Ocala Style 'June 20

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The Men’s Issue

JUN ‘20


MADE HISTORY ocalastyle.com




Just Listed

Luxury home on 10+ Acres From the gated entrance you will notice this spacious home sitting high on the hill. Enter thru the front door to a spacious interior and views of the exterior spaces of this home. Open floor plan is perfect for entertaining. Formal living with gas fireplace, built in shelving, recessed coffered ceiling and magnificent views of the backyard. Formal dining room. Chef’s kitchen with center island and granite countertops. Theater room with sound proof walls, office with built in desk and bookcases. Spacious master suite. Screen enclosed salt water pool. Air conditioned barn, 2 lush paddocks plus 3-bay garage/workshop with separate entrance. $849,000

Just Listed

Minutes to Shopping and Restaurants Custom designed home located on a beautiful high corner lot, centrally located just a walking distance to many conveniences. 3 Bedrooms, 3 bath home with tile and bamboo floors throughout. Split open floor plan, perfect for entertaining family and friends. Formal living and family rooms offer stackable glass sliding door to pool and screen enclosed lanai. Spacious master suite with sitting area, his/her closets, and luxurious master bath. Summer kitchen, bonus room above garage plus built in storage in the garage. Located in White Village of Cala Hills so with your membership you can enjoy the clubhouse, pool and tennis facilities. $425,000


10 Waterfront properties available. Spring-fed lakes and ponds - some stocked with Bass. Mare Barn, Yearling Barns and turnouts on extremely fertile limestone rich soil.


Gated entrance. All disciplines welcome. Convenient to Ocala, The Villages, and I-75


Owner Financing. Call for pricing and options.


Parcels for sale ranging in size from 10 to 28.55 acres



If you’re considering buying or selling, give us a call today! List your property with Joan Pletcher... Our results speak for themselves.

For these and other properties, visit JoanPletcher.com for information, videos and more choices. Call or Text: 352.266.9100 | 352.804.8989 | joan@joanpletcher.com | joanpletcher.com Due to the privacy and at the discretion of my clients, there are additional training centers, estates and land available that are not advertised.

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your dollars WITH UP TO


when you open a FREE checking account and bring a loan from another lender to CAMPUS! 3



when you open a FREE CHECKING ACCOUNT3.

Open an account at campuscu.com/600



Call 237-9060 and press 5

Visit campuscu.com for a complete list of our convenient locations.

when you bring a loan from another lender4.

Visit any CAMPUS Service Center

Membership is open to anyone in Alachua, Marion, Lake and Sumter counties.5

May not be combined with any other offer. Offer subject to change without notice. 1. OFFER NOT AVAILABLE ON EXISTING CAMPUS CHECKING ACCOUNT OR LOANS. 2. Within the first 90 days member must elect to receive eDocuments and establish Direct Deposit of at least $200 per month. If the requirements are met and the account remains open after 90 days, the $300 reward will be made available to the member. $300 is considered interest and will be reported on IRS Form 1099-INT. 3. Credit approval and initial $50 opening deposit required. Member must elect to receive eDocuments. 4. Lines of Credit, Commercial Loans, CD/Shared Secured Loans, Signature Loans and Real Estate Loans are not eligible. Cash bonus is 1.25% of amount financed up to a maximum of $300. Limit one per household. Must present offer at time of loan closing. 5. Credit approval and initial $5 deposit required. Federally insured by the NCUA.

Affordable Elegance





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352.694.5022 3251 SE 31st St, OCALA W W W. C E N T E R S TAT E C O N S T R U C T I O N . C O M LIC # CGC 1511237





Sponsored by Maricamp Animal Hospital

Saving Lives Hunt Murty Publisher | Jennifer jennifer@magnoliamediaco.com

Magnolia Media Company, LLC 352-732-0073

1515 NE 22nd Avenue, Ocala, FL 34470

Art Editorial

GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Simon Mendoza simon@magnoliamediaco.com Brooke Pace brooke@magnoliamediaco.com IN-HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHER Lyn Larson Mahal Imagery PHOTOGRAPHERS Bruce Ackerman Amy Davidson Andy Fillmore Meagan Gumpert John Jernigan Philip Marcel Dave Miller Rigoberto Perdomo Isabelle Ramirez Alan Youngblood ILLUSTRATOR David Vallejo


ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Evelyn Anderson evelyn@magnoliamediaco.com Clif “Skip” Linderman skip@magnoliamediaco.com CLIENT SERVICES GURU Brittany Duval brittany@magnoliamediaco.com

EDITOR IN CHIEF Nick Steele nick@magnoliamediaco.com SENIOR EDITOR Susan Smiley-Height susan@magnoliamediaco.com CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Belea T. Keeney belea@magnoliamediaco.com Lisa McGinnes lisa@magnoliamediaco.com FREELANCE FASHION STYLIST Karlie Loland CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Sherri Cruz John Dunn Andy Fillmore Jim Gibson JoAnn Guidry Jill Paglia Marian Rizzo Dave Schlenker Patricia Tomlinson


MARKETING MANAGER Kylie Swope kylie@magnoliamediaco.com

Local nonprofit organization Saving Paws & Hooves in Central Florida is giving hope and inspiring others by creating a viable resource for saving pets lives, believing no animal should be left behind.


t’s scary when your beloved pet needs lifesaving treatment. It’s even scarier to think you might not be able to afford the help they need. That’s why Saving Paws & Hooves offers emergency medical funds to help responsible pet owners whose pet is in a life threatening emergency and the owners are unable to afford the medical care needed to save the animal’s life. Saving Paws & Hooves is dedicated to helping and saving animals of any size in a life or death situation where there are limited funds available for medical treatment. Any and all veterinarians can apply for grants on an owner’s behalf. “Their goal is to be able to provide financial help to families that cannot afford to save their pet through donations from the community,” says Dr. Katherine O’Brien of Maricamp Animal Hospital. “Through this nonprofit, all veterinary professionals can provide help, relief, and have faith that there is greatness and gratitude within our community.” The most recent approved grant was given to the family of Lola, an adorable, pint-sized pup who needed emergency surgery when her inguinal hernia suddenly enlarged and was strangulating her intestines, causing a painful and lifethreatening condition. “I will forever be thankful to Saving Paws & Hooves,” says Lola’s owner, Angie Pagan. “Saving Paws & Hooves stepped forward to work quickly, making funds available to help.” Our hearts go out to all the animals that need help and we hope this organization is able to flourish and prosper with continued support from our community. Do you have a love, passion or desire to help others? Donate today! For more information about how you can support Saving Paws & Hooves in Central Florida, or to apply for assistance to help an animal in need, visit www.savingpawsandhooves.org

MARKETING COORDINATOR Sabrina Fissell sabrina@magnoliamediaco.com

Distribution Dave Adams Rick Shaw

June ‘20


Publisher’s Note uhammad Ali is credited with saying, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” I have pondered this quote because, while I think all of us are in positions to serve others at a micro level within our families, workplace and circle of friends, there are those among us who choose service on a greater scale. It is as if those few are paying not only their own rent, but the rent of an entire community, including strangers they have never met. What makes them choose such a large undertaking? What makes them tick? How can society make more of this type of person? We need more of them—sorely. Our June Men’s Issue is chock full of stories of men who have chosen service above self. The writers who help tell these stories are more eloquent than I am, but, simply put, you’ll find a common thread reading stories of visionaries like Ken Colen, war heroes like Doug Oswald and public servants like David Ellspermann, as well as inventors and community activists highlighted in these pages: they all have guts of steel. One of my favorite interviews as publisher thus far was sitting down with David Ellspermann to talk in preparation of the article by JoAnn Guidry, which appears on page 40. The story you will read in this issue only skims the circumstances of David’s youth, but what struck me was that David’s discipline, strong sense of right and wrong, and courageousness came at a young age. No one would say David was coddled. He worked very hard and navigated tumultuous and difficult social issues that I hope he’ll consider sharing in a much longer format one day. But these elements of his youth instilled in him a desire to make the world a better place—to serve. He did not allow the inequities of life to make him shy away from his duties of public service, take the easy road or become bitter. The result? A man with the fortitude to accomplish a lifetime of work that will impact our community for centuries to come. How many people get to end their careers on that note? I bring up this element of David’s personal story as a little beacon of light for new high school and college grads who are entering their next phase of life without the normal celebratory fanfare and with a lot of difficult issues to navigate. Do not let it make you bitter or distract you from all the possibilities that are before you to make the world a better place and have a successful life. You might have a head start towards success by realizing earlier on that life will most definitely be unfair and likely not easy many times over—despite your best efforts. Even the great Ali admitted, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” We’re rooting for this next generation who are getting ready to write their own stories. It is never too early to start planning your legacy and we hope reading this issue encourages you to not let the bumpy road ever stop you from moving forward with purpose.

Jennifer Hunt Murty Publisher 6


Take care.

And we sincerely mean that. When COVID-19 appeared, the world had a problem. A big problem that required big solutions from people with big ideas and even bigger hearts. COVID-19 put America on pause. Yet despite all it has taken from us, it hasn’t shaken our spirit, or dampened our resolve. We’re with you caring for patients, protecting our communities, and training the next generation because problem-solvers don’t shut down, they rise up. So please take care of yourself. Be hopeful. Stay positive. Continue to take care of business. Above all, take care. And be confident that we’re doing the same — for you.


contents 38







Rescued feline steals hearts, trashes house. Get a glimpse into the most special days of local brides and grooms.






Dave Miller and his daughter bond over homemade pasta.

86 90

From sea to table, it’s all about fresh and delicious fish.








A local CEO helped local businesses navigate the COVID-19 shutdown. Ocala/Marion County nonprofits need our help right now.


92 96


Remembering Bernie DeCastro, a man who found redemption in helping others.


WWII veteran Doug Oswald, who spent his life in service to others, receives a long-overdue honor.


Meet the Marion County CEO researching a possible treatment for COVID-19.

A VOICE FOR THE HOMELESS Former OPD officer Dennis Yonce is a compassionate advocate for Ocala’s homeless.


The Appleton explores new ways to “see” art amid coronavirus restrictions.









One man’s journey to revive the growing of Cuban cigar tobacco in Florida. Once a thriving and prosperous settlement in West Ocala, Marti City is all but a memory. Meet local men whose talent and service made history and enhanced our quality of life. Peggy Ann Collins takes us on a fantastic journey through her adventurous life.

o n th e c o ver An iconic photo by trailblazing photographer Bruce Mozert of model Ginger Stanley and an unidentified man at Silver Springs in 1955. Image from The Bruce Mozert Collection, State Archives of Florida.

