expression within their communities and schools. Among such thriving organizations is the Northwest Florida Ballet, currently celebrating its thirty-ninth season.

The Northwest Florida Ballet (NFB) was founded by Bernadette Clements Sims, who also established the Florida Dance Association. Although she maintains an active role in the company, it has operated under the creative direction of Todd Eric Allen since 1995. A former NFB student, Allen begrudgingly took his first ballet class at thirteen to repair a torn hamstring. He was merely following his pediatrician’s orders so that he could return to playing football. Surprising everyone, including himself, Allen not only demonstrated a natural talent for dance, but he actually enjoyed ballet. Thus, despite being threatened, scorned and shunned by his former pals at school, Allen persevered to follow a career in dance. He went on to earn a distinguished reputation as a performer for the Louisville Ballet, Boston Ballet, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Personally inspired to fulfill NFB’s mission—developing talented dancers while building an appreciation for the arts through public education and outreach—Allen eagerly returned home to accept the position of Artistic Director. Known as a pioneer who introduced ballet to the Northwest Florida area, Sims envisioned a magnet school for gifted young dancers. Allen shared her dream and belief that such an endeavor would succeed. For one thing, he was familiar with Boston Ballet’s Citydance, a program that teaches ballet to at-risk third graders in the Boston Public Schools. He had also worked with numerous European dancers who had benefited from performing arts schools that

By Jennifer Tate Photos courtesy of Northwest Florida Ballet

combined dance training with traditional education. However, when he first approached the Okaloosa County School Board with his proposal in 1996, his idea was rejected. Several years later, Don Gaetz took over as Superintendent and gave Allen the backing he needed to move forward. From that turning point, bringing the concept to fruition required a dedicated community. Traditional educators, dance instructors, receptive parents and enthusiastic students were all part of making the dream a reality. When the Northwest Florida Ballet Académie opened in August of 2002, the school enrolled a class of thirty third-graders. Holding annual auditions for all Okaloosa second-graders, the academy currently serves grades three through eight. New students are not required to have prior dance training or demonstrate any particular academic achievement; a child’s potential to learn to dance is the sole selection criterion. Nevertheless, once admitted, students must adhere to a disciplined curriculum that includes taking dance classes daily along with the basics—math, science, English, social studies—plus French, the language of ballet, and weekly art and music. Aside from running the magnet school, NFB offers ballet, jazz, hip hop and modern dance classes for beginners (Creative Dance begins at age four) to advanced dancers. Company performers

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and a number of popular outdoor venues that include Rosemary Beach, Grand Boulevard, and The Village at Baytowne Wharf.

perfect their ballet, jazz and modern dance skills. Over the years, the NFB has produced many outstanding professional dancers and instructors who perform and teach throughout the United States and Europe. The Ballet has also formed strong ties with other performing arts organizations, including the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, Pensacola Opera and the Arts and Design Society. The NFB is headquartered in downtown Fort Walton Beach at the Sybil Smith Lebherz Center for Dance Education. The 13,000-squarefoot facility encompasses studio space in addition to rooms for costume creation, scenery building, and storage. Dancers perform at the Mattie Kelly Fine and Performing Arts Center, the Saenger Theatre in Pensacola,

The NFB opened its performance season in October of 2008 with Dracula, based upon Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic novel. Winthrop Corey choreographed the ballet with music by Liszt, Strauss, Brahms, Kilar, Glass, Barry and Goldenthal. Todd Allen made a special appearance in the title role. “I was excited to be dancing again,” says Allen. “I always look forward to being on stage with this great company. I have been performing for many years and in many places around the world, but it’s always special to perform for my community.” The Nutcracker, the company’s November production, dates back to 1892, when Marius Petipa, the Senior Ballet Master of the Russian Imperial Ballet, commissioned Piotr Tchaikovsky to compose a full-length ballet based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffman. Performing the roles of the Sugarplum Fairy and her Prince were Katia Garza of the Orlando Ballet and Israel Rodriguez, an international guest artist. Also featured were NFB’s principal dancers Amy Frost and Jennifer Jones, as well as special guest artists Sean Hilton and Andrij Cybyk.

Andrij Cybyk performing the role of the Russian during the 2007 Nutcracker performance. Todd Eric Allen dancing the role of Dracula with Kimalee Piedad dancing the role of Lucy.


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Cinderella, based on the story written by the 17th-century French author Charles Perrault, will be presented on February 28th at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, March 1st at 2:00 p.m. Todd Allen is choreographing the production with music by Prokofiev. Tickets will be available four weeks prior to the performance date.

The 2008-2009 Season will conclude with outdoor performances that are free to the public. Dates and times will be announced. Individuals may obtain specific information on the company’s website, www., or by calling the Northwest Florida Ballet office at 850664-7787 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. and Saturday 8:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Allen says that he hopes to reach record attendance numbers for each performance. By appealing to audiences of all ages, Allen and his colleagues aim to build exposure and appreciation for the art of dance.

Guest artist from Orlando Ballet, Katia Garza, plays the role of Cinderella.

t rac er y i n t er ior s 850.231.6755 w w w.t r a ce r y i nte r i o r m VIE - Spring 2009



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DANCE SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE TOUR STOPS IN PENSACOLA By Rhonda Cloutier Photography by Joseph Cloutier


he highly rated FOX network reality show So You Think You Can Dance brought its tour to Pensacola on Friday, November 14th. For those of you who are not familiar with the show, thousands of dancers from across the country audition for a role on the series. The judges, Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, and select guest choreographers narrow down the field to the top twenty, who become cast members competing in front of judges and the viewing public to become “America’s Favorite Dancer.” The 2008 winner

was Joshua Allen, a hip hop dancer from Dallas, Texas. Hip hop ruled this year as both the winner and the runner-up, Stephen “Twitch” Boss, a native of Montgomery, Alabama, topped the charts. Not only did Allen and Boss prove to be great at hip hop, but they also showed their versatility, learning many different dance styles and cutting a rug like professionals! In a sold-out performance, the top ten finishers plus guest stars entertained young and old during a three-hour dance fest, performing thirty-

nine different dances, consisting of solo, partner and group dancing. For dance aficionados, the dances performed covered many styles including the samba, tango, cha-cha, jive, Viennese waltz, Broadway, jazz, Russian trepak, a Bollywood group dance, contemporary and hip hop; some dances were a blend of styles. Based on the crowd’s reaction, some of the highlights included “The Garden,” a contemporary piece performed by Courtney Galiano and Mark Kanemura, “The Door,” performed by Twitch Boss VIE - Spring 2009


Just as I thought the night was over for us, my husband nonchalantly slipped backstage passes into my hands... and Katee Shean, and a dance-off between Joshua Allen and Twitch. Nigel Lythgoe choreographed “Five Guys Named Moe,” which was performed by the male members of the cast and drew loud applause. But the finale, “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” which paid homage to Hairspray, was the real showstopper! Geri Golding Higgs, owner of Gigi’s Fabulous Kids’ Fashions & Toys in Rosemary Beach and a longtime dancer and community supporter, choreographs a dance group of local students who performs in the Fourth of July and Christmas parades along 30A in South Walton. She was in the audience with several of her dance students and had nothing but rave reviews. As a big fan of So You Think You Can Dance, her favorite performers are Joshua Allen and Katee Shean. Look to see her incorporating a few new moves from the show in next year’s parades! Overall, the show was a crowd-pleaser and several of the performances received standing ovations. I found that even though I had my own favorites, I was applauding all the dancers for their technical 94