Far left: Photo by Brittany Bishop Photography; all other images by John Jernigan

depa r t me n ts

insid e r

fea tu r e s



Experience is Crucial When Seeking an Attorney Following a Motorcycle Accident LIFE AS YOU’VE KNOWN IT CAN CHANGE IN A SPLIT SECOND, AS ANYONE WHO HAS BEEN IN A SERIOUS MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT CAN ATTEST. It’s true that drivers need to increase their awareness of motorcycles on the road by paying attention and looking twice. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen, and when an accident occurs between vehicle and motorcycle, it’s most often the motorcyclist who is most at risk. “Many of the motorcycle accidents we handle result from drivers pulling out in front of a motorcycle,” notes Jarrod G. King, senior partner at King Law Firm in Ocala. “If the driver had only taken the time to be certain that no one was coming, the accident would have been avoided.” Unfortunately, in addition to

the potential for great physical injury—or worse—motorcyclists are often underinsured or uninsured. “Motorcyclists are not covered by their automobile PIP insurance. PIP insurance is required for motor vehicles, but not for motorcycles,” explains King. “If one is injured on their motorcycle and they have not purchased PIP coverage for their motorcycle, they will not be afforded the $10,000 coverage that is typically used to cover one’s own medical expenses.” In addition to ensuring you have adequate insurance coverage, a motorcyclist should do everything possible to increase

their visibility on the road. “Operate a motorcycle as if others are not paying attention and cannot see you,” says King, who recommends upgrading to a brighter and/or flashing headlight, as well as always wearing bright and/or reflective clothing whenever you ride. Obviously, a motorcycle accident can be terrifying, whether you’re on the bike or in a motor vehicle. Immediately after an accident, you should: · Take pictures of the accident scene, if possible · Obtain immediate medical attention “It is always a good idea to speak with an experienced attorney prior to speaking with anyone from the at-fault party or their insurance company,” advises King. He points out that there is often a tendency to assume the motorcyclist committed a traffic violation, even when this isn’t the case. Overcoming this bias against riders is one reason why you want a personal injury

attorney who is well-versed in motorcycle accidents. Because catastrophic injuries can result from a motorcycle accident, you need an attorney who will advocate zealously on your behalf and find all available sources of compensation to cover medical bills, therapy, rehabilitation, pain and suffering. This is exactly what happened in the case of one King Law Firm client who was injured in a motorcycle accident as the result of the negligence of a driver who pulled out in front of him. King relates that the firm was able to obtain a $2 million settlement for this severely injured client. If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, don’t delay in seeking experienced representation. It can make all the difference in your recovery. King Law Firm › 2156 E. Silver Springs Blvd. Ocala, FL 34470 › (352) 261-6648 › www.kinglawfirm.org


Download the free Appleton mobile app to learn more about our collection no matter your location! Tours and activities available for children and adults.

Museum, Artspace and Appleton Store Closed Until June 30

4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd. | AppletonMuseum.org | 352-291-4455

-an equal opportunity college-

Art Project Video Series

TEACHING TUESDAY Tuesdays at 10 a.m. | Ages 7–12 Visit AppletonMuseum.org

Follow us Museum, Artspace and Appleton Store Check website for updated opening times.

4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd. | AppletonMuseum.org | 352-291-4455




Social Ladesa Santos was among the guests who enjoyed the recent elegant grand opening celebration of the Nirvana Med Spa, which is owned by Nilam Patel. Photo by Simon Mendoza

June ‘20



Nilam Patel and Tabitha Newborn

Grand Opening NIRVANA MEDICAL SPA Photography by Simon Mendoza

O DJ Casey Heathman

Alexis Selby and Alex Kile



n February 21st, owner Nilam Patel hosted a chic evening of fun and frivolity that included a tour of the new offices and state-of-the-art treatment suites, the musical stylings of DJ Casey Heathman and culinary offerings from 3’s Catering Company.

Marline Henry-Jones and Fatima Luzuriaga

Pamela Lewin, M.D., D.P.H., F.A.A.F.P.

The Wellness Spot Do you suffer from stress, fatigue or basic brain fog?

Want your mojo back? You CAN feel yourself again without the use of stimulants. Contact me to discuss your individual needs and concerns thewellnessspot7@gmail.com 819 NW 7th St. Ocala, FL 34475

Sponsored by Maricamp Animal Hospital

Caring for Kids For more than 20 years, Kimberly’s Center has provided first response services to help children who have suffered abuse.


he comforting, kid-friendly environment at Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection is designed to make our community’s youngest and most vulnerable residents feel safe. It’s the place where victims of child abuse are comforted by compassionate professionals who specialize in the care of children. Every year, this nonprofit organization—supported by donations from the community—provides hope and healing for more than 1,200 children. In 2019, their 100 Strong Campaign brought together 100 local women who raised more than $30,000 to protect children and to help fund programs such as a new outdoor therapeutic play area. One of these dedicated women is Dr. Katherine O’Brien, veterinarian and owner of Maricamp Animal Hospital. “This organization gives children the ability to heal and know that there are people in the community who truly love, cherish, protect and support them,” Dr. O’Brien affirms. “Every single person that works at Kimberly’s Center has a passion of the purpose of helping these kids and their families. I am proud to support such an amazing group of individuals in the community.” Executive Director Dawn Westgate says the center is “blessed” to have partners in Dr. O’Brien and her team of “heroes,” and adds that Kimberly’s Center needs community support, now more than ever, to help children suffering from abuse and neglect to receive the help, hope, and healing they need. For more information on how you can help, visit www.kimberlyscenter.org or call (352) 873-4739. To report concern for a child’s safety, call (800) 96-ABUSE.


Market of


Sat-Sun - 8am-4pm 12888 SE US HWY 441, Belleview, FL 34420



The largest produce market in North Central Florida

June ‘20



Medical Expo of North Central Florida INDIA ASSOCIATION CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL CENTER Photography by Amy Davidson

T Madison Johnson, Candee Walker and Chris Williams

he 20th annual charity fundraiser on January 25th brought together more than 300 medical professionals for classes, lectures, demonstrations, entertainment and Indian cuisine, with a portion of the proceeds devoted to national and local charities.

The India Association Medical Expo Committee

Stephanie DeVilling receives a donation from the Medical Expo Committee.

Spinning Canvas Dance Pack

Travis Braswell and Bridgett Griffin

Expo for People with Disabilities E.D. CROSKEY RECREATION CENTER Photography by Bruce Ackerman

T Charlie Amico, Harry the service dog and Robert Sullivan



he third annual Expo for People with Disabilities, hosted March 11th by the Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida, had a theme of “Ready, Set, Safe,” with information about preparing for emergencies.

Michelle Stone

Real People. Real S tories. Real O cala.


Academy Opens OCALA BOXING ACADEMY Photography by Simon Mendoza


oxers and fitness enthusiasts filled the training area of the Ocala Boxing Academy on February 26th, ahead of the ribbon cutting hosted by the Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership. The venue is owned by Jose and Jessica Dos Santos.

ntract. o c a t o N h. N our healt y o t pa is OPE it S m & r e t Com n ptions. ess Ce o n it ip F h s h r c e n b The Ra xible mem e fl h it w blic to the pu

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www.Facebook.com/TheRanchFitnessSpa THE RANCH FITNESS CENTER & SPA is registered with the State of Florida as a Heath Studio. Registration No. HS6841 Kiki and Michael Zayden

June ‘20


“ Peaceful, prestigious, & private treatment for those suffering from trauma and underlying self-defeating behaviors. 16





Precious Cargo and Cat Attacks By Dave Schlenker | Illustration by David Vallejo


ours before these words were written, I bounded in from our porch, old-man blood pumping, grill flames dancing—and bellowed, “Cargo! Stop licking the lamb!” Cargo the kitten dashed from the counter in a familiar blur of black, a Nike swoosh of evil bound for sanctuary and to plot the next big job. The lamb filets, marinated in Italian dressing—and now—cat drool, awaited the warm embrace of ignited propane. The lamb was grilled and devoured. The kitten attack was filed as yet another lesson learned. Two weeks earlier, our daughter Katie proclaimed, “Just for future reference, I will eat bacon the cat has licked.” Let’s just say things have changed in our house since a tiny, terrified kitten climbed into the bowels of a Nissan and piddled on my head. Katie and my wife, Amy, thought she was a baby squirrel when they saw her on a nearby road in September. They pulled over and discovered a kitten that was maybe 7 weeks old. Then the kitten dashed deep into the undercarriage of the car. There she stayed, trapped for nearly three hours, much of that time shaking and staring through greasy Nissan parts at her rescuer in cargo shorts and sandals wedged under the car. Once, she found an open crevice and peed on my forehead. Eventually, we removed the wheel and, ever-soslowly, extricated her from a greasy sliver in the wheel well. Wrapped in an old towel, she locked eyes with four Schlenkers and trembled. Here’s the thing: We were not looking to expand

the zoo when I received the kitten distress call. One old cat named Catniss and one old Corgi named Abbey provided all the love, hair clumps and pet vomit we needed. We adore them. They adore us. Feed, pet, scoop, repeat. But when the kitten emerged from the car, eyes wide and wet as a newly hatched human, we knew she was a Schlenker. Here’s the other thing...she is terrible. She is the worst-behaved pet I have ever met, and I grew up with a basset hound that took down a Thanksgiving turkey. Cargo, as we named the kitten borne of the Nissan, is fearless. She lives for kitchen counters, sinks, garbage cans, sneak attacks, sheets to ravage, jeans to climb, laptops to chew, ornaments to smash, hamburgers to steal and, as noted, food to lick. We spray her with the “Feline Behavior Modification” water bottle, but she always returns to the scene of the crime. The game is afoot. The final thing: We absolutely love her. She is the most charming cat I have ever met. Her face is marked with an upside-down white heart. Her huge eyes reflect fun and wonder. She loves Netflix and University of Central Florida football. She loves cuddling as much as strewn trash. She has made fast friends with Catniss and is working on the Corgi. She is a mischievous, lap-loving, purr machine. And, in a year that brought us a broken ankle, husband-mangled meals and a pandemic, the stowaway we did not want was just what we needed. June ‘20



Altruistic Animal Advocates Helping every single pet in Marion County is a big goal. Dr. O’Brien and the staff of Maricamp Animal Hospital have set out to accomplish it with compassion and dedication. Photography by John Jernigan


hether you’re the pet parent of a darling doggie or cute kitty cat, your companion critters are part of your family. You want to know they’re in good hands when they need veterinary care, whether it’s routine shots, an emergency visit or management of a chronic condition. That’s why Dr. Katherine O’Brien has put together a team of honest, caring professionals who are passionate about pet care—and our community. “We want our patients to feel comfortable and stress free from the very first visit,” Dr. O’Brien asserts. “It’s about the experience and treating our clients and patients like family. An honest, ethical and happy attitude helps the team build trust with owners that we are here to help their pet. Being part of such a proactive medical team brings us all great joy in our souls!”

Protecting our Precious Pets

These animal experts know every treatment they provide could save a life—whether it’s surgery to remove a tumor or preventative care such as vaccines and dental treatments. Since 2013 they have made cutting-edge veterinary care available to our pets—from advanced technology including ultrasound and radiography to regenerative therapies and drug free technology from stem cell, platelet rich plasma and immunotherapy to pain management including acupuncture, laser therapy or consulting with a rehabilitation team.

“With all the medical advances we have these days, your pet does not have to suffer,” Dr. O’Brien reveals. “We can stop the pain by allowing the body to help heal itself. We have every single modality to help pets.” Maricamp Animal Hospital is able to provide services that include house calls, telemedicine consultations and a full service veterinary hospital for all of your pet’s needs. They want to ensure every pet parent has an opportunity to help their pet.

Educating Pet Parents

Education is key at Maricamp Animal Hospital. Their mission is to provide exceptional services while educating clients on all aspects of their pets’ health and wellness, and their policy is to educate the client on every option and let them make the decision that’s right for them and their family. “We will always recommend the absolute best in veterinary medicine and then, together, make a decision on what works best for your four-legged family members,” Dr. O’Brien explains.