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and athletic skills. Every single dancer deserved recognition and praise for a job well done! Just as I thought the night was over for us, my husband nonchalantly slipped backstage passes into my hands (thanks to our anonymous benefactor!). Ecstatic, we left our seats to meet up with the rest of the privileged group of about thirty people. We followed the security guards downstairs to a large hallway where we waited patiently. As the dancers trickled out one by one, their adoring fans greeted them with cameras, Sharpies and programs, eager to get pictures and autographs. The performers had to be exhausted—we were beat and we hadn’t even danced! The rising young stars worked the crowd, shoulder to shoulder with the people who had voted for them and surrounded by their friends and family who either lived in the area or had made the trip to Pensacola. While we were backstage, I had the opportunity to speak with several of the dancers including hip hop/freestyle dancer Comfort Fedoke, from Dallas, Texas. She has been called the best female

hip hop dancer the show has ever had. She was petite with long flowing tresses, and looked the part with aviator glasses, a diamond piercing in her nose, silver earrings and necklaces down to her waist. She was a street dancer, working little events, backing up other artists, and dancing at malls when she auditioned for the show in Dallas. Of all the dancers, she is the least experienced. Her parents have been her biggest influence, encouraging her to dance; but she acknowledges it wasn’t only her parents who spurred her on. Her brother and her crews of dance friends, Crew Krumping (krump is a more intense, hard-hitting version of hip hop) and Big Krumping Poppers, all played a part in her success. I asked her how she was feeling with only a few more shows left on the tour. She replied, “It was really sinking in and I feel overwhelmed to be at the end of the road for the tour, but I am looking forward to what comes next.” We talked about the success of Lacey Schwimmer, a former dancer on So You Think You Can Dance who is now a professional dancer on Dancing with the Stars. Comfort said, “I think her success story is excellent and so inspiring! She is so young—only my age [20]—and doors have opened for her. I think being on the show will

cause her to become a better person and grow as a ballroom dancer.” When I asked her about her future plans, Comfort told me her dream role would be to play Elphaba in Wicked, her favorite Broadway musical. I also had the chance to catch up with Stephen “Twitch” Boss, a native of Montgomery, Alabama, who is also a hip hop/freestyle specialist. This season he was the runner-up, in a year of very competitive hip hoppers. People love Twitch and it is easy to see why. He was wearing his trademark glasses without lenses, a baseball cap on sideways, and a Cheshire Cat grin that lit up the room. He draped himself across a chair that couldn’t possibly hold his larger-than-life persona. Twitch got his nickname at a young age when, after being told to sit still in school and church, his body would give a little twitch as if trying to contain his energy. He started dancing as a senior in high school after his teacher, Brenda Aitken, encouraged him to dance. Later, he went to Chapman University in California to study dance, where he met Katee Shean. I asked him if he had been to the Florida panhandle before and he said he had been teaching hip hop with a dance troupe at Fort Walton High School for a few summers and hopes to do so again next summer. I was delighted to hear that Twitch was teaching hip hop in Fort Walton! I certainly hope that if he gets a job elsewhere that he will still be able to make his way back to this area. Reflecting on the end of the tour, he said, “We are soaking it up while we can because we have a whole new chapter starting.” When I had a chance to talk to Thayne Jasperson, an alternate for the tour from Salt Lake City, Utah, the first thing I noticed was his contagious smile. I remember one of the judges calling him out on his smile thinking he was perhaps “a bit too smiley,” but this guy’s grin is the real deal.

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I asked him if he had any secrets about Nigel that he could share with us. He replied, “Nigel is very caring. He wants everyone to succeed. The audience doesn’t always get to see the side of him that we get to see.” Kherington Payne, of Placentia, California, is a real California girl in looks and style. At 18, she is the youngest of the dancers; she missed her high school graduation ceremony to tape the show. Her post-high school career has been non-stop, first with the show, then the tour. As soon as the tour is over, she will start work on the remake of the movie Fame, playing Alice, one of the principal dancers.

“Nigel is very caring. He wants everyone to succeed. The audience doesn’t always get to see the side of him that we get to see.” —Thayne Jasperson on Nigel Lythgoe

didn’t make her want to quit, it certainly was a huge challenge and that was the dance that got her voted off the show.

side hoping to get autographs and the tired but appreciative dancers were doing their best to accommodate them. Some of the dancers have already secured their next roles. Others are contemplating what the future holds. But all of them are grateful for this whirlwind experience!

I congratulated her on her role in Fame. She said she found out that she got the part at the start of the tour. She is the first of this year’s dancers, aside from the winner, to be signed to a starring role.

I mentioned to Kherington that I had purposely avoided reading any reviews of the tour so that the performances would be a surprise to me—I wanted to form my own opinion. She asked me what I thought and I told her that I loved the show, the energy and the dancing. It was all phenomenal, and she was just beautiful in every dance. I wished her good luck with Fame, but something tells me luck is already on her side!

I asked her if there was a stressful moment on the show that made her want to say, “I can’t take this anymore!” She said she had cried while working on the country two-step dance. While it

In the end, no one went home without a smile. After we said our goodbyes and made our way out to the parking lot, we heard a roar of cheers. Hundreds of fans were lined up out-


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Corrie ten Boom

Photo courtesy of Quin Sherrer 98 VIE - Spring 2009

Corrie ten Boom

Hiding Place Emerald Coast— on the

By Quin Moore Sherrer


Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)


Corrie ten Boom helped to rescue many people from certain death at the hands of the

Nazi SS during their occupation of the Netherlands. At age 53, after her release from a concentration camp, Corrie began a worldwide ministry which took her into more than 60 countries in 33 years—it also brought her to our Emerald Coast.


hiding place! Thousands have come to the Emerald Coast seeking a hidden place for rest, recreation, and even some soul-searching. One special lady who delighted in calling this area her “hideaway” for respite and for writing books for almost a decade was the famous Dutch heroine Corrie ten Boom. Her leadership in the Resistance when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands during World War II and her subsequent imprisonment are chronicled in the highly acclaimed movie, The Hiding Place. More than six million people have read her story in the book by the same name.

her father Casper’s watch shop on the first floor of their home in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Upstairs, in Corrie’s bedroom, a false wall hid the “jewels” for whom Hitler’s soldiers hunted while Corrie searched for “safe houses” for them in the countryside. Materials to build that secret room were smuggled into the home, little by little, in an old grandfather clock case.

The Friendship Begins

But how, you may wonder, did this unassuming elderly woman, Netherlands’ first licensed female watchmaker by trade, find her way to our area in her latter years? Was it the lure of our bluegreen Gulf and peaceful waterways reminding her of her native Netherlands? Yes, partly. But it actually stemmed from a friendship with a

In 1943 and into 1944, Corrie, her family and friends saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews and protected untold numbers of their countrymen serving in the Dutch underground. Members of the Ten Boom family, who were Christian, were sent to German concentration camps for their part in saving lives with the only weapon they had—love. At age 50, Corrie became a ringleader for helping people escape the dreaded Gestapo, working in

Corrie ten Boom's Family

Photo Credit: Archives of the Billy Graham Center, Wheaton, Illinois. VIE - Spring 2009


Corrie ten Boom

Photo Credit: Used by permission of the Corrie ten Boom House Foundation, Haarlem, The Netherlands.

local couple who retired here: Dr. Mike and Fran Ewing. They had met Corrie while living in Charlottesville, Virginia, not too long after she first started coming to America to lecture about her time as a prisoner during the war. One day in 1962, they heard that an elderly woman who was a Holocaust survivor was going to speak at a church in Washington, D.C. at the invitation of the Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, Richard Halverson. Curious, yet impressed, they decided to drive up to hear her. Now, Mike and Fran themselves were no ordinary couple. When Mike was a thirty-twoyear-old doctor in the U.S. Army, he contracted polio which left him paralyzed in both legs and arms, with just a little mobility in his right hand. After years of rehabilitation and retraining in a new field of medicine, he was serving on the medical school faculty at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. His wife, Fran, a physical therapist, also worked there. The night they heard Corrie speak was a watershed moment for them both. Afterwards, Fran pushed Mike’s wheelchair up so that they could tell Miss Ten Boom how much they enjoyed her message. Corrie took one of Mike’s hands and one of Fran’s, and with her bright blue eyes wide open, looked toward heaven and prayed for them. “We were blown away by that— because no one had ever done such a thing for us 100

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before,” Fran remembers. That night a friendship was born that brought Corrie into their lives and their home for the next 16 years. Starting in 1963 and continuing for the next three years, Fran set up meetings in Virginia for Corrie to speak about the Holocaust. Each time, she would stay with them. In 1966, Mike and Fran moved to Atlanta where Mike was on the faculty at the Emory School of Medicine. Again, Corrie came as often as she could and made their home hers. Between visits, she and her nurse-

Corrie visits the concentration camp, Ravensbruck, where she was held captive during World War II. happy-filled days fishing from the old wooden pier. Mike’s health took an upturn from the rest, fresh air, and sunshine. He later learned that he had been suffering from post-polio syndrome, not Lou Gehrig’s disease. After a year at Crystal Beach, they made another key move. They built a home in Valparaiso on Tom’s Bayou, with its nearby smooth waterways, and bought a big pontoon boat to anchor at their dock. Mike could easily roll his wheelchair onto the boat and captain it himself, using his one good hand.