Reaching Out to the Community

This team advocates for all animals, and they attend events throughout Marion County to give free advice. They go to schools to teach children proper animal handling and essential medical care to make them better “pet siblings.” “If we can help one person with their pet, then our hearts are fulfilled with success,” Dr. O’Brien affirms. “We are the voice for the animals and we love what we do. Our mission and goal is to help every single pet in Marion County.” That includes supporting Saving Paws & Hooves in Central Florida, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping animals that need lifesaving care and whose owners don’t have the financial resources to pay for treatment. The kindness of this team isn’t limited to animals. They also support Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection. “We are blessed to be able to have the passion and drive to save animals,” Dr. O’Brien emphatically states. “We, in turn, create a ripple effect of happier and kindhearted humans.” Maricamp Animal Hospital, 4485 SE 53rd Ave., Ocala › (352) 624-0300 › www.maricampanimalhospital.com




You are cordially invited

To celebrate Ocala’s newest brides and grooms, get a glimpse into their most special of days and hear firsthand about the memories that will always hold a place in their hearts. Pictured: Jordan & Clayton Wagner Photographed by Maudie Lucas Photography

June ‘20



JORDAN & CLAYTON WAGNER February 29th, 2020 Photography by Maudie Lucas Photography Venue: Golden Ocala Their favorite memory: “Spending the wonderful day with our closest friends and family.” Her favorite memory: “The twinkle in Clayton’s blue eyes as I was walking down the aisle made that moment a complete fairytale.”




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June ‘20



REGAN & CHRIS CANNATA January 4th, 2020 Photography by Brittany Bishop Photography Venue: Golden Ocala Her favorite memory: “My mother’s reaction to seeing her baby girl dressed in white. A steady stream of tears rolled down both of our faces as she placed the veil upon my head and then held the hand on which I was wearing my great grandmother’s ring.” His favorite memory: “When I laid eyes on my beautiful wife as she walked down the long stairway entrance. I was filled with relentless tears and joy. Standing with my wife and looking into her eyes, knowing what we overcame, how we supported each other and worked so hard, I was able to honestly say that she was more than worth it and her eyes were the only eyes I ever wanted to look into for the rest of my life.”




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June ‘20




An enterprising Central Florida businessman and farmer is reviving the practice of growing cigar tobacco in the Sunshine State. By Susan Smiley-Height

Photography by John Jernigan

eff Borysiewicz loves the feel and flavor of a good cigar. He relishes capping the end, making the first slow burn to ignite the aroma and then the hour-long conversation he might have with someone until the final ember goes dark. He also loves farming, running businesses and reclaiming history. Borysiewicz (Bor-see-witz), born in Chicago, came to Florida in 1974, at age 6, when his father got tired of running a gas station and fixing cars in the bitter cold. His dad started an auto repair business and a teenage Borysiewicz learned the basics while he also became involved in Future Farmers of America (FFA) in high school. Before long, he was winning awards for his FFA work and became a certified automotive technician. In the 1990s, he left the family business at age 28 and started the Corona Cigar Company out of his house, financing the venture with credit cards.



June ‘20


just can’t have that.” Now, Borysiewicz heads a company that sells cigars Once Borysiewicz made up his mind to grow cigar online around the globe and has four upscale retail locatobacco, he planted Corojo and Criollo seeds. He used tions in Orlando and Tampa, and he grows the dark, rich hired labor to try to “sew” the leaves manually so they tobacco that gives a signature smoke to his beloved cigars. could be air-dried on his farm. Both decisions caused Through his 20-acre Florida Sun Grown tobacco farm him to soon rethink his plans and a conversation with a near Clermont, founded in 2012, he is the only state growtobacco buyer led him to Connecticut, to growers who er of Cuban cigar tobacco, and one of few in the nation. had been in the business much longer than he had, and On his farm, each Corojo tobacco plant is gently nurthat’s when he began to make some real headway. tured from seeds from Cuba, by way of Nicaragua, that Now, he plants only Corojo seeds and is using he brought home in an aspirin bottle. The ebony seeds vintage machinery, and ageare “as fine as pepper,” he offers, old wisdom, to produce his pouring a small amount into his specialty crop. beefy palm. “This is enough to plant probably 1,000 acres.” He can plant a crop twice a The Process year as his farm is “at 110 feet When it’s time to plant, workabove sea level, which is exactly ers—sometimes including what it is where they grow the cihis wife and two sons, ages gar tobacco in Cuba,” he explains. 14 and 11—mount a tracThere are big differences tor-pulled planter and gently in cigar and cigarette tobacco, place individual seedlings into in how it is grown, harvested, the ground. processed and used. There still Pointing at a huge plastic are cigarette tobacco growers in bin on the planting device, BoFlorida, primarily to the north rysiewicz says, “This is filled and in the Panhandle, but he with water and fertilizer. So says they are “stressed.” that’s gonna fill the hole with “It is very, very expensive water and you just stick it in to grow anything in America,” and give it a little squeeze, put Borysiewicz states. “And that’s a little dirt on it. And you do why we’re the only cigar tobacco that 55,000 times.” farm in Florida. The cigarette Weeks later, the towering tobacco farmers in north Florida tobacco plants begin to put It is very, very expensive to are having to compete on a global out light pink flowers. These scale. Philip Morris buys it and have to go, so the plant’s energrow anything in America. doesn’t care if comes from Live gy can be focused into making – Jeff Borysiewicz Oak or Vietnam. And that’s why broad, dark leaves. most of the cigar factories moved Workers walk each lengthy to Central America, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominirow and “top” the plant or break off the flowers. They can Republic, because the labor is cheaper.” also pinch off the “suckers,” or smaller leaves near the Cigar tobacco is still being grown in states such as top, and apply a “suckercide” liquid that is drizzled Connecticut and Pennsylvania, he says, which is typicaldown the stalk to kill the suckers farther down. ly shade-grown, meaning under a cover. Shade-grown The tobacco is harvested over many days, taking tobacco is light in color. Florida Sun Grown has a much the bottom leaves first and stripping the plant from the darker leaf. Shade-grown is harvested by felling the ground up. Inside the cavernous barn, the rich aroma entire plant. Florida Sun Grown is harvested one dark, of fresh and dried tobacco permeates the senses. The broad leaf at a time. dirt floor is smooth and flat. And here is where the past He displays three cigars, with wrappers (the outer meets the present in an unusual way. layer) of Connecticut shade-grown, a Madero, and an In order to dry the tobacco, the leaves must be inAmerican, which has a wrapper from his farm. In what dividually “sewn” onto sticks that are then spaced high might seem a sacrilege to some, Borysiewicz begins to and wide on a network of beams that soar up into the unwrap the latter. ceiling. Borysiewicz says the failed sewing attempt with “It’s rolled in a spiral. That’s why this leaf on the his first crop actually contributed to his current success. outside has to be perfect,” he explains. “The next leaf “The buyer from one of the largest companies—reis the binder. It cannot have any holes in it, but you see member we’re in the cigar business, so we deal with all that spot, that’s OK. But if it was on the outside—you the makers—he says, ‘Jeff, come to Connecticut with me,



June ‘20


Tobacco doesn’t know what year it is—1898 or 2000. If they successfully grew it 100 years ago—we can do it now. – Jeff Borysiewicz

I want to introduce you to someone,’” Borysiewicz recalls. That connection, to a former shade-grown tobacco grower, led to Borysiewicz buying vintage 1950s-era tobacco sewing machines, with extra parts. “The machines were still there,” he says. “We bought five and loaded them on a truck. He was happy. And that made a huge difference for us. Now we can sew tobacco like it should be and move it through. That was a learning curve.” And, he adds, “If I wasn’t a mechanic from my previous career, there is no way I could do this because you 28


have to fix all this stuff and it’s not like I can call up and say, ‘Hey, tobacco machine repair guy…’ “This is why the history is so important,” he continues. “One of those guys in Connecticut gave me a book from 1953 or ’54. He was old. He told me that everything in the book still works. He said, ‘Tobacco doesn’t know what year it is—1898 or 2000.’ If they successfully grew it 100 years ago—and these guys had no tools like we have, they didn’t have tractors or fertilizer—if they did it then, we can do it now.” And, speaking of fertilizer, there is an Ocala con-

nection to Borysiewicz’s success. He said when a friend from Cuba came to visit, he told him to use horse manure as a fertilizer. “So, I looked it up, and because there are so many horses in Ocala, there’s a manure removal service,” he recalls. “I ordered three semi-truck loads. We have sandy soil, so you mix it in and it gives us organic material. When have our Barn Smoker (an annual social/business event at the farm), I tell visitors we have the most expensive fertilizer in the world because it’s coming out of million-dollar horses.”

The Product

So where do those broad, leathery tobacco leaves go after they leave Florida Sun Grown? Into cigars such as The American, made by the J.C. Newman Fourth Generation Cigar Company in Ybor City, and some of those produced by Davidoff, Drew Estate and Aganorsa Leaf. The J.C. Newman Cigar Company was founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1895 by Julius Caeser Newman. Today, the firm is headquartered in a 110-year-old factory in the Ybor City National Historic Landmark District in Tampa. “Our relationship with Florida sun grown tobacco goes back to maybe 1960,” says Eric Newman, grandson of the founder. “We would get our tobacco from Cuba and there was a revolution and Castro takes over. A friend, a tobacco grower named Angel Oliva, born in Cuba, sold us a lot of tobacco. He came to my father and said, ‘We are going to grow Cuban tobacco in Quincy, in Florida. I need a cigar manufacturer to partner with me because I can’t grow tobacco on speculation.’” Newman says his father grudgingly said OK and Oliva grew about 50 acres. “We took most of the tobacco on our own Rigoletto brand,” he notes. “Mr. Oliva started to show his tobacco to the other cigar manufacturers. They turned their noses up. About a year later, the embargo comes and that tobacco becomes like gold because they couldn’t get any more Cuban tobacco.” Newman says that in the mid-1970s, after the federal government decided farmers should be covered under

minimum wage law, Florida could no longer compete with less expensive labor in third world countries and much of the tobacco industry “went out of business.” Newman says members of his family met Borysiewicz about 15 to 20 years ago. “We’re in the business of making cigars; he’s in the business of selling cigars,” he offers. “He is a great customer, a very smart retailer.” Newman says when Borysiewicz decided to grow tobacco, it was “from the heart.” “He wanted to bring back sun grown tobacco in Florida, though it doesn’t make a lot of economic sense,” Newman notes. “But he did his homework, his due diligence. He just had a passion.” At the same time, Newman states, his son Drew also had a vision, to make an American cigar. He says the ideas espoused by both men were “kooky.” “The first cigar ever made in our factory, in 1910, was called The American. So, Drew said he wanted to make handmade cigars in our factory. I said, ‘Drew, that’s not a very good idea because labor is eight times what it is in Nicaragua.’ He said, ‘Dad, I also want to make it a true American cigar. American wrapper. American binder. American Filler. American boxes. American bands. American labels.’ I said, ‘Drew, that’s an even worse idea. You can wait until your mother and I die and get your inheritance or you can get it now ‘cause you’re going to lose money.’ “Long story short,” Newman continues, “Jeff started to grow tobacco and he has filler and wrapper. The filler went to Drew Estates and we have the wrapper for our American. It’s got a unique flavor. It’s a wonderful story; it takes people back. “The American is a very good cigar. We’re making them by hand,” he adds. “They sell for $16 to $20 apiece, which is expensive for a cigar, but it’s because we’re using American labor. We have two rollers who make 100 cigars a day. Most cigar makers are paying on a piecework basis around the world, meaning the more cigars you make, the money you make. We told our cigar makers, we want great cigars, just 100 cigars a day, but

100 of the best cigars.” He says he has nothing but “total admiration” for Borysiewicz. “It’s not easy being a tobacco farmer. You have risk. Wind storms, hail storms, hurricanes, plant stuff that destroys crops,” he remarks. “If anybody else owned his company, the first thing they’d do is shut his farm because it doesn’t make economic sense, but that’s who he is. It’s what makes him so unique as a person, as a retailer, as a farmer, as a visionary. He’s like an old cowboy. I think Jeff ’s happiest day is when he is on a tractor.”

The Politics

Once tobacco is harvested, it usually takes at least two years before the product reaches a retailer’s shelf.

Among the additional challenges Borysiewicz has faced is the politics of smoking, which led him to become involved in groups such as Cigar Rights of America, the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, a number of chambers of commerce and the Florida Farm Bureau. “In 2008-2009, we had some major problems in the cigar industry. We had a lot of anti-cigar bills coming through—big ones,” he explains. “There was a major tobacco tax and 99 percent of the funding comes from cigarettes, and that’s the primary target, but, in Washington, they throw a blanket over it. Because we weren’t represented, we got the worst end of the deal. Cigarette taxes went from .50 cents a pack to $1.01. Our cigar tax went from .5 cents to $10, or 725 percent. So that’s how I got involved in politics. We ended up going from .5 cents to .41 ½ cents, but that’s still a 125 percent increase.” He said one question kept coming up—were there any cigar tobacco growers in Florida? “And we’d say, well, there’s a couple of cigar factories left in Florida, but there’s not farms,” he asserts. “So, I thought, I love farming. If I can bring back cigar tobacco in Florida, we can make inroads. And, we can have a new ingredient to play with in blending cigars. We knew that in concept and theory, everything would work.”

Savoring the Smoke

Mike Rossignol, who owns the Roz Cigar Emporium in Ocala, grew up in the “tobacco valley” area of Connecticut, where he began picking tobacco as a young boy. He says one reason he has long been a fan of 30


cigars is that they have distinct characteristics. “When we moved here to Ocala about 15 years ago, there was no good place to get premium cigars,” he offers. “I’d have to go to Corona Cigar, Jeff ’s place in Orlando, to find a good selection. That’s where the seed for my business was planted—if I had this issue in Ocala, there must be other people with the same issue.” Roz Cigar Emporium opened in 2013. Rossignol carries more than 900 different cigars, as well as pipe tobacco and accessories. The venue includes a lounge that features leather couches and recliners, where patrons can enjoy a beer or glass – Mike Rossignol of wine with their cigar. “A cigar lasts a while. It is more of a commitment,” he explains, citing the difference between, for example, smoking a cigarette. “When you’re smoking your cigar, it’s very relaxing. And it’s usually a very social thing; it’s usually more than just one person.” His cigars range in price from “about $2.50 all the way up to $40.” “Another way to look at cigars is like wine,” he offers. “You can buy a very inexpensive bottle of wine and it is what it is. Or you can buy more of a celebratory type of wine. Cigars have different flavor profiles, just like your reds and your whites, so you like to pair it up with whatever it is you are doing. The cigar I enjoy in the morning is not typically the cigar I enjoy in the evening. Each cigar has its own characteristics, otherwise, there would be just five cigars on the market.” He says where and how cigar tobacco is grown can have an impact, as well as the fermentation process. “Once tobacco is harvested, it usually takes at least two years before the product reaches a retailer’s shelf,” he states. “Tobacco has to be fermented, aged. And, after it’s rolled, it needs to rest for a minimum of at least six weeks before they can ship it out. From seed to store could be several years.” He says his shop features beautiful antique cases and an atmosphere of sitting in your own living room. His clientele includes “a good portion of women, retirees, plumbers, CEOs of some of the larger companies in

Ocala, a lot of people from the horse industry, doctors, it covers the whole gamut.” He says he spends a lot of time there, along with an employee who is “very fluent in cigars,” going over the finer points of cigars with new and longtime clients. “Especially for a first-time smoker, we ask a lot of questions,” he notes. “We don’t want to put someone on to a cigar maybe too strong for them. We try to match up the cigar with the individual.” Borysiewicz offers another take on the socialization aspect of cigar smoking. “We have really good college age guys that work for us. They smoke cigars with their dad, with their friends, they’re out of trouble,” Borysiewicz offers. “If you’re dropping your kid to go to University of Central Florida, you want them at the Corona Cigar bar. It’s a safe place for your young man. And we have a lot of diversity, especially the store in Tampa. My nephew was there—he loves sports—we had a guy from the Atlanta Hawks, we had basketball players there, he met the quarterback for the Bucs. It’s a different setting and when those guys are there, they’re just regular. You get to meet some cool people. “Smoking a cigar should take an hour, an hour-and-a-half,” he insists. “And people can have such good conversations.”

from a pond and shakes droplets from her sopping coat, which fall on his dust-covered boots like rain. Chickens caw in the distance as he refills a container of suckercide for one of the workers. Taking a long, deep, draw on the hefty cigar clenched in his jaw, Borysiewicz offers that the best way to describe how a cigar is made is “sort of like making a sub sandwich. You’ve got your bread on the outside, then the flavor is your meat and cheese.” Continuing that thought, he says one of the reasons he wanted to grow Cuban cigar tobacco in Florida included providing “a new ingredient to play with in blending cigars.” “It’s like a chef who has chicken, duck, lobster, steak—and then I want to be the guy who brings in Wagyu or something different for him to play with.” For more information about Ocala’s tobacco roots and Marti City, check out John Dunn’s historical account following this story. To learn more, visit, www.floridasungrown.com, www.coronacigar.com and www.jcnewman.com.

Local Connection

Borysiewicz is well versed in the overall history of the tobacco industry, including its connection to Ocala. He says the tobacco industry was doing well in America in the early 1800s, with most of the cigar factories up north, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. “They would get tobacco from Cuba, the islands of Sumatra, Indonesia, and a lot would come from Florida and Connecticut,” he notes. “Maryland grew it, Wisconsin grew it. There were a lot of states growing cigar tobacco.” Fast forward to the late 1800s. “You had the Spaniards and Cubans fighting and the revolution going on, the same way we had the American Revolution, the Cubans were like, we want to get rid of being a subject of Spain,” Borysiewicz says. “The Cuban Revolution was for the independence of Cuba from Spain. Now let’s say we live in Cuba and just want to live, not pick up rifles and get involved in war. So, what did a lot of them do? They went to Key West, then to Ybor City, and started farms and factories. And that’s how Marti City in Ocala came about.” Marti City initially had five cigar factories, 100 dwellings, and a large Cuban population. Between 1889 and 1906, 13 cigar factories were located there.

Balancing the Blend

As Borysiewicz surveys his 8-acre stand of bright green tobacco, his black Labrador retriever, Cleo, emerges June ‘20


Up In Smoke

Ocala! Horse Capital of the World! That’s what many Ocala boosters proclaim today. But if big economic development plans in late 19th-century Ocala had panned out, today’s mantra could instead be: Martí City! Cigar Capital of the World!


By John M. Dunn

n the 1880s, many Southerners rejected the agrarian economy of the Old South, especially the slave-based plantation system. Instead, they campaigned for a modern, industrial New South. In Ocala, many business people were promoting cigar rolling, an industry that Cuban immigrants had brought to our area with them. In fact, hopes were high, according to Florida historian L. Glenn Westfall, that Ocala would become “the next great cigar capital of Florida.”

Cuban Tradition Travels North

In 1889, cigar workers appeared in Ocala at the three-story Semi-Tropical Exposition Hall on West Broadway, which displayed a dazzling array of horticultural and agricultural products from across Florida and beyond. One of the exhibits, a Cuban village, highlighted Cubans crafting cigars. Locals called the village “Havana Town.” During the next few years, the village grew into a prosperous cigar manufacturing district and Ocala’s West End received a more inspired name: Martí City. Though it was an economic interest that motivated them, Ocala’s business class was paying homage to a famous revolutionary—José Martí, the Apostle of Cuban Independence.

Ocala map, Florida map and Semi-Tropical News photo courtesy of Smathers Library; Semi-Tropical Exposition Building photo courtesy of Ocala County Clerk; Cigar worker ID courtesy of Dr. James Lopez

Martí the Revolutionary

Martí may not be well known in many American households today, but he was once a popular and respected figure not only in Ocala, but across America and beyond. In 1895, U.S. Senator Wilkinson Call from Florida told his fellow lawmakers that Martí, “is second scarcely to any character in the pages of history.” Cubans everywhere still honor him like a saint. Martí was born in Havana, Cuba in 1853, when Spain still ruled the island. Growing up there gave him an overt and lasting hatred of slavery, oppression and injustice. An early dissenter against Spanish tyranny, Martí landed in a Cuban jail while a teenager. Decades of exile came next. He attended university in Spain, taught, and worked as a journalist in Mexico,

Guatemala, Venezuela and the United States. He was a political troublemaker wherever he went, making his views known in speeches, articles and books in Spanish and English. His targets were corrupt rulers and unjust political systems. Martí championed the oppressed and the downtrodden. Though he admired America’s embrace of individual freedoms, he was troubled by the country’s racism, materialism and imperialism. By the late 1880s, the thin, mustached young man, who always wore black, had become one of Cuba’s leading firebrands. A master wordsmith, he implored Cubans everywhere to rise up together and overthrow Spanish rule and replace it with a new democratic society based on the ideals of justice and human dignity for all. Martí was an intense, strong-willed, opinionated intellectual when he joined a group of Cuban patriots in New York planning to oust the Spanish. They gave him the task of raising money and inspiring support for the coming revolution. High on his list of promising fundraising sites were cigar-rolling factories, notably those in Florida. During the mid-19th century, U.S. tariffs on imported cigars had crippled the Cuban cigar industry. Factory owners responded by exporting raw tobacco leaf to new factories in Florida, where Cuban workers began making cigars from scratch.

A Booming Business

Many of Ocala’s business leaders spurred the growth of this industry by luring workers from Ybor City in Tampa, Key West and elsewhere with promises of cheaper housing, steady work and gestures of hospitality. Tobacco farms popped up nearby to supply raw material. Merchants declared West Ocala would be a “Cuban only” section of town to prevent a repeat of conflicts at cigar plants in Key West between Spaniards and independence-minded Cubans. For a while, it all worked. Martí City grew quickly as Cubans arrived by the hundreds. In 1892 the town incorporated and elected its own officials. By 1896, the new suburb just west of June ‘20




were mobile and would go where the work was. Many saw themselves as temporary workers in exile; a significant portion was interested in labor rights, and some were involved in the anarchist movement.” “These tobacco people were a very special group of people,” says Pedro Roig, Executive Director of the Miami-based, Cuban Studies Institute. “When Martí arrived with his vocabulary, they could understand his words.”

Martí the Legend

Martí used soaring rhetoric to drum up support for Cuban independence. He encouraged a dispirited mix of Cuban exiles, rich and poor, white and Afro-Cuban, to unite. “Either the Republic is founded upon… everyone…,” he proclaimed, “or the Republic is not worth one of our mothers’ tears, or a single drop of our heroes’ blood.” Above all, he had to raise money to pay for an invasion. On July 15th, 1892, Martí first appeared in Ocala alongside a delegation of Cubans bent on revolution. “Martí was given a triumphant reception by Martí

Tobacco warehouse photo courtesy of Historic Ocala Preservation Society; Jose Marti photo courtesy of Florida Memory

downtown Ocala had 13 cigar factories plus a factory for making cigar boxes. Businesses with names like La Criolla Cigar Manufacturing and J. Vidal Cruz and Company became commonplace. Soon another seven factories set up in Ocala. No matter where they were located, Florida’s cigar factories followed the same design and layout, says Dr. James López, co-director of the Center for José Martí Studies Affiliate at the University of Tampa. Everyday life in these workplaces also followed a unique script. Cigar workers in Ocala didn’t suffer slavish conditions endured by many other Americans toiling in dangerous, low-paid jobs in textile mills, mines and factories. Instead, Florida’s cigar factories were also education, or self-improvement, centers. Each day, on raised platforms, “lectors” read to the artisans as they cut and rolled tobacco. In the morning, their reading material was Spanish language periodicals, ranging from mainstream to more radical publications. After lunch, workers heard great works of literature. “The workers in Ocala and elsewhere were, in their own eyes, not laborers, but artisans,” says López. “They

Plaque photo courtesy of Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau

City Cubans and Ocala Crackers,” writes Westfall. “It was to the advantage of the Ocala business community to support the revolutionary movement.” Martí was pleased with the reception. He later praised the cigar workers who pledged to contribute “25 cents a week for the revolution for the independence of our fatherland Cuba.” He returned in October of that year and was treated like a rock star. In 1895, the Cuban Revolution was underway. Martí, wishing to prove himself on the battlefield, arrived in Cuba and was killed in combat at Dos Rios on May 19th. He was only 42. In death he achieved martyrdom, but it was not enough to lead the rebels to victory. Instead, their efforts were eclipsed by the United States in 1898, when the nation went to war with Spain and won. To the shock of Cubans, the Americans then turned Cuba into a near vassal state, a condition that lasted until Fidel Castro and his forces seized control of the island in 1959. When Martí died, Martí City was in decline. A nationwide depression, along with competition from Tampa’s cigar industry, prompted the Ocala workers to pack their bags. A few cigar factories limped into the 1920s and then disappeared. The lector tradition is also gone. “My maternal grandfather, Wilfredo Rodriquez, was the last living lector in Florida,” López says of the man known as El Mejicanito, who read to factory workers from 1928-1931. And Martí City? Historian Westfall says it became a ghost town.