“Memories are a key, not to the past, but to the future.” -Corrie ten Boom

companion, Ellen de Kroon, traipsed around the world as Corrie spoke about how God’s love had enabled her to forgive her former captors. Then, in 1969, Mike received what he thought was a death sentence—Lou Gehrig’s disease. He and Fran moved near Destin for one of the most marvelous years of their lives. “Let’s make it as fun as we can make it,” Mike told Fran when he believed he had less than a year to live. They bought a huge travel trailer, parked it at Crystal Beach near the Gulf, and spent

The boat provided Fran, Mike, Corrie and her secretary, Ellen, with untold hours of pleasure. Again, the Ewings kept a spacious bedroom always ready for Corrie’s visits. “Don’t change anything in my room. I want everything just the same, so when I am coming home—I can know I’m really home, here in my room,” she told Fran. Ellen, her secretary for nine of those years, recently commented on that time. “Corrie and I had wonderful, peaceful times at Fran and Mike’s

Corrie ten Boom Photo Credit: Used by permission of the Corrie ten Boom House Foundation, Haarlem, The Netherlands.

Corrie kneels in front of opening to the secret room in The Béje, Haarlem, The Netherlands.

The Béje (Ten Boom family house) in Florida back then,” she told me. “Fran was an excellent cook. She and I used to laugh because Corrie thought she was hidden back in her own cozy bedroom, but because of the terrazzo floors built specifically for Mike’s wheelchair, we could hear Corrie every time she walked about—so she really wasn’t hidden from us,” she laughed. Several professional authors, such as John and Elizabeth Sherill (The Hiding Place) and Jamie Buckingham (Tramp for the Lord), wrote books about Corrie in those days. Corrie herself continued writing smaller teaching books. Propped up on pillows in her bedroom in the

Photo Credit: Used by permission of the Corrie ten Boom House Foundation, Haarlem, The Netherlands.

Ellen then typed the notes Corrie had written in her spiral notebooks and Fran often helped edit the final manuscripts. Corrie also sorted through piles of mail each day, trying to decide which speaking invitations to accept; she was often booked for up to two years in advance. A ten- to twenty-minute nap each afternoon was all she required to feel refreshed. While here, Corrie spoke in private homes, community churches, civic centers and wherever

“Worry is like a rocking chair—it keeps you moving but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” - Corrie ten Boom Ewing home in Valparaiso, she wrote each morning after her breakfast of tea, fresh fruit and toast.

else Fran could arrange her meetings. “Her talks transformed my life,” says Pat Hodges who still lives in the area.

Whenever another of her books was published, Corrie wanted to celebrate by eating in Destin at “that big round restaurant”—meaning the revolving restaurant on the top floor of the Holiday Inn. She loved leisurely times sitting in the sun on Mike and Fran’s patio, taking short walks twice a day, and watching sunsets over the bayou. To help her unwind, Corrie enjoyed playing chess. So when she asked, Mike rolled his wheelchair to the dining room table to challenge her to a game. Amazingly, they were well matched, playing almost game for game. “Mike, I like to play chess with you better than anybody on earth,” she’d say with a smile when she beat him. Corrie was old enough to be Mike’s mother, but she didn’t want to be treated like “a doubleold grandmother,” as they called her in some countries. Mike, every bit the independentVIE - Spring 2009


Corrie ten Boom

From left to right: Corrie ten Boom, Ellen Stamps, Fran and Mike Ewing Photo courtesy of Quin Sherrer

thinking intellectual, would sit for hours in the evenings listening to Corrie share stories while they played chess. Twice in 1973, the Ewings flew to Europe to visit Corrie in Holland. She was as excited as a kid with a new toy as she showed off her hometown of Haarlem, lined with its canals and quaint narrow row houses. An exhilarating, never-to-be-forgotten moment came in 1975 when the movie about her life, The Hiding Place, was released by World Wide Pictures for its premier showing . It had been filmed on location in Holland with Corrie watching from the sidelines and offering her suggestions. Fran and Mike flew to California for the premiere. “Corrie could hardly contain her excitement,” Fran remembers. “Almost from the moment the movie started, Corrie’s eyes misted with tears. By the time it ended, Corrie was sobbing. The great singer Ethel Walters rose from her wheelchair, walked over, put an arm on Corrie’s shoulder and began to sing “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” “I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place after that,” Fran continued. In the film, Jeannette Clift played Corrie, Julie Harris, her sister Betsie and Arthur O’Connell played Papa ten Boom. Corrie was at ease talking to a prisoner, an airport porter or even a well-known person like Evangelist Billy Graham, who became her friend. In fact, Corrie was a guest speaker for 102

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him at one of the Billy Graham Crusades, where he publicized her book The Hiding Place. Fran remembers of Corrie, “She was highly intelligent, modest and gifted at telling stories in such a simple way anyone could understand. She was comfortable with us because we were casual, very open and often had people living with us, as had Corrie’s family. We just made her part of our family until 1978 when she got too sick to come again.” However, in 1976, at the age of 84, Corrie and her assistant, Ellen, embarked on a seven-month speaking tour that took them into eighteen cities in the United States. Billy Graham convinced her to settle down and stop her hectic pace. So, in 1977 Corrie and her new assistant, Pam Roswell, moved into a house in Orange County, California. But she didn’t slow down much. Over the next two years, she wrote five new books and finished five teaching tapes. Her ministry finally ended when she suffered a stroke. Other strokes followed, partially paralyzing her. She spent her remaining days in California. Corrie died in California on April 15, 1983—her 91st birthday. Mike died at home in Niceville on November 1, 2007 on his 87th birthday—after 55 years in a wheelchair. Fran continues to live in a waterfront home in this area. Soon after Corrie’s death, a precious package was delivered to the Ewing home. Inside were two items she had bequeathed them: her gold signet

ring for Fran and an intricate colorful tapestry for Mike which she had been cross-stitching the last time they had seen her. Earlier Corrie had given them another keepsake—a silhouette cutting made by the first Jew to be hidden by the Ten Boom family.

Corrie’s Heart for the Hopeless

The Béje was the affectionate name of the home in Haarlem where Corrie grew up as the youngest of four children. Their father, Casper, known as Opa to the townspeople, sold and repaired clocks in his watch shop on the first floor of their home. Three older aunts shared the house. The family regularly provided meals to the homeless and they took in at least a dozen foster children. For years, Corrie worked among mentally challenged children. She also started a type of Girl Guides club for young women, which spread throughout Holland. Corrie never married, and eventually joined her father’s repair business, becoming the first licensed woman watchmaker in the Netherlands. After the German occupation of her country, she was suddenly thrust into a new mission: to help save lives. Often, six or seven people lived illegally in her family’s home, while others stayed only a short time until other courageous Dutch families offered shelter. As the word spread, dozens came in and out of the Ten Boom watch shop daily,

Corrie ten Boom

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” - Corrie ten Boom

seeking sanctuary. As quickly as Corrie found places for them, more arrived.

Nollie, her brother, Willem and her nephew, Peter; they were all transported to various prisons.

workers survived but the other was killed later during the war.

After a year and a half, the Ten Boom home developed into the center of an underground ring that reached throughout Holland. Corrie found herself dealing with hundreds of stolen ration cards each month to feed those in hiding. Then it happened! On February 28, 1944, the Ten Boom family was betrayed by a fellow Dutchman they had befriended. The Nazi secret police raided their home and arrested about 35 people. Among them were Corrie’s 84-year-old father, Casper, Corrie, her sisters, Betsie and

Although the Gestapo searched the house, they could not find those safely hidden behind the false wall in Corrie’s bedroom—two Jewish men, two Jewish women and two members of the Dutch underground. Although the house remained under guard, the Resistance was able to liberate the refugees 47 hours later. Although they had no water and very little food, the six people in their cramped, dark hiding place had managed to stay quiet for all that time. The four Jews were taken to new “safe houses,” and three survived the war. One of the Dutch underground

When Casper “Opa” ten Boom was warned about the dangers involved in rescuing and hiding Jews, he replied, “If I die in prison, it will be an honor to have given my life for God’s ancient people.” After only 10 days in Scheveningen prison, the 84-year-old patriarch did die and his body was dumped into a pauper’s grave. Shortly thereafter, Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were sent to Ravensbruck, their third concentration camp, in December of 1944, where Betsie died.