Martí City’s Legacy

Not all the ghosts are forgotten. In 2010, Ocalan Catherine Wendell worked at the Seven Sisters Inn, an upscale B&B on historic Fort King Street. The house once belonged to Charles Rheinauer, an influential Ocala merchant who also served as president of the La Criolla Cigar Company and was a friend and benefactor of Martí. In 2010, something strange kept happening at the inn, Wendell recalls. “We would smell cigar smoke coming from the Paris Room, but nobody smoked there.” One day, Wendell asked aloud, “Is that you, Mr. Rheinauer?” A man’s disembodied voice, Wendell says, replied, “Yes.” Only years later did she associate the smell of cigar smoke with Martí, who likely visited there. Wendell now owns Ocala Ghost Walks & Historical Tours and tells the Martí story on her guided nocturnal tours. There’s also a more substantial reminder of Martí’s presence, thanks to Ocalan Maria Pares. In February of 1993, on behalf of Marion County’s Cuban citizens, she persuaded the Ocala City Council to erect a red-brick monument commemorating Martí City and José Martí. It is located in Tuscawilla Park. For more on the subject, check out Dunn’s book Jose Martí: Cuba’s Greatest Hero on www.amazon.com

June ‘20


MALE TRAILBLAZERS Throughout history, stalwart men have been blazing trails that opened pathways to future generations. Their efforts were mounted on dreams and passions, executed with nerve and resilience, and were tempered by balancing entrepreneurship with civic duty and service to others. In these profiles, we introduce you to some local men who made history and whose visions have enhanced the quality of life for our community—now and into the future.



MEN WHO MADE HISTORY In a town that’s better known for its horses than its humans, we wanted to share stories of just a few pioneering local men—past and present—who put Ocala on the map with their creativity, dedication and drive. By Lisa McGinnes


ure, we all know about that iconic superstar and his talented wife who own a home in northern Marion County. But our community has also been the home of awe-inspiring athletes, world class photographers, music legends and even a pro wrestling star.


Ocala’s best-known attraction is Silver Springs. Most of us have visited the deep, blue water, first magnitude spring. Many of us have taken a ride in their famous glass-bottom boats. Did your voyage inspire daydreams of captaining such a vessel? What about going underwater to photograph the phenomenal scene below the surface and follow in the footsteps of legendary lensman Bruce Mozert? Emmy-winning cinematographer and celebrated nature photographer Mark Emery can say yes to both. After graduating from Vanguard High School, he worked at Silver Springs as a glass-bottom boat pilot. Four decades later, he’s behind the lens from his own boat on the Silver River as often as possible. At the age when many people retire, he’s still taking pictures for National Geographic and recently contributed to the popular BBC Planet Earth series.


In addition to our equine athletes, Marion County has its share of diverse legends from across the world of sports. A local football star in the 1980s, Craig Damon played for the North Marion Colts. After college, he came back to Ocala to coach 13 successful seasons for the Colts, leaving in 2013, after he earned his master’s degree, to accept a position as Associate Executive Director for the Florida High School Athletic Association. Another athlete who went on to mentor others is professional wrestler Dory Funk Jr. The National Wrestling Alliance heavyweight champion and his brother Terry won their first World Wrestling Federation match at the 1986 WrestleMania 2. Since 1991, Funk has trained aspiring professional wrestlers, managers, referees and announcers at his Funking Conservatory in Ocala. He was inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2009. Right now, two young men from Ocala are in training to make their Olympic dreams come true. Next year, Paralympic sprinter Marshall Zackery hopes to run for a medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games (resched-

uled to 2021). Zackery has lived with cerebral palsy and a visual impairment resulting from a traumatic brain injury when he was just two months old. After a coach discovered him at an Ocala gym in 2017, Zackery skyrocketed to gold medal wins in both 100 meter and 200 meter international races that year, setting an American record in the 100 meter event. He took silver medals in 2018 and 2019 international competitions. Self-described “rink rat” Joey Mantia hopes to skate with Team USA in his third Winter Olympic Games in 2022 in Beijing. The world champion speedskater spent much of his childhood on in-line skates at Ocala’s Skate Mania. Since then, Mantia has earned 28 World Championship titles and 15 World Cup gold medals.


Also racking up cool points for Ocala are our two resident rockers. Later this year, Grammy-winning audio engineer and music producer Bruce Swedien will be celebrated by The Ocala Film Foundation and Ocala Cultural Arts with the unveiling ceremony of his Walk of Fame plaque outside the Marion Theatre. Coming on the music scene in the post-swing era to record greats like Duke Ellington and Count Basie, Swedien got his first Grammy nomination in 1962 for a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons song and by 1982 was recording and mixing the all-time best selling album Thriller for Michael Jackson. These days he produces his own masterclass series from his home studio in Ocala. In August, iconic rock band Deep Purple will release its 21st album, Whoosh, featuring their classic hard sound with a psychedelic edge and the expert guitar riffs of Ocalan Steve Morse. He joined the epic group 20 years after they hit No. 4 on the Billboard charts with “Smoke On The Water,” not long after he moved to Ocala in the early 1990s. Even after 25 years with the band that, together with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, makes up the “trinity of British hard rock,” Morse still delights local audiences with an occasional performance and he mentors aspiring guitar heroes with his clinic at Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp. Opposite: Steve Morse, Mark Emery and Dory Funk Jr. June ‘20





A Life of Service With a distinguished 45-year career in public service to his credit, David Ellspermann is now in the homestretch of his 24th and final year as the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller of Marion County. He shares his story and the wisdom he has gathered over four decades with us in this exclusive interview. By JoAnn Guidry Photography by John Jernigan

avid Ellspermann wasn’t born in Ocala, but he might as well have been, as he has earned the honor of being regarded as one of Ocala’s favorite sons. Thanks to his uncle, Bonnie Heath, the Ellspermann family moved from Stillwater, Oklahoma to Ocala when David was just 2 years old. Heath, along with Jack Dudley, co-owned Needles, who became the first Florida-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby in 1956. Following Needles’ success, Heath moved from Oklahoma to Ocala to establish Bonnie Heath Farm. Ellspermann’s father Vincent became the farm’s accountant and manager. “When we were growing up, my three older brothers and I would spend weekends and summers working at Bonnie Heath Farm,” recalls Ellspermann. “One of my first jobs was to pick up the rocks on the racehorse training track shared by Bonnie Heath Farm and Tartan Farms. I also pulled weeds in the pastures and painted fences.” You could say that clearing those rocks and pulling those weeds helped him chart a sound path to future success. But it wasn’t all work back then for the Ellspermann boys at the farm. “We kept several family riding horses at the farm and once our chores were done, we could ride,” he recalls. “We’d ride on a country road that is now State Road 200, to a little convenience store to get ice cream. We also rode over to Ocala Stud. At the time, they had a clubhouse and pool there. We’d swim and they’d even feed us.” Heath also owned the Ramada Inn in Ocala and, while attending Vanguard High School, Ellspermann worked at the hotel. “We were taught to work at an early age,” he offers. “I grew up watching my father working through the night with stacks of papers in front of him. A good work ethic was instilled in me very early on and it has served me well.” In his senior year of high school, Ellspermann and his family went to visit his older brother Lenny, who was playing defensive lineman for the University of Georgia (UGA) Bulldogs. The visit led Ellspermann to acquire one of the key “nuggets” of wisdom, as he calls them, that have served him throughout his career. “We were allowed to go into the locker room and hear Coach Vince Dooley speak to the players,” remembers Ellspermann, who played football at Vanguard High School. “I was so taken with how Coach Dooley spoke with such respect, inspiring his players to be not only good football players, but good young men. Looking back, I realize that’s when I picked up my first nugget: respect people and inspire them to be their best selves.” Dooley also took notice of the younger Ellspermann, who knew he wasn’t college football material, and offered him a scholarship to be the UGA Bulldogs June ‘20


David and brother Steve

football team manager. “I was very honored that Coach Dooley made that scholarship possible,” he shares. “That was my first job in management and the experience taught me how to deal with people in a system.” While he’s not sure where it came from, Ellspermann had always had an interest in law enforcement, particularly the FBI. He even applied and was told to get either an accounting or law degree. “Of course, coming from a family of accountants, getting an accounting degree was a given,” Ellspermann asserts. “And while in college, I joined the University of Georgia Police Department. So at 20, in 1974, I was a sworn deputy. I worked patrol and investigations until I graduated in 1977 with a bachelor’s of Business Administration-Accounting.” It was also while at UGA that Ellspermann met his soonto-be wife, Jayne, who was in the university’s cadet police training program. “As part of the program, cadets would do ride-alongs with deputies,” he explains. “I wasn’t scheduled for a ride-along that night, but the minute I walked in and saw Jayne, I tried to switch with another deputy. I wasn’t successful, but Jayne and I met a few days later at the Catholic student center. And that was it. We’ve been married 43 years this July.”

David and Mark Payne at Salt Springs hunt club

david before leaving for the university of georgia 40


The FBI position never materialized and, after college graduation, Ellspermann returned to Ocala. He worked as a patrol officer and investigator for the Ocala Police Department (OPD) from 1977 to 1980. “My years as an OPD officer were very rewarding years,” he says, revealing more wisdom he collected through his tenure there. “That experience gave me an incredible sense of how to quickly evaluate situations and respond appropriately. It’s something I continue to use to this day.” Soon, Ellspermann’s career path took a turn into the management lane. He became the office manager for the Office of the Public Defender (1980-86), executive director of the West Central Florida Driver Improvement program (198688) and executive director of the Office of the State Attorney (1988-1996). “I was very fortunate to be offered those positions. They challenged me and allowed me to utilize my accounting degree, management skills and my law enforcement experience to make the whole system work better,” Ellspermann recalls. “From my time at Driver Improvement, which was managing DUI schools and, of course, DUIs are about substance [abuse], I learned not to judge those with that issue,” he says quietly, reflecting on another valuable lesson. “While with the State Attorney’s office, Brad King showed me how important it is that the court system works for the good of everyone.” Ellspermann, now armed with his treasure chest of life lessons and collected wisdom, was elected to his first term as Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller of Marion County in 1996 and officially took office on January 6th, 1997. When he retires on January 4th, 2021, he will have served six terms

Photos courtesy of David Ellspermann

Building a Foundation

in the position. Sheriff Billy Woods praises Ellspermann as “the best county clerk in the state,” and he was, in fact, honored as Clerk of the Year by the Florida Clerks and Comptrollers Association in 2006, 2009 and 2012. Ask Ellspermann to describe the title he has held for more than two decades and he gives a Civics 101 answer, saying, “I was elected by the people of Marion County to protect the public trust, to maintain the constitutional doctrine of checks and balances at the local level.” But here’s a little more meat on the bone to understand the scope of the office. The Clerk of Court is responsible for maintaining all court records; issuing jury summons, distributing fees to jurors, collecting and distributing court-assessed payments (fines, court costs, child support and statutory service charges); issuing marriage licenses and processing passport applications. The Clerk also provides vital statistical data to various state agencies and the Supreme Court. Wait—there’s more. The Clerk serves as the county’s chief financial officer and internal auditor, ensuring that taxpayer money is handled according to the law. Not done yet. The Clerk also functions as the budget officer, recorder and Ex-Officio Clerk to the Board of County Commissioners. In 2020, Ellspermann is overseeing a staff of 204, a budget of $691 million and investing another $295 million of public funds. “I always liked to look at my office as the center of a bicycle wheel with all those I work with being the spokes that make the wheel turn,” admits Ellspermann, his analogy tracing to being first a serious trail biker then an avid road biker. “We have to work together to make the bike go, to make the entire system work.” Under Ellspermann’s guidance, the Clerk’s office accomplishments would require a feature film length PowerPoint presentation to fully illustrate. However, the significant highlights would have to include being the first clerk’s office in Florida to digitize all county records. When that occurred in 1999, Ellspermann’s office was also the first in the state to redact personal information from public records, protecting individual privacy rights. Ellspermann was also instrumental in establishing the first Domestic Violence Division within the county’s court system. Bring up any of these achievements and he is quick to share the credit. “I call it a circle of success. To lead you have to help others succeed,” he offers thoughtfully. “And then that success circles around to others and back to you.” Ellspermann’s life and work ethic have also been informed by a favorite Henry Ford quote: Don’t find fault, find remedy.

“The blame game is a negative way to live and lead,” he asserts. “If you allow people a chance to find solutions, the outcomes are much more productive and will spread in a positive, successful way.” In addition to his professional accomplishments, Ellspermann has served on dozens of community organization boards, volunteering his time and knowledge. He notes, “I always received more than I gave and it’s my pleasure to contribute to a community that I love.” A love of the community is something he shares with Jayne. Distinguished in her own right, she joined Marion County Public Schools as a high school social studies teacher in 1980 and advanced to the post of principal of West Port High, where she was named National Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. At that time, she was heralded as “the best principal out of nearly 100,000 schools in the United States” by the U.S. Secretary of Education. That same year, she was named Just Read, Florida!’s High School Literacy Leader of the Year. She also served as the president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. In 2018, through her consultancy, Jayne Ellspermann, LLC, which focuses on school leadership development and empowering school leaders, she was hired to mentor the principals of 11 struggling local elementary schools to help them identify strategies and techniques to improve the success rates of student diagnostic testing and, last summer, was contracted by the Marion County School Board to be the outside operator of both Oakcrest and Evergreen elementary schools for the 2019-2020 school year.

Jayne and David June ‘20


Now 66, with short-cropped hair that’s more salt than pepper, Ellspermann bemoans the fact that health issues and injuries have sidelined him from riding his road bike—its odometer stuck at 39,000 miles. “I used to do four 100-mile events a year,” he says wistfully. “Those days may be gone, but I’m looking forward to becoming more physically active again.” And, of course, there’s family time with daughters Lisa Lombardo and Erin Buss, as well as his five grandsons, ranging in age from 9 to 14. Like the

I always received more than I gave and it’s my pleasure to contribute to a community that I love. - David Ellspermann



proud grandpa that he is, Ellspermann describes his grandsons as “a blessing every day.” There’s also a planned, but loose, travel itinerary Ellspermann confides with a smile, “Jayne and I are just going to start driving west.” So...any regrets? Without hesitation, Ellspermann definitively answers, “No. I dedicated my career to public service and my personal life to community service. And now I’m ready to ride off into the sunset.”

What David Taught Me


avid called me out of the blue seven years ago to ask me who I thought might be a good candidate to become his new General Counsel. Within five minutes of speaking to him about his core principles and values, I asked him if he would stop his search before it began and consider me. I have had the good fortune of working for him ever since, and he has taught me many things: Trust the Lord; do the right thing; remember who you work for (the people of Marion County); remember what you work for (the good of Marion County); do not be intimidated by influential forces telling you to do something else if you know you are in the right; seek counsel from others who know their stuff, listen to them, and let their expertise help inform your decisions; hire and surround yourself with good people and then put them in positions to create success; and be proactive and willing to embrace and adapt to new innovations and technology. —Greg Harrell, General Counsel for the Marion County Clerk of the Court. Harrell is running for Marion County Clerk of the Court in hopes of succeeding his mentor. The race will be decided on November 3rd.

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MEASURE OF A MAN Ken Colen is a man on top of the world with a quiet demeanor, grateful heart, warrior spirit and a powerful vision for the future. By Nick Steele Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery 44


June ‘20


bit of pine habitat. It has just many different areas, microclimates and habitats within one 44-acre parcel. So, it sort of self-selected.” Sidney and Ken spent three years designing and constructing their own little haven, with noted horticulturist Steve Curl. It opened to the public in 2004 with over two miles of paved trails and more than 250 species of plants and trees. “Dad’s vision for the park was a place where people could come and study the anatomy of peace. And that really isn’t how it worked out,” Colen reveals. “The park has become its own force. And I say that because people send us poetry they write here, paintings...photographs. It inspires people to something greater. And I told Dad, ‘You know, the park is meeting its mission.’ This was one of those deathbed discussions we had when he was really in decline. He was bemoaning. And I said, ‘No, Dad, you don’t understand. It works one person at a time. One person is inspired. They come away with a sense of peace. They carry that into the world, and they interact with others in a different way. The park has its own mission. You put it in motion, but the park is doing what the park wants to do. We just kind of keep it neat and moving along.”

Family Ties

At the heart of every family-owned business is the visionary and Sidney had big dreams where business was concerned. Little did he know that a stop in Florida on his way to parts unknown would bring him

Sidney Colen in Kenneth City, Florida circa 1960



Family photos courtesy of On Top of the World


lthough his reserved demeanor may not immediately suggest it, Ken Colen is a man of many passions. Chief among them is community-building. Of course that may not come as much of a surprise, considering his father, the late Sidney Colen, was the architect of many communities, including Ocala’s On Top of the World (OTOW), an innovative 55+ active adult retirement community which was created in 1975 and continues to grow and thrive under his son’s leadership as president of all operations. We met at the arrestingly beautiful Sholom Park, the Colen family’s inspired and enduring gift to the residents of Marion County. The park is a nonprofit, privately owned, 44-acre botanical garden on Southwest 80th Avenue. The name pays homage to Colen’s great-grandfather, Sholom, though the word also means peace in Hebrew. “When I was 12 years old, Dad painted a picture for me of his vision for a park, where people could find solitude and peace,” remembers Colen. “Through the years, this theme was always percolating in his mind and he talked to me many times about the concept. When he turned 80, he brought it up again and I said, ‘Dad, you’re not gettin’ any younger. Are you gonna get the plow in the ground with this or not?’” That was all he needed to hear and the two set about finding a home for their park. “We had actually looked at some other places,” he says. “But the fun thing about this park is that it has some oak habitat, some open range. It has a little

big dreams of a family as well. “My father wanted to go to South America to make his fame and fortune,” Colen explains. “His parents had moved out of Ohio and were living in St. Pete, so he stopped to visit them on the way. Somewhere along the line, he was invited to a dance in Tampa,” he continues. “My mother was there. He met her and said, ‘That was it!’ He knew that was going to be his wife, forever. After that, he gave up ideas of going to South America. I think she said, ‘Forget about it.’” He soon learned that he could build an even better empire right here in Central Florida with the support of his new bride. “Dad was pretty much the entrepreneur, the mover and shaker, but Mother was kind of an anchor to him and helped him stay grounded,” Colen recalls. “He bounced ideas off her and she’d listen and maybe she wouldn’t answer right away. She’d think about it and carry the discussion further. She clearly was an influence, and together they were a great team.” Sidney started building one house at a time, around 1946, in St. Petersburg and was doing some work around various developments in Pinellas County. He then began focusing on building communities and grew in esteem and influence through several successful projects, including Kenneth City (which he named for his son—he had a habit of naming his projects after his children), Clearview Oaks Condominiums and OTOW Clearwater. “What was unique about On Top of the World was that it was based around recreation as a way of

life,” Colen notes. “At the time, he built a milliondollar recreation center. People thought that he’d lost his mind.” But he had, in fact, hit upon a winning formula and the community continues to flourish to this day. He was soon looking for new areas to develop and new challenges. Once again, he was surprised by where his journey would next take him. “He had been looking all over the world,” Colen recalls. “He looked in Central America and South America. He even went to South Africa. He had looked at several large tracts in Florida, particularly one near Holopaw, south of Kissimmee. He was close to making a deal and, for whatever reason, it just blew up at the last minute. His broker called and said, ‘There’s this company, Norris Cattle Company, they’re big landowners. They’re a publicly traded company and they need to show some black ink on their books by year end. There’s almost 13,000 acres of land in Ocala.’” To which Sidney replied, “Gee, I don’t think it’s big enough.” “But, sure enough, they drove up in and met Mr. Ferguson,” Colen explains. “I think they were maybe five or 10 minutes driving around the property and Dad looked back at Mom. Mom nodded,” he continues with a chuckle. “And that was it.”

Shared Foundations

Although Ken had worked for his father since he was 14, starting out as a carpenter’s helper, he admits that he hadn’t planned to enter the family business.

Sidney and Ina Colen

June ‘20


“In college, I had a lot of classes in microbiology and chemistry. I enjoyed that,” Colen offers. “I thought, you know, I really would like to go into biochemistry and endocrinology, get a master’s and go through the Ph.D. program. I was thinking, I’d like to take some time off before I jump into a master’s program. Then my father called me,” he continues. “It was December 14th, and the night before my final, final exam. He said, ‘You know that land I’ve been looking for, for all these years. I think we found it. And we’re going to contract and we’re going to close on the 30th of December.’ I said, ‘Well Dad, that’s just great. I’m gonna take a little time, visit friends on the East Coast and make my way home, maybe in a couple of weeks.’ He said OK. Then I got to thinking about it and I pretty much drove straight from Rhode Island to Florida. I showed up and saw the property and just fell in love with it. It does that.” Colen never did return to school, but instead chose to work side by side with his father. Ironically, Sidney had also admitted that he did not initially intend to enter the field. The son of a builder, himself, the Philadelphia native was headed off on adventures abroad when he made that fateful stop to see his own folks and met Ina, Ken’s mother. “His father was a home builder. Not to the extent of doing large developments, but a home here, there,” Colen offers “And his grandfather was a carpenter. So, there is a family lineage of building.” That family lineage had now united father and son in creating OTOW Ocala. “He was about controlling every aspect of the development, from the landscaping to the construction, to the types of homes that would be built, to the marketing. That vision was about beauty and about giving people tremendous value for their homes,” Colen asserts. “We started building very affordable villas. They had a lot of street appeal, because every home had a porch and on every porch was a porch swing, a railing and some brick-back molding on top. It was a hometown feel. People responded beautifully to it.” But the other aspect of the community Sidney was passionate about was that it be based around the arts. “He wanted to build this community that had an emphasis on the arts,” explains Colen. “The genetics within the body of the community did come about and did express itself when we built The Circle Square Ranch Cultural Center with a 950-seat auditorium. We started bringing in national acts. We started

expanding the community, nurturing our cultural arts programs and empowering our residents to cultivate their creativity.” But one of the most engaging and enriching elements of the community was developed by Colen after he attended a conference in San Francisco that featured Marc Freedman, the author of the acclaimed book on aging, Prime Time. “His premise was that seniors spend a lifetime building a competency in their industry, whatever it is. And for them just to retire and drop out of the workforce, it deprives younger people of so much knowledge and so much experience. His point was to keep seniors engaged in mentorships, programs where they can, first, perfect their own knowledge and continue to learn, but also to mentor others,” declares Colen. “I came away very inspired.” He soon brought to life the program he was envisioning. Master the Possibilities Lifelong Learning Education Center boasts a highly credentialed faculty with more than 150 instructors, state-of-the-art facilities and an annual enrollment exceeding 25,000. “You’re dealing with people who have mastered their trade, mastered their profession, are masters in life. So, I said we have endless possibilities… so Master the Possibilities. It’s not just a name, but also a theme. And the genius, I think, in Master the Possibilities, is the connections that it brings to people. I am convinced, being in the active adult community business for over 45 years, that the disease of old age is not old age. It’s isolation and loneliness,” he says with a sense of urgency. “On Top of the World offers a great antidote to that by keeping people engaged and Master the Possibilities is really the jewel in the crown.”