Mike Ewing and Corrie ten Boom Photo courtesy of Quin Sherrer

Corrie was released a short time later through a clerical error—one week before all of the other women her age were killed. Her brother, Willem, came down with tuberculosis in prison and died shortly after his release. Other relatives, including a nephew, never came home. During nights in prison, when guards stayed away from their barracks because of flea and lice infestations, Corrie read a smuggled Bible to the other women prisoners. Just before Betsie died, she told Corrie, “You must tell people when you get out that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” The words rang in Corrie’s ears and stayed in her heart. After the war, Corrie tried to go back to repairing clocks but prison life had drastically affected her. She quickly penned her first book, A Prisoner and Yet... Burning with empathy for those who had survived the death camps, Corrie VIE - Spring 2009


Corrie ten Boom

“The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.” -Corrie ten Boom

dreamed of a place for them to be healed from their scars and memories. A spacious home for such a retreat was suddenly given to her by a Dutch woman who heard her speak. Soon thereafter, Corrie was not only working for the rehabilitation of those traumatized by the war, but she began giving short talks about her own experiences. Her speeches were usually about allowing love and forgiveness to transform the heart. Soon she was traveling the world—going into more than 60 countries in 33 years—speaking to audiences in prisons, churches and courtyards from Africa to Vietnam, Russia to Cuba. Corrie was knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands for service to her nation.

Forgiveness Sets You Free

I first met Corrie when she took a beachside cottage near Melbourne, Florida to collaborate with my writing mentor Jamie Buckingham on her book, Tramp for the Lord. Naturally, I attended her lectures too. One afternoon I heard her tell the audience of her early struggle to overcome hatred and to forgive not only the man who had betrayed her family, but the German guards who were so cruel to her in prison. She recounted the following story that day. It was 1947, and Corrie had gone to defeated Germany to speak at a church. After her lecture, a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat approached. Suddenly she had a flashback—a huge room with harsh lights, the shame of walking naked past this man wearing a blue uniform and a cap with its skull and crossbones insignia. She pictured her frail older sister, Betsie, with parchment-like skin, who had suffered such inhumane treatment from this man and his cohorts. 104

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“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he said. “I was a guard there. But I have since become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from you as well. Fraulein, will you forgive me?” he asked as he extended his hand. Corrie knew she had to do it. “The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a choice, an act of the will. So I asked God to help me really do that,” Corrie told her audience the day I heard her speak. “I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. I thought I had fully forgiven my enemies until I was face-to-face with a guard whom I recognized,” she continued. When she finally stretched out her hand to shake his, she said, “It felt like a current racing down my arm. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being as I held his hand.”

“I forgive you, brother, with all my heart,” she told him. The former guard and the former prisoner grasped hands. Fran says the key lesson that Corrie taught her is: “God has a hiding place for those who seek Him.” That theme permeates Corrie ten Boom’s numerous books and messages.

Fran Ewing and Quin Sherrer Photo courtesy of Quin Sherrer

About the Author Quin Moore Sherrer, a Northwest Florida native and FSU journalism graduate, has written or co-authored 28 books. She was a reporter for the Ft. Walton Playground News and the Titusville Star Advocate newspapers. She can be contacted at (850) 729-7514 or P.O. Box 1661, Niceville, FL 32588 Some of Corrie’s books: Amazing Love Common Sense Not Needed Not Good If Detached Marching Orders for the End Battle Plenty for Everyone In My Father’s House






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Pensacola’s Art and Soul Cultural Activities Abound In This Historic And Artful City By Laura A. Lee Photos courtesy of Pensacola Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau


ensacola is known for its beautiful beaches and legendary Blue Angels, but many do not realize that Pensacola is a cultural mecca with an active arts community, notable restaurants and lively festivals as rich as the city’s 450-year history. Tucked away in the historic city are some eighty-plus thriving arts organizations including all of the “Big Five” disciplines: theatre, opera, music, dance and an accredited museum of visual arts. Visitors willing to go beyond the beaches will find musicians, dancers, actors, artists and chefs as inspiring as the picturesque setting. Also inspiring are the many architectural treasures housing the arts. The crowned jewel of Palafox Place, the Saenger Theatre reopens in March following a multimillion-dollar, 18-month renovation designed to recapture its original grandeur. Opened in 1925, the Spanish Baroque theatre is one of only four Saenger theatres still operating in the South. “The venue’s stunning architecture creates the perfect ambiance in which to see a show,” said Catherine Guin, executive director of the Arts Council of Northwest Florida. “Its location – close to restaurants, museums and art galleries – makes for a special evening out in Downtown Pensacola.” The Saenger Theatre is home to Pensacola Opera, Ballet Pensacola, the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra and the Pensacola Children’s Chorus.

Pensacola Opera performs Aida on May 1 and 3; the performance is entirely in Italian with English supertitles. Celebrating its 25th anniversary last year, the opera house produces three shows per year. Ballet Pensacola presents four major productions each season including the Nutcracker “Sweet,” which has become a holiday tradition. The Pensacola Symphony Orchestra has an 80-year history of superb music in Pensacola. More than seventy musicians play for audiences of more than 30,000 people annually. “We have traveled to many cities and heard many orchestras, but we never expected to find the high quality of Pensacola Symphony Orchestra in a city this size,” said Robert Reddy, who retired to Pensacola from Colorado with his wife, Gerry, after four years of seeing the country in their RV. “We have been patrons of the symphony for years and continue to enjoy the variety of programs. If you enjoy the arts, Pensacola is a great place to retire.” The Saenger Theatre is also attracting several Broadway shows this spring including I Love a Piano, Jesus Christ Superstar, Stomp and Movin’ Out. Formerly the city jail, the Pensacola Museum of Art houses a permanent collection of 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century works and famous traveling exhibits displayed throughout the building and inside old jail cells. On the first and second Saturday of each month, the Pensacola Museum of Art provides workshops for children ages 6-14. While parents explore Downtown VIE - Spring 2009


day. The first weekend in April, they’re hosting a reserve wine tasting with Spanish wine importer Jorge Ordoñez and are participating in the Pensacola Wine Festival with a paella cook-off hosted by food critic John T. Edge. You can find details on these events and download recipes at CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL ATTRACTIONS With Pensacola celebrating its 450th anniversary this year, there is no better time to explore the city’s many cultural and historically significant sites.

Pensacola, their children can create art from 1-2:30 p.m. for just $10. May 1 is the opening of Spanish artist Miguel Zapata’s exhibit, which will commemorate the city’s 450th anniversary. The Pensacola Cultural Center, once the county jail, is now home to the Pensacola Little Theatre and Portobello Market. The Pensacola Little Theatre is one of the oldest community theatres in the country, established more than 85 years ago. Today, the theatre hosts numerous performances throughout the year. Representing the “Big Five,” as well as dozens of other arts organizations, is the Arts Council of Northwest Florida. The Arts Council hosts several gallery nights throughout the year to showcase local talent. On select Fridays, residents and visitors browse the works of artists inside shops and galleries while sampling wine and enjoying free entertainment. PENSACOLA CELEBRITY CHEFS TAKE FOOD TO A LEVEL OF ART Five Pensacola Celebrity Chefs bring Pensacola’s dining scene to a level of artistry. Irv Miller of Jackson’s, Jim Shirley of The Fish House, Gus Silivos of Skopelos on the Bay, Frank Taylor of Global Grill and Dan Dunn of H2O create culinary treats at their locally owned restaurants. While each chef is known for a distinct style, all blend Southern traditions and Pensacola’s international influences with fresh seafood and produce to create true culinary masterpieces. “Our visitors can have an amazing culinary experience right on the Gulf Coast of Florida, without having to travel to New Orleans or Las Vegas,” said Ed Schroeder, vice president of tourism for the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. “Our area boasts bountiful fresh produce and seafood, the influence of five flags, deep-rooted traditions, and food and wine festivals that no other region in the country can mirror.” Although competitors on a day-to-day basis, the five Pensacola Celebrity Chefs have united to promote culinary tourism in Pensacola. Their first collaborative project was a “Five Chefs, Five Flags” dinner in September that sold out in one 108

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Guests step back in time at Historic Pensacola Village with archaeological sites, museums, reenactors, one of Florida’s oldest churches and furnished period houses spanning from the earliest Spanish explorers to the Victorian era. The Museum of Commerce paints the picture of a turn-of-the-century streetscape of Palafox Place, which remains the heart of downtown. The T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum holds major pieces of history including the anchor believed to have belonged to Don Tristan de Luna, the Spanish explorer who founded Pensacola in 1559. Just behind the museum is the Pensacola Historical Society’s museum and resource center featuring exhibits of the area’s Native American, Colonial and American pasts. Housed in the Kate Coulson House in Historic Pensacola Village, the African-American Heritage Society includes a small art gallery/museum, gift shop and resource center. The organization promotes, preserves and integrates African-American heritage and culture in Northwest Florida. The society sponsors the African-American Heritage Trail, which includes sites representing the impact African-Americans have had on the city and country. An open-air museum, St. Michael’s Cemetery tells the story of more than 3,000 lives spanning the centuries. Said to have been a burial site as early as the mid-18th century, the cemetery is considered the oldest in Florida. The archaeological site is the final resting place of the famous and the common – the Spanish, French, English, Irish, African and Greek – the unique blend of early America. Elaborate mausoleums and plain cement slabs reflect a disparate society, and decorations on monuments portray attitudes and beliefs about life and death. The Pensacola Bay Area has had a strong military presence for centuries. It was home to important forts used in the Civil War, and today all Navy, Marine and Coast Guard aviators start their training in Pensacola, giving it the

“Our visitors can have an amazing culinary experience right on the Gulf Coast of Florida, without having to travel to New Orleans or Las Vegas.”