You’re dealing with people who have mastered their trade, mastered their profession, are masters in life.



New Beginnings

While Colen has certainly inherited his father’s desire to build communities, he may be even more deeply invested in growing community. He rattles off a list of questions he already knows the answers to, “Build better communities, more civility, stronger communities, more sense of place? We certainly buy into that, because we were doing it.” And he’s about to do it again, with an ambitious new project on the way. Calesa, an “active family” master-planned community with up to 5,000 homes, will feature a K-8 charter school, a joint worship center and a $10 million aquatic center, that will become home to recreational and competitive swimming. He took the name from a story of a

He also is focused on more than the academics, with an eye on the emotional well-being of the school’s future students. “There is such an emotional aspect, now more than ever,” he urges. “You see children, how they can become isolated and bullied. Our philosophy is kindness. Kind hearts, strong minds. We want to cultivate that. We embrace diversity at all levels. We’re integrating children with special needs into our programs–mainstreaming. This is our mission; this is our focus.”

Timucuan warrior, to honor the land. “Calesa is an almost 1,900-acre development,” he explains. “The beauty of Calesa is that we’ve taken time to work and sculpt the land. One of the coolest things is the trail system we are creating, so you can get from point A to point B going under roads, going over roads, with very few surface crossings, to be able to move about the community. And we’re creating little mini parks and meditation gardens throughout. So, it’s just a lot of thought put into how we craft it and that’s kind of how I approach development work, is it’s really a sculptural work, a sculptural piece of planning.” It is projected that sales for homes in the community will begin in late 2020 or early 2021.

Keeping the Faith

Sidney and Kenneth Colen at Sholom Park

Kind Hearts, Strong Minds

He’s also put a lot of thought into another aspect that was inspired by his mother. “Through two other foundations, we’re doing a charter school, the Ina A. Colen Academy, named for my mother. She was a teacher and just a very, kind of a hands-on, inspirational teacher and she instilled that love of learning in her children,” he reveals with a smile. “And I think it’s a fitting tribute.” She also has inspired the school’s innovative approach to learning. “The key point behind the Ina A. Colen Academy is the emphasis on social, emotional learning and project-based learning,” Colen offers. “You get the basics, your reading, writing and arithmetic, and then you start to use it and apply it. And sometimes the children pick the program and sometimes the teacher inspires the program. So, everybody is engaged and, really, you don’t know what you know until you use it, or until you teach it. It’s a departure,” he admits. “It’s a public school, so we have to meet all the requirements, of course, but it gives us great f lexibility in lesson structure.”

Colen is also planning another innovative, and decidedly modern, approach to the community’s houses of worship. “I’m a member of Temple Beth Shalom, a Jewish reform congregation in Ocala, and they’re needing to move out of where they are and the First Congregational United Church of Christ wanted a site and we got to talking,” Colen explains. “On NPR there was a story about a joint worship center, I think it was in Omaha, and I said, you know what, why not. You know if you think about it, churches, or houses of worship, are largely underutilized buildings. You meet for a few hours a few days a week. Can we create a space that can accommodate both? The minister and the rabbi liked each other a lot, so we said why not? Let’s go forward with this.”

In the Swim

The planned state-of-the-art aquatic center, Florida Aquatic Sports Training Center (FAST), which is being built through Circle Square Foundation Aquatics, Inc., will serve more than just the Calesa community when it opens in 2020. In fact, a crisis actually led to Colen’s conceiving the center as part of the solution and led to him shoring up the College of Central Florida’s Newton A. Perry Aquatic Center, which was scheduled June ‘20




to close in December of 2019. This would have left Ocala Aquatics, high school swim teams and the Ocala Marlins swim teams without a home. It is also used for swimming lessons and first responder training. “I grew up in, around pools and in aquatics,” Colen explains. “I thought, there’s got to be something we could do. So, we reached out to the college and to Ocala Aquatics and it turns out there was something we could do— we can build an aquatic center,” he continues. “But it’s not just an aquatic center, it’s going to be a world-class training facility. We’re going to have two 50-meter pools. The one indoor pool is 10 lanes, 3 meters deep, with the special wave baffling technology on the drains to control turbulence, which will help yield faster times. So, records will be set in this pool. Outside the facility there will be a 25-yard warm-up pool under cover and probably a recreational pool.” Colen explains that the foundation stepped up because of its belief that Marion County needs a strong aquatics program. Colen says the hope is to bring statewide swimming events to the Ocala area that will boost the economy. However, since the new center will not be completed until 2022, Colen has committed to lease the Newton A. Perry Aquatic Center until the new complex is built. “We struck an agreement where the foundation would pay them (CF), it’s divided monthly, basically amounts to $100,000 a year for the program,” Colen reveals. “It gave the school some needed infusion and kept the pool open for those who need it.” OTOW has an estimated $100 million annual impact on the economy of Ocala/Marion County and Calesa has the potential to match or exceed that, especially given the promise of the aquatic center. “We’re crafting FAST in such a way that it will be an economic driver in Marion County. When you think about hosting these large swim meets, you get thousands of people coming in. They eat in restaurants, there’s lodging, it’s a high multiple,” Colen asserts. “It’s an economic driver and we are looking forward to getting to the operational phase.” President and CEO of the Ocala/Marion Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP) Kevin Sheilley, who is especially mindful of such economic drivers, has nothing but praise for Colen’s vision and leadership. “Ken Colen is one of my favorites leaders,” Sheilley says. “His quiet, focused approach provides invaluable insight and often belies his incredible vision. I know that when Ken moves forward on a project it is going to be well thought-out with significant detail and will be a complete success.”

Life Lessons

Philanthropy is something that Colen practices quietly and carefully, but his generosity is well known throughout our community. “My family has always subscribed that if you’re in a position where you can do good and help people, then help people. But it’s difficult to find organizations that act responsibly, that don’t go crazy with their overhead, pay ridiculous salaries and get bloated and keep it focused on their mission,” Colen admits. “I will tell you that I think Interfaith Emergency Services is just a top-notch organization. I also think that Hospice of Marion County is exemplary of those principles.” “Ken Colen is our silent hero for Interfaith. He is one of the most generous and compassionate leaders in our community,” says Karla Grimsley, CEO of Interfaith Emergency Services. “We can always count on him because he genuinely cares about the people in this community. He makes it possible for us to change lives.” With generosity often comes gratitude, which is the key principle Colen lives by and the best advice he says he can give others. “Be grateful,” he offers. “Feeling gratitude for whatever comes into your life, whether it’s comfortable or uncomfortable. It’s all part of the experience. Just feeling gratitude for whatever comes is sort of my guiding mantra.” In 1997, during an interview with the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Sidney leaned in and whispered to the writer that he really didn’t want to be profiled. He said it didn’t speak to his purpose. “That’s what it’s all about,” he offered at the time. “We have to seek out the purpose.” His purpose, as he explained it, was to provide “homes for retired people, homes where those people will be happy, where they will interact with their neighbors, where they won’t feel isolated or alone.” At the conclusion of our interview, Ken Colen confides that he doesn’t like to talk about himself and wasn’t really sure he was going to initially say yes to doing this interview. When I ask what he wants his legacy to be, he smiles and replies, “I want my legacy to be happy, intelligent, well-adjusted children, who are successful in life,” he asserts. “Who have graduated from Ina A. Colen Academy and have a good grounding that carries them on through adulthood and beyond.” While they are different men, there is an undeniable through line between father and son. Two men devoted to diverse communities, hesitant to discuss it but driven to nurture it…movers, innovators and passionate champions dedicated to creating a place to call home for countless generations.

If you’re in a position where you can do good and help people, then help people.

June ‘20




A true pioneer of underwater photography, Bruce Mozert’s iconic images drew tourists to Silver Springs for decades and serve as an enduring legacy to one man’s labor of love. Images from The Bruce Mozert Collection, State Archives of Florida By Marian Rizzo June ‘20



nybody who ever stepped inside Bruce Mozert’s tiny studio in Silver Springs would have collided with hundreds of photos strewn across two desks and plastered on all four walls. Visitors walked among piles of crudely built waterproof camera housings, assorted pieces of inventions he hadn’t yet figured out, and a filing cabinet crammed with negatives from his 30-year career as Silver Springs’ official photographer. Even in his mid-90s, Mozert perked up at the sight of a visitor coming through his door. The whitehaired champion of underwater photography instantly morphed into a younger version of himself as he reminisced over the high points of his career. His eyes sparkling, he’d sit on a rolling chair and pass from one artifact to another, showing off the numerous contraptions that made him an icon of his time. Mozert died on October 14th, 2015, just a few weeks before his 99th birthday, leaving behind a legacy of photos, negatives and inventions. A couple of years later, the long process of sorting through Mozert’s treasure trove began, with several people—who found themselves amazed by the scene—showing up to help. Among them, Alan Youngblood, an accomplished underwater photographer in his own right, was astounded by what he uncovered. Some of Mozert’s early inventions had crude beginnings, fashioned from scrap metal, Plexiglas, soldering wire and rubber inner tubes, but they worked. Back in Mozert’s day, photographers didn’t have the high-tech equipment that’s available today. “When they got into the business, they had to make everything,” Youngblood notes. “Today, when I’m photographing underwater, I’m literally standing on the shoulders of giants and Bruce Mozert is one of them. I get to dive with state-of-the-art modern equipment. He didn’t have any of that and he made beautiful pictures. He had the right attitude for anyone in the business. If someone asked him to do something, he said, ‘Sure,’ and he’d figure it out later. He pioneered underwater photography.” As a photojournalist, Youngblood photographed Mozert a number of times. “There was always plenty of chitchat,” Youngblood recalls. “He would answer whatever you asked him. He talked to me a little bit about filtering, and he pointed out the value in thinking through a problem and developing whatever you needed to do to accomplish it. That skill has served me not only in photography, but

in anything that I do.” Esteemed local natural history photographer Mark Emery also holds Mozert in high regard. “He absolutely solved a problem nobody else could solve,” Emery remarks. “He found a way to do it. He was involved in making a photo boat with a glass bottom and 6-foot glass case all around. You could walk down steps and now you were six feet below the water. It was an amazing way to see the Silver River, like a diver would see it, at least the first couple layers.” Often surrounded by beautiful young women, Mozert considered them pleasant-looking props, no different from photographing a two-by-four piece of wood or a dilapidated stove he’d somehow managed to sink to the bottom of the main spring. He directed his bathing beauties in a variety of poses—standing on tiptoe to emphasize the sleek lines of their legs, shooting up at them to make the shorter ones appear taller, and placing them underwater, cooking on a grill, lounging in a lawn chair, playing golf and being hauled off by a sea monster. Such was the fate of Ginger Stanley (now Hallowell), who was the stunt swimmer in Creature from the Black Lagoon - Alan Youngblood and its sequel, Revenge of the Creature. She also posed for many of Mozert’s advertisement photos that promoted the films and Silver Springs as a tourist attraction. Now 88 years old and living in Orlando, Hallowell recalls that Mozert showed total respect for all of his models. “He appreciated the fact that we looked good and that he could photograph us, but at the same time it was almost like we were inanimate objects, like a doll that he could pose. He was a total gentleman.” All the while, Mozert’s mind was on the next project. “You could always see the wheels turning.” Hallowell laughs. “Many times, he’d get ahead of himself. He would say, ‘Hey, I think we can do an underwater circus and we can get NBC here and I can make all the props. We can have a snack stand with a canopy over it and we can get one of Ross Allen’s snakes and you can be a snake charmer.’ There was always a twinkle in his eyes, because he always had a thought. His expression would change, and, in his mind, he would go through the whole little short subject [film] that he was going to put you in. He had already seen the end, and the end was always a comedy or a surprise. “One time, we took an old jalopy down in the water, along with a picnic basket and a tablecloth, and we