—Ed Schroeder

nickname “Cradle of Naval Aviation.” Naval Air Station Pensacola is home to several attractions that celebrate both the city’s and the nation’s histories. An impressive display of more than 150 vintage aircraft can be found at the National Naval Aviation Museum, as well as Top Gun F-14 flight simulators, motion-based simulators and an IMAX® theatre. Most Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, from March to November, guests can experience the world-famous Blue Angels as they practice awe-inspiring aerial maneuvers in the skies above. Museum admission is free. Visitors can also explore two pre-Civil War fortresses. The Advanced Redoubt tour each Saturday takes visitors to the only fort in the region built specifically for land defense of the Navy yard. The Fort Barrancas tour is offered daily featuring the military history of the 1839 fortress and the Spanish Water Battery. Visitors can explore the brick tunnels of the fort or enjoy the spectacular water views from the top. Built in 1859, the Pensacola Lighthouse peers over the pass to the Gulf of Mexico. The lighthouse has survived hurricanes, lightning strikes, fire and the Civil War. At 160 feet, it is the fourth-tallest brick lighthouse in the nation. It is said the first lighthouse keeper, Jeremiah Ingram, still wanders through his former quarters. On Saturdays from May to October, visitors can climb the 177 steps up the spiral staircase for panoramic views and possible paranormal sightings. PENSACOLA’S CULTURAL SCENE SURPRISES AND INSPIRES The small town of Pensacola delivers a big arts and cultural scene, whether it be a memorable painting with a colorful palette or an unforgettable meal that tantalizes the palate. Cultural opportunities are seemingly endless with art shows, gallery nights, operas, concerts, ballets, national Broadway tours, special exhibits and eclectic festivals. As the city celebrates its 450th anniversary, there is no better time to celebrate Pensacola’s rich and surprising culture.

Laura Lee joined the Pensacola Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau in 2007 where she serves as communications manager. Laura promotes the Pensacola Bay Area as a premier travel destination to travelers and media outlets across the globe.

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P hotog ra p hy b y Je ssie Sh e p a r d


Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, And all the while A great wind is bearing me across the sky.

here are times, places and circumstances that punctuate the arc of a career and alter the shape of a life. If we are honest with ourselves, we accept that many of these opportunities were thrust upon us, unplanned and unexpected, seen at the time as vague byways or even overgrown paths. Yet, when chosen, seemingly irrelevant decisions can be transforming. I have known such experiences in the Town of Seaside. I am not alone. While so many were skeptical in those early days, to some of us Seaside represented a compelling story long before it was a physical reality. From 1984 until 1996, while overseeing the sales of Seaside real estate, I saw that story unfold firsthand, becoming a primary theme interwoven with the personal narratives of others who, like me, constellated in this one place at one time. We who were involved believed we were lead actors in shaping a piece of real estate. Yet, in hindsight, we can allow that we were carried along by an almost inevitable force. Seaside seemed a place in search of itself. The raw depth and breadth of its physical creation would ultimately contribute to, even demand, in many instances, a certain psychic completion in those of us who thought we were the ones bringing it to life. If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know. —Louis Armstrong

–Ojibwa saying

I grew up living in two very different worlds. The first world was linear and rational, typical of a small village in the Midwest—an equal mix of pleasant and stultifying, picking a way through childhood and adolescence in search of some degree of independence along the way. The second, an otherworldly place, was total immersion in music performance. Reconciling these two separate worlds at a young age created extreme opposites: scaling endless and oftentimes dizzying heights while plumbing equally painful depths, while those around me seemed unaware. The monotony and complexity of hours of practice pierced by momentary effortless performance breakthroughs, with no one hearing either. Participating in the indescribable melodic and harmonic textures of symphonic bands and symphony orchestras, after hours and sometimes days of waiting on and off stage in silence. Flights of freedom as lead horn riding within, then overhead and at times soloing beyond the disciplined chaos of a fine jazz ensemble, with off hours in pinball parlors and cheap suburban motels awaiting the next gig. Life remained a delicate traverse through these two disparate worlds until after high school, when I was allowed to pursue the second world exclusively at the University of Michigan School of Music and Interlochen National Music Camp. Participating in classical ensembles of contemporaries approaching our individual instruments at ever higher levels. Performing compositions so transcendent and transcendently, that at times

we felt we knew the 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century masters who created them. Pursuing those rare and exquisite moments when performers, performance and music become one. A rich musical experience that would culminate in a degree in music performance and more paid orchestral and jazz work. Yet, despite the exhilarating levels of performance, the subsequent intermixing with the business of classical music became sobering and Sisyphean, a seemingly soulless replaying of the same symphonic repertoire week after week to meet the demands of a paying audience with narrow expectations. The joy of creating music degenerated into simply a way to make a living. That special otherworld faded. Chop wood, carry water. —Zen saying Burdened with this duty to “make a living” yet shaped from a young age by a performance culture that rewarded execution on demand, I plunged into business. A couple of fitful years in restaurants (the business equivalent of a witness protection program for those with only a music performance degree) led by chance to a position in general real estate brokerage. The next years were spent working my way through the ranks of a high-volume, high-energy brokerage firm under the watchful and unerring eye of an ex-Army armor officer who previously fought his enemies, real and imagined, with Creighton Abrams and Omar Bradley. That searing experience, equal parts grueling and invigorating, had a certain familiarity. The old musical mantra, “You’re only as good as your last performance” became “You’re only as good as your last deal.” Yet there was something missing. In my music career at its peak, the act of performance was simply a means to an even more meaningful end, creating music. Real estate brokerage, on the other hand, seemed to value performance as both means and end, resulting in what seemed a relentless pursuit of execution with only secondary

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interest in the collective effect of that effort. Unlike the arts, there seemed so little to show from even a high level of performance, beyond the money. So after years sharpening my craft under that most difficult and brilliant of taskmasters while simultaneously trying to understand his periodic nonsensical ferociousness, it was time to move on. Now in control of my own career, the lingering sense remained— more a dull ache, really—that, even within my control, real estate brokerage for its own sake could become a dismal occupation. The joy of performance, previously the gateway to that second otherworld of music, also began to fade. To fill the void, I read voraciously. Fiction was early sustenance. Steinbeck, Faulkner, Conrad, Melville, Homer, Miller, Twain, Hugo, Joyce, Blake, Cervantes, Hesse, Dante, Machiavelli, Dickens, Sinclair, Huxley, Haggard, Voltaire, Castaneda, London, Hemingway, Hardy, Dumas, Fitzgerald, Hawthorne, Mann, Thoreau, Goethe, Rilke, Eliot, Whitman, Nabokov, Chekhov, Camus, Kafka, Stevenson. Finely crafted portrayals of characters and circumstances, so different in time and place, yet all containing an underlying and unsettling sameness.

Discovery consists in seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought. –Albert Szent-Gyorgyi


ursuing this fundamental commonality led to psychology, anthropology, ethnology, philosophy and metaphysics. Freud’s courageous examination of the notion of the unconscious and methods for bringing it into consciousness through psychoanalysis. Jung’s connecting core human tendencies with the notion of a collective unconscious—underpinnings of his archetypal theories. Schopenhauer’s spanning the seemingly improbable connection between worlds of phenomenon and will. Campbell’s associations of mythology with cultural traditions

of Eastern and Western cultures. Chuang Tzu’s all-encompassing approach to the notion of Tao. Hui-neng’s insight into original nature that would become a foundation for Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen. The list extended to psychological and dualist contemporaries. Nietzsche, von Franz, Wilbur, Jaffe, Hillman, Kabat-Zinn, Benoit, Capra, Singer, Neumann, Bly, Meier, Edinger, Johnson, Kubler-Ross, Wilmer, Van der Post, Fromm, Mindell, James, and others—leading deeper to non-dual apperceptions of Maharaj, Maharshi, Balsekar, Wei Wu Wei, Adamson, Liquorman, Krishnamurti, Aurobindo, Aitken, Glassman, Kapleau, Suzuki, Kornfield, Poonja, Klein, Om, Watts, Wolinski, Osborne, Godman, Herrigel, Swartz, Hanh, Sun Tzu, Parsons, Powell, Dunn, Loori, and Beck. Again, life followed two distinct and disconnected paths: intense workdays in the brokerage arena broken by hours of reading and studying the workings of the individual and the collective, neither fathoming nor caring about any connection between the two. About that time, I bought a second home just down the beach from a few austere cottages and a beach café that were the beginnings of the Town of Seaside. Like most locals, I knew little of the place and even less of its ambitious intentions,


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beyond the Seaside Grill. “The Grill,” as it was known locally, was a cross between local roadhouse and beach bar fashioned from a couple of abandoned and transplanted Florida cottages placed ceremoniously in the salt-stunted beach scrub. With volleyball gulf side, a breezy bar of half a dozen or more stools and café seating for a few dozen more, it was to become the lone trading post in the sparsely populated hinterlands between Panama City and Destin. Scattered locals, inland characters, self-crowned philosophers, architects, contractors and laborers from a radius of thirty miles would congregate, swap stories, and eat well-prepared food served simply while watching the ebb and flow of visiting tourists straggle in and out. It was by any account a most delicious of sociological brews. Arriving fresh from years of intense brokerage campaigns and near-monastic bouts of reading and study, the intermixture of simplicity, sophistication and raw human theater in early Seaside felt both familiar and exotic. Outdoor art movies, concerts and gatherings that I hadn’t seen since Ann Arbor and Interlochen. Structures, exterior space and interiors revealing an attentive approach to planning and design. An unrelenting attention to detail. The camaraderie among those interesting characters and their amused audiences frequenting the Grill. The raw audacity of building a new beach town where no town had existed. A location a short walk up the beach from my own place. All awakened a certain curiosity.


oon after, I crossed paths with Robert Davis, the founder of Seaside, at an art film shown in the town’s small market square. Prior to our meeting, I had watched with interest from a distance as Robert, in his inimitably quiet and thoughtful manner, soldiered on in search of people and circumstances to further his ambitious undertaking. Within weeks he invited me to dinner. As he deftly prepared a remarkable Italian meal, we began a conversation simultaneously diverse, in

Chris Kent with Jacky Barker & Donna Spiers

depth and engaging. Woven within this interchange, his frustration and fatigue with sales at Seaside were palpable. With little interest in the process, existing sales operations had relegated him into the Faustian bargain of either selling Seaside by himself or turning it over to brokerage people with little understanding of its subtleties. This discomfort seemed further aggravated by his generous and charming habit of providing dinner for a number of prospective purchasers, in many cases cooking it himself in the meticulous manner of a Northern Italian native. I quickly explained that I had no interest in another long-term brokerage job. Finally free

after years of psychological and fiscal detention chasing brokerage fees with my early mentor, a position as “sales manager” for Seaside was not only unwelcome but abhorrent. I was beginning to enjoy the Grill and art movies from the safe vantage of my own place just down the beach. Why threaten the time-honored business rule of healthy separation between business and pleasure? Robert steadily and interminably pressed on, describing his present excruciating path of selling Seaside properties himself as equally repulsive. At times, it seemed that only a mutual affection for good food and conversation brought us together. We cooked, critiqued, sparred, cajoled, intellectualized and commiserated in a peculiar and fascinating dance of negotiation known to VIE - Spring 2009


the yard was allowed. As a “real estate development,” the place approached a nightmare. Yet, psychological texts explain that nightmares and fears, when embraced, can lead to deeper understanding. And while the mainstream real estate community shunned our work in those early years, I saw in Seaside a profound opportunity. An occasion to abandon the extraverted “pleased to meet you” sales atmosphere that I had intuitively avoided for years. A laboratory to test whether people could understand and embrace depth and subtleties presented at a level beyond those found in a typical real estate brokerage office. We forged ahead.

Chris Kent

introverts. A few weeks later, unannounced, I received a note from Robert asking me to invent a job in Seaside that I would take. While unexpected and seemingly unwanted, there was no denying the raw attraction of that offer. No preconceived job description, a proverbial clean slate. Hesitantly, irrationally, I proposed that I take over Seaside’s real estate sales operations as an outside contractor for one year. After that year, we’d reevaluate our relationship. If either of us was unhappy, we’d cancel our agreement and move on. Seaside’s existing sales operations proved daunting. While sales presentations resembled its 114

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competitors', the town planning and architecture were unlike any other real estate development. Homesites were significantly smaller than our competitors’ and considerably more expensive. Cottages were required to conform to strict architectural codes and it was more costly to build them. Early purchasers had to buy a homesite and finance it, hire a designer or architect to design improvements, arrange for a construction loan, engage a builder, complete construction to relatively high standards and obtain permanent financing when all construction was completed. Moreover, at a time when a house in the suburbs or on a golf course represented the predominant real estate development type throughout the country, neither an attached garage nor grass in

To begin, we needed a sales team with desire, raw ability and openness to this new unorthodox and unproven approach. Jacky Barker and Donna Spiers were available, thankfully, and over twenty five years later continue this role as the longest-tenured and respected employees today. Working closely, we shaped a nimble and capable brokerage organization based upon principles and practices honed from my years in the field. The ultimate structure, discipline and attention to detail to the brokerage side of the operation created a firm foundation upon which we could then introduce subtle layers of considered planning, vernacular architecture and community—all distilled into a brief logical narrative.


e reinterpreted Seaside’s plan from its academic origins into terms recognizable to our audience. A street grid’s providing ease of navigation while promoting the movement of sea breezes throughout the neighborhoods. Interrelationships between footpath and park systems for pedestrian circulation. The street’s role as a “room” for gathering and pedestrian interaction. Axial relationships terminating with monuments and beach pavilions,

How refreshing, the whinny of a packhorse unloaded of everything! –Zen Saying

connecting neighborhoods with one another and the sea. Public buildings and civic squares as gathering places. Physical and social relationships between primary houses and accompanying outbuildings. The value of live/work and gallery space within an urban fabric. How multiple building typologies attract diverse audiences, yet collectively contribute to a cohesive streetscape. And, above all, the advantages of locating every residence a few minutes’ walk from the essentials in a vital, engaging town center. We interpreted Seaside’s architecture in the same manner, addressing design codes and the humanity behind them. Architecture that continued local and regional building traditions, providing connections with previous generations of a place. The dual role of the front porches as comfortable outdoor rooms and key elements in a welcoming streetscape. Cottages raised above grade with cross ventilation and deep roof overhangs to help cool them in the summer heat. The meaningful proportions and timelessness of Classicism, by itself and combined proportionally within simple vernacular structures. Interiors that stylistically stepped beyond old Florida cottages of earlier times, while maintaining their underlying spirit. That building materials could display the same type of integrity we admire in people. Carriage and guest houses providing opportunities for diverse and affordable housing. How towers contribute to our egalitarian

natures by allowing every cottage to reach for views of the sea. The reincarnation of Oedipus and Beauty and the Beast, stands at the corner of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, waiting for the light to change. —Joseph Campbell Over the years, observing guests and visitors respond to the town convinced me that Seaside was no simple sum of planning and architecture. While the urbanism and design principles were substantive and meaningful, there was a compel-

ling quality to the place transcending its design. Venturing around its edges, our visitors experienced it in much the same way as I had during those first forays—art films on the beachfront, magical afternoons in the Grill, the attention to detail of the founders and those who worked there, early events and gatherings at the Perspicacity Market, the unerring eye for quality and style displayed so simply—all collectively providing the beginnings of a de facto culture of Seaside.


n element of culture has been described in certain sociological and ethnological circles as ethos, or “emotional communality or ‘ambience’ that a group shares” and “a disposition...or attitude peculiar to a that distinguishes it from other groups.” Over time, I observed elements of an ethos of Seaside, distinguishing the town from our competitors as powerfully and profoundly as its design. For example, it was considered inappropriate to flaunt wealth or position. Disputes should be handled directly rather than through the courts. There was luxury in spending time by the sea doing nothing at all. A beach cottage could pass more

Tupelo Street circa 1982 Photo by Steven Brooke

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on to the generations than real estate. A pursuit of quality and style could be both enjoyable and profitable. The world was rushing about madly and we refused to participate. Arts and humanities energize a small town. Sophistication and simplicity can exist hand in hand. While perhaps slow in execution, that same attention to detail can be worth the wait. It is possible to have a good time and do good work simultaneously. A business can be profitable for other reasons than filling up a checkbook.


o say elements of this underlying culture within Seaside were created according to some predetermined formula would be misleading, egocentric and dangerous. Rather, it developed quietly, slowly, and at times beneath immediate consciousness. A small town culture historically is shaped in part by the citizens who live there and interact daily. Yet, because of Seaside’s infancy and the predominance of second homes, few lived there full-time except the founders, Robert and Daryl Davis, whose contributions in this regard were nothing short of immeasurable. They were joined by employees, staff, architects, planners and outside contractors who collec-

Chris Kent (Sweatered trumpeter at top)

PhotoVIE courtesy Interlochen - Spring of 2009 116

And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. —T.S. Eliot

tively acted as torchbearers of the town’s worldview. This collection of special people became true citizens of Seaside (its forebears if you will) carrying with them the intensity and personal eccentricities normally belonging to residents. We were all expatriates of a sort. All perhaps disenchanted with typical approaches to our given areas of expertise. All, knowingly and unknowingly, played a part in shaping the culture of early Seaside. Effectively presenting this culture (what little we discerned at the time) in a sales office presented

a dilemma. Words were presumptuous. Authenticity seemed best conveyed through direct experience. Placing our own personalities aside, we cautiously began to allow the idea of Seaside to speak for us. Early visitors and prospective purchasers to our Tupelo Street cottage were treated as honored guests in our home in a small town. As they approached, no one greeted them while they were on the porch. Many times, they would hesitate there and, for a moment, absorb the calm surroundings of this exterior gallery. Unlike their suburban patio at home, our porches were simple, austere and complete outdoor rooms. We personally lived and worked on them daily. Toys were out for the children. An inviting swing and wicker chairs beckoned to them to sit awhile. They heard the Gulf, couldn’t see it, yet felt the constant beach breeze. Their immediate relationship with the sea from that porch across the street from it seemed more intimate than from a 9th floor condominium looking directly at it. For a moment, they glimpsed a central theme of Seaside, the luxury of spending an afternoon on the porch doing simply nothing. Unable to voice their feelings upon experiencing the dichotomy of that simple quiet cottage a short walk from the raw energy and vibrancy of the Grill, they would simply say they felt differently when they visited Seaside than anywhere else. An Asian sage might say we spoke without speaking. That the silent Seaside porch roared like a lion. Thus began the process of selling without selling.

That modest Tupelo Street cottage was just a short walk from more humble yet mindful beginnings of a small town. Streets that embraced them as pedestrians, scheduled and unscheduled gatherings, time well spent in the Grill, an outdoor film or concert, interactions with engaged and engaging characters, an hour or two shopping in the outdoor market, seeing their kids experience a certain freedom unknown at home. Collective experiences that eclipsed any attempts at “selling,” and, at times, verbal description at all. Expressed in this way, beyond words, the idea of Seaside suggested itself silently and subtly. Our role was shifting from “selling” to acting as guides and interpreters of the physical and cultural elements of place. We were beginning to transcend real estate.


omewhere in the midst of leading real estate sales in Seaside, I was struck by a startling personal realization. Gradually, often unnoticed, those two old worlds—business and art—fractured from one another since my leaving music, were becoming reconciled. I continued to make a living with Seaside’s successful sales operations, leading the completion of a nationally and internationally recognized new town that would become a prototype for a powerful new approach to real estate development. However, this making a living was now sustained by a presentation and sales process approaching art—distilling and illustrating the intricacies of a new order of planning and architecture, then stepping beyond physical proportions to cautiously examine its human dimensions. My earlier reading and study, previously only a personal pursuit of knowledge and collective wisdom for its own sake, was becoming inextricably connected with an occupation. An act of performance—presentation of a community both physically and culturally—became a means to a most satisfying end— meaningful placemaking. Throughout it all, providing one voice within a collection of creative and

Jacky Barker, Chris Kent & Donna Spiers on Tupelo Street

engaged people pursuing this nuanced work again revived those transcendent moments from ensemble music. Since those early Seaside years, I have consulted in over sixty new and existing communities regionally, nationally and internationally. It remains a rarified place, this shaping of real estate, physically and culturally, within the framework of its development, marketing and sales. Seaside’s role in this journey was both a beginning, and a return. A place where an admixture of special people, ideas and circumstances constellated in one place at one time. An opportunity for its completion to contribute to my own. Few who got so close remained untouched.

To create transcendent place requires no less than transcendence on the part of those who are participants. There can be no other way.

Christopher A. Kent, P.A., CRE is a real estate counselor consulting the envisioning, planning, development, marketing and sales of real estate. 10 West Shallows Drive Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459 Email: Phone: 850.231.1000

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We design it!

Destin, Florida 118

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SoWal Took Off By Susan Vallee


f life isn’t “grayt” in Grayton Beach, then you obviously aren’t a SoWaller. With more than 3 million page views in the month of July, its own rapidly growing lexicon and user-generated videos uploaded daily, the new forum has become ubiquitous to the 30A lifestyle. The popular website and online message board first came to the attention of many Scenic Highway 30A homeowners after the damaging winds and rain spawned by Hurricane Ivan. “Smiling Joe,” as he is known on the forum, was an occasional visitor of the fledgling site until he found himself panic-stricken after evacuating for the storm. When he returned and found his home intact, he immediately went online to the message board at and offered to help others check their properties. In a matter of hours, he was posting photographs of storm-damaged homes and showing out-of-state owners that their homes were still intact. “All I did was try to help ease their minds by reporting what I saw,” he said. “It wasn’t so much that I became more active on after Hurricane Ivan. It was that other people, who were discovering this great source for speedy local information, started to converse with me through the site.”

With more than 10 million hits in a month and 3,409,448 page views during July, has exploded in popularity. “Discovering the site” may be an understatement. With more than 10 million hits in a month and 3,409,448 page views during July, SoWal. com has exploded in popularity. Tourists love the site for its honest answers regarding places to stay and where to have a nice meal; and the locals rely on the site for everything from long-term rental information to the scoop on local politicians. Kurt Lischka, the publisher and creator of (as well as,, and designed the site for ease of use. If you see a topic that inspires a response on the message board, simply create a user name and password and start typing. For Amore Pizza in Gulf Place, the local buzz proved invaluable. “I started on SoWal as a lurker and then noticed people were posting about Amore,” said Lauren Basford, who owns Amore with her husband.

“I can attribute a lot of our success at the restaurant to the word-ofmouth recommendations we received through SoWal. It’s been a great marketing tool for us.” Lischka now finds himself in an enviable position – one where advertisers are seeking him out. When Basford, who goes by the name “Olive” on SoWal, later ran for the Seaside Repertory Theatre’s Prom Queen, she was pleased at the number of contributions and amount of support she received from people she didn’t even know. And thanks to a few “SoWal Soirées,” she’s made several new friends. “I call them my Internet friends,” she said with a bit of Southern twang. “People always raise a brow at that.” Moderator “Smiling Joe” discussed one of the greatest lessons he has learned through his anonymous conversations. He said, “I have learned, in meeting new people through the board, to look past physical appearance, age, skin color, politics and religion, (along with the car they drive and the home they own), so that I can see the real person. That may sound ironic, since a computer is probably the most impersonal form of communicating that we have. However, there is something about having an identity shield which can, and usually does, bring out the truth in us.” Lischka said his greatest satisfaction is hearing how others have had their lives improved thanks to the connections they’ve made through the message board. While he’s quick to point out all the lost dogs that have been found and funds raised for local families in need, he said one of his favorite “SoWal stories” fell from the lips of Justin, a Criolla’s restaurant employee. “I was at Criolla’s,” Lischka said, “when Justin came up and said, ‘I just want to thank you for SoWal. I found my job, my car and my house there.’”

Susan Vallee is the editor and producer of The Seaside Times and the Rosemary Thymes community newspapers. She also writes for a variety of local and regional publications and is the area manager of Coastal Homes & Lifestyles magazine. VIE - Spring 2009


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i laughed.

i cried.

i fell in love.

Pier Park 16

escape to the movies All Digital Sound Stadium Seating High-Back Rocking Chairs

Game Room Birthday Party Room Specialty Cafe

500 South Pier Park Drive, Panama Cit y Beach (888) 94- FILMS VIE - Spring 2009


Leah Powell

Gina Shiflett

Ashley DeJohn



50 Uptown Grayton Circle, Unit 2 Grayton Beach, FL 32459 850.231.7853 122

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Emerald Coast Title 25th Anniversary On November 13, Emerald Coast Title celebrated their 25th anniversary at Marina Café in Destin. The event included a special tribute and silent auction for the Taylor Haugen Foundation as well as sumptuous hors d’ oeuvres, spirits and live music by Donnie Sundal. To learn more about the Taylor Haugen Foundation please visit Brian Haugen, Frank Burge & John Forrester

Joe Bracciale, Delys Dearmon, Teresa & Skip Miller

Griff McSwine, Carnella Bracciale & Tresha Brown

Paige, Mark Schnell & Alys Stephens

Laura Peterson & Bess Marshall

Destin Chops 30A Destin Chops 30A hosted the Cultural Arts Association’s (CAA) presentation “Seeing in the Dark” on Friday, October 17, 2008. The event was part of the CAA’s Friday Night Artist series and featured artisan Rocky Hard. Destin Chops 30A graciously provided the hors d’ oeuvres and drink specials for this artistic evening. Jennifer Steele-Saunders & Rocky Hard Photos by Lisa Ferrick VIE - Spring 2009



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Econfina Creek

N o r t h w e s t F l o r i d a ' s H i d d e n Tr e a s u r e By Bob Brown

Photography by Romona Robbins

We had anticipated taking this kayak trip on the Econfina Creek Canoe Trail for quite a while, but with Hurricane Gustav bearing down on us, we were not sure it would be possible after all. After frequently reviewing the weather radar, with high hopes and a little faith, my friends and I decided to give it a go. I have the good fortune of being the stepson of Marlice Brown, the proprietor of The Kayak Experience, located in Destin, Florida. She loaned our group four Eddyline sit-in kayaks, which we transported by trailer to the Econfina Creek Canoe Livery, located just off Highway 20 near Youngstown, Florida. If we had not brought our own, rental kayaks or canoes were available from the Econfina Creek Canoe Livery, owned and operated by Debbie Gay and her daughter. Their shop can be found right at the point where we began our kayaking adventure. 126 126

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The Econfina Creek Paddling Trail is an exquisite eight-mile stretch of natural habitat dotted with natural springs and river shanties. Experiencing this marvelous waterway was invigorating for our souls and renewed a sense that our lives are small in comparison to nature’s beauty and wonder. The springs that we encountered on this paddle—six springs in all— are rare sights indeed. Several of the springs’ locations required us

to paddle a short distance into narrow and winding offshoots that meander off the creek’s main flow. These offshoots (or runs) are easy to spot, as the creek, brown with tannins, blends with the clear, cool waters that bubble up from underwater aquifers and intermingle at distinct junctions. This convergence is a telltale sign that a spring is nearby. As we paddled towards the springs, magnificent little selfcontained worlds unfolded before us. Just when we thought that the creek’s natural beauty could not possibly get better, it did. As we paddled down the creek, our bodies began to build up some heat. By the time we made it to the first spring, we were ready to jump out of our canoes straight into the clear, cool water. The water is cold enough to require a bit of nerve to get into, but I prefer to get it over with as quickly as possible; I dove right in. Once in the spring’s incredibly clear water, I was golden.

As we paddled towards the springs, magnificent little self-contained worlds unfolded before us. One of the first springs we encountered on our journey was Williford Spring. It is a large, deep spring with plenty of room to swim and a small sandy bank handy for parking the kayaks. A limestone ledge runs along one side of the spring which we were able to use as a small platform for diving into the clear blue water that gushes from the vent at the bottom of the spring. Visitors to Econfina Creek should bring a diving mask in order to clearly view the underwater beauty. Swimming against a rushing current of spring water pouring out of a hole at the bottom and peering inside the aquifer is a mind-boggling experience. I was amazed to think that this water had probably traveled underground for hundreds of miles to form this perfect little swimming pool just for us. Several of the springs form their own little microcosms in the surrounding foliage and land formations. Upon arrival, I felt as if something very important had been interrupted and that it could not resume until we were gone. However, by remaining quiet, swimming slowly and soaking it all in, I began eventually to feel as though I was blending in and becoming a part of this magical place. Slowly and subtly, I noticed the effect of this feeling. I was gaining a new perspective, able to see my surroundings as they are and as they have been for thousands of years. Not all of the springs we encountered on this paddle had the same effect on us. The ease of access and the man-made accommodations surrounding Pitts Spring have made it a local hangout on the weekends. While there are some “colorful” personalities to encounter, everyone we met was friendly and seemed to be there to have a good time. Walkways, benches and even a staircase all lead down into the spring. I prefer the more secluded settings that some of the other springs offer, but a good time can still be had here. VIE -- Spring Spring 2009 2009 VIE

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My favorite spring, Gainer Spring #3, actually has three vents within 50 feet of one another which feed water to the surface. We traveled a short distance through a winding run to reach the vents where they form a large swimming area of perfectly clear water. At this spot, the spring was filled with hundreds of brim and bass that were eager to see what we were having for lunch. It would have been easy to spend hours here observing the surrounding scenery while lazily swimming the coves, each with its own unique identity. The last spring on our journey, Gainer Spring #2, is in fact the spring from which the Econfina Springs drinking water originates. It is encircled by steep limestone formations overgrown with green ferns that provide a peaceful vantage point from which to take in the views. Here, we discovered another limestone formation that was great for diving and frolicking in the water. During the remaining portion of the expedition, approximately four miles, we did not encounter any more springs, but we enjoyed a great paddle nonetheless. The flora and fauna, including age-old cypress

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trees and amazingly varied species of birds and turtles, provided a spectacular setting while we slowly drifted downstream. This part of the trip seemed long for those in our group with short attention spans or too little sleep the night before, but for someone who prefers a lazier float, this portion of the creek may be his or her favorite. For those who bring their own kayaks, like we did, the Econfina Creek Canoe Livery will (for a small fee) provide transportation from the “take out” spot back to the start. This was a convenient and welcome service after a long day of paddling. In the end, we were happy that we made the decision to brave the weather because what we experienced was truly amazing—nature at its finest! The entire paddle took us approximately three to four hours to complete, but the natural beauty and splendor that we encountered will stay with us for a lifetime. Econfina Creek is truly a jewel of Northwest Florida that many are not aware of. Anyone who enjoys the outdoors should experience this creek.

Through the Lens By Romona Robbins

As a photographer, I aspire to capture the natural world around me through my camera’s “eye.� My greatest joy is my ability to share experiences with others. Photography is a universal language that uses visual means to deliver all-encompassing emotional and intellectual portraits. My images reveal their own stories to viewers without the use of words. Photography is a blend of both science and art. Like painters, photographers must take into consideration the subject, balance, color,

lighting, line, shape and texture, as well as the story being told, to create a stunning composition that is visually stimulating and emotionally moving. For the technical side of this assignment, I used my trusty old Canon EOS 40D digital camera, a Canon 10-22mm ultra-wide-angle zoom lens, an EWA underwater bag and available light. I experimented with shooting these images half in and half out of the water. I have had the good fortune to shoot in five continents and nineteen countries, and it is easy for me to forget how beautiful our home is when I frequent exotic places. Econfina Creek took my breath away; its clear, fresh water decorated with deep-rooted cypress trees and meandering banks provided countless photographic opportunities. I hope that others enjoy these images and perhaps feel inspired to plan a trip to this part of Northwest Florida in the near future.

VIE - Spring 2009


BEGINNINGS VIE congratulates all those beginning a new life together! Celebrate your wedding announcement COLA 2 COLA! Send your photo to:

Cindy Tucker and Jeff Garrard Cindy Tucker and Jeff Garrard were married on November 8, 2008. The wedding ceremony was held at Destin First Baptist Church and Dr. Kenneth Taylor of Destin United Methodist Church officiated the ceremony. They shared both Christian and personal vows. The reception was held at One Water Place in Kelly Plantation. Cindy is a mortgage banker at Whitney Bank. Jeff is an financial representative with Northwestern Mutual of the Emerald Coast. The couple honeymooned in Italy. They spent 11 days traveling to Rome, Venice and Florence. They begin their new life together in Santa Rosa Beach.

Leslie Roark Ph Photo by otography

Carol Murphy & David Rauschkolb Carol Murphy and Dave Rauschkolb were married on October 11, 2008. The intimate ceremony was held at Central Park in Alys Beach. A beautiful reception followed at the Caliza Pool. The couple honeymooned on the Caribbean island of Antigua at Carlisle Bay Resort. Dave is the owner of Bud & Alley's Restaurant in Seaside and Carol recently started her own interior design firm, Carol Murphy Design. The couple resides in Rosemary Beach, Florida.


awn Ander

Photo by D


VIE - Spring 2009

The romantic side of Lilly Pulitzer CLASSIC SPRING FASHIONS















VIE - Spring 2009

VIE - People + Places / Spring 2009  
VIE - People + Places / Spring 2009  

VIE is a French word meaning “life” or “way of living.” VIE sets itself apart as a Northwest Florida regional, high-gloss publication focusi...