Today, when I’m photographing underwater, I’m literally standing on the shoulders of giants and Bruce Mozert is one of them.



spread out an underwater picnic,” Hallowell recalls with a giggle. “We actually got in the car as it rolled down the bank and into the water. It was very unusual and kind of fun.” One of Hallowell’s scenes in Creature from the Black Lagoon involved an unplanned swimming “dance” she did with underwater Creature double Ricou Browning. Now 90, Browning, of Fort Lauderdale, has fond memories of working at Silver Springs, like the time he and Mozert set up an underwater radio station that really worked. “One time, Ginger swam the whole length of the Silver River underwater,” Browning remembers. “Bruce filmed it and I was there just giving her air. She stayed underwater several miles, all the way to the end.” Mozert didn’t start out with a camera in his hand. Born on November 24th, 1916, in Newark, New Jersey, he moved with his family to a chicken farm in Scranton, Pennsylvania. After graduating from high school, he took a job driving a coal truck. Not one to sit still for very long, he followed his sister Zoe, a professional model, to New York City where he began working as a film developer for LIFE Magazine, earning $3 a week. In 1938, while in Miami on an advertising shoot, Mozert heard a movie studio was about to shoot a series

of Tarzan movies at Silver Springs. He dropped what he was doing and came to Ocala. Media personality Buddy Martin was just 3 when he met Mozert. “My dad, Wilton Martin, was the first public relations director at Silver Springs,” notes Martin. “He actually brought Bruce to Ocala. I remember Bruce coming to our house and setting up his darkroom in our bathroom. I remember going in the bathroom and seeing strips of film hanging on our shower curtain. My dad was the one who pushed Bruce to invent the underwater camera.” During his career as Silver Springs’ official photographer, Mozert rubbed elbows with numerous stars who came to town with Hollywood filmmakers. His collection of photos includes shots of Gregory Peck, Lloyd Bridges, Esther Williams and a host of others. Mozert’s work appeared on the covers of major magazines, and his movie shorts were shown in news clips that played before feature films at movie houses across the nation. One of them, a Thanksgiving dinner with a real turkey eaten underwater, made it to the big screen every November for a few years. But, Mozert’s life wasn’t all work and no play. Ryan Mozert, who lives in Gainesville, says whenever he spent time with his grandfather they got away from the studio and did other things, like fishing trips June ‘20


Mozert photographing Betty Frazee Haskins underwater at Silver Springs

to Cedar Key with Ryan’s brother Clint, and their dad, Scott Mozert. “I worked with Bruce all the way up to two weeks before his death,” reminisces Ryan. “We went to the lake, setting up a satellite, picking up branches, painting. He taught me how to fix jet skis and outboard motors. He was great, very loving and had a good business sense about him. He was a Christian. He belonged to the Lions Club and used to fix bicycles and give them to homeless people.” As for Mozert’s collection, after his death it fell into the hands of Evelyn Yorlano, his “girl Friday” for 38 years. “He never threw anything away,” Yorlano sighs. “His mind was always going 100 miles an hour, thinking how he would make something or fix something.” As executor of Mozert’s estate, Yorlano kept the office open until his estate was settled and the collection ready for another home. In desperation, she enlisted the help of local journalist and photographer Dave Schlenker. Schlenker had a professional and a personal relationship with the man he describes as “an icon of photography.” “When I was in photo school, I needed a large format camera,” Schlenker recalls. “I didn’t have access to one, so I called Bruce up to find out where I could get one. He said, ‘Meet me at my studio.’ He had a large format camera there. He said, ‘Take it for as long as you need it.’ That camera might have photographed Jayne Mansfield and underwater alligators! I got to use it until I finished school.” Schlenker was not prepared for the “treasures” inside Mozert’s tiny studio. “The place was like a completely disorganized wonderland,” Schlenker says, chuckling. “He was a bit of a pack rat. We were going through these filing cabinets and finding these iconic images—Jayne Mansfield shoved in there next to a reptile show, aerial photos of Weeki Wachee, Cypress Gardens and Silver Springs, starlet photos in bikinis, Ross Allen—and there’s Bruce’s wife waving and with a suitcase on vacation. I thought, This stuff needs to stay in Marion County.” He contacted Dr. James Henningsen, president of the College of Central Florida, who arranged a partnership between the college, Marion County and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. Together, they bought the collection for $85,000. The majority of artifacts went to the state museum archives in Tallahassee, and a portion remained in Marion County. “The nice thing about this agreement, it preserved [the collection] for Florida’s history, and made it available to the public,” Henningsen states. “We have a number of originals that were colorized and framed. They’re housed at the Appleton. We would like to display some of those on campus and rotate them.”

Six prints are currently on display in the lobby at the Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau. Jessica Marr, marketing and communications coordinator for tourist development, notes that Mozert has been nominated for admission into the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame. This year’s recipient will be named at the Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism in September. Mozert was posthumously named first inductee on Ocala’s Walk of Fame on May 3rd, 2018. Prior to his death, he received a lifetime achievement award at the Silver Springs International Film Festival and also served on a panel with other filmmakers. “He was such a storyteller,” muses Angie Lewis, a board member for the festival. “I could listen to him for hours. His memory was phenomenal. He would rattle off dates and time periods and stories. It was just mesmerizing.” Among the other ways Mozert has been memorialized is through the pages of Silver Springs: The Underwater Photography of Bruce Mozert, published in 2008 by Gary Monroe. The hardcover book is filled with the images that put Silver Springs June ‘20


This Fall, the Appleton Museum of Art will host an exhibition of work that showcases both Mozert’s popular underwater advertisements for Silver Springs Tourist Center, as well as historic promotional images for Paradise Park. Both were once operated in Marion County and represent an important part of mid-20th century Florida tourism. For exhibition updates, visit www.appletonmuseum.org



Photo courtesy of Evelyn Yorlano

on the map, and helped him earn a place in history. Many of the images show model Betty Frazee Haskins, who worked with Mozert for about three years. She says that in addition to the underwater images, he also created plenty of daring and creative setups on land. “We made pictures in different venues, like the limestone pits up in Lowell,” she recalls. “That was a magazine cover. I was sitting on the top of the cliff and Ricou Browning was doing a swan dive off into the water.” Some of the work was for advertising clients, or for businesses trying out new ideas. “We did Mercury Motors, all their ads,” Haksins offers. “And people were always testing products at Silver Springs, like Styrofoam, which was beginning to be widely used. They carved a mountain out of Styrofoam and I was on it in something like a red Santa suit and it was floating out in the springs.” “He always thinking of something kitschy to do and I worked in the PR department for Bill Ray,” she remarks. “Whenever they had something they wanted to do, they called me down and said wear this or wear that. I learned to do things like drinking a Coke underwater, eating a banana. All kind of underwater stuff, but we did a ton of stuff above water too. Sometimes we’d have an animal; an elephant, a snake, a monkey. She says the publicity pictures went all over the world and the picture of her cooking a steak underwater was on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. Her photos graced the covers of 21 magazines and she worked on sets for Sea Hunt and a Jerry Lewis movie. “I was a teenager and pretty game for everything that went on,” she offers. “Bruce was a very interesting man, very creative. He was always saying funny things, but he was dead serious about his work.”

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June ‘20


Dancer, actress and Bruce Mozert model Peggy Mixon Singer Collins takes us on a sentimental journey through her life at Silver Springs and in the spotlight. By Nick Steele current portraits by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery



June ‘20



own a winding back road in the small community of Ocklawaha in southern Marion County lies a charming bungalow nestled on the shore of Lake Weir. An ancient live oak, draped in Spanish moss, stretches out over the side lawn like a colossus opening its arms and offering a wide embrace. A silky breeze works its way through the tree’s graceful limbs, its ample canopy laying out a blanket of shade that beckons one to sit a spell and sip some sweet tea. Through the screen door comes a soft, distinctly Southern female voice, “Well, hello there. Come on in,” the yet unseen woman offers in a honeyed tone. The door opens slightly and the lady of house peers out with a wide smile that beckons one forward. Before a One of Collins’ underwater adventures at Silver Springs rollercoaster of adventures took her away to Hollywood, Las Vegas, New York and other far-flung destinations—and then back again—this dear lady lived here with her parents and older sister Margie. Now, at 89 years old, she shares the home with her beloved husband Julius. After introductions, we settle in the sitting room. A television in the next room is playing a classic black and white film to no one in particular, the spunky blonde heroine bantering with her virile leading man. It is mostly indistinguishable, except for the familiar swelling soundtrack that brackets each plot twist with the promise of romance or danger. Peggy Ann Mixon, as she was known when she first inhabited this house, settles down next to me on the sofa. Like so many of the individuals who have been a part of the colorful history of Silver Springs, she has endless tales about her many wondrous adventures. Julius settles on a sofa across the room from us, grinning in anticipation of what he knows is coming. “As a little girl, I would get in front of the mirror and make up some dance steps,” she offers, flashing that irrepressible smile. “I always knew I wanted to be a performer.” Like a chain reaction, Julius lights up and begins grinning—their connection apparent, even from across the room—his delight and occasional chuckle punctuating her stories. “I used to go to the movies…all the musicals, I would take some steps from them,” she continues. “I entertained for everybody I could...the Lions Club, the Jaycees.”



Her drive to perform had her traveling for hours to receive formal dance training while she was still in school. “Before we moved here, we lived at the Hotel Florida on North Magnolia Street. Daddy owned the hotel,” she explains. “I decided to go to Jacksonville for dance lessons. I would take one bus to Jacksonville and catch another bus to the studio. By the time I got there, I would only have 30 minutes with the instructor before I had to head home again. But it was just wonderful.” She soon put her training to good use. “I taught with Billy Dedman at the first dancing studio in Ocala. It was at the skating rink. He taught the adults and I taught children. We had to string up sheets with safety pins between us and teach our classes on either side.” In short order, thanks to her signature brand of pluck, she managed to cast herself into the spotlight. “I got to entertain with Elliot Lawrence and his orchestra at the old gymnasium in Ocala,” she recalls gleefully. “The way I got to do that was that I went to the president of the association that was putting it on and said, ‘Hey, that orchestra is coming up. Can’t you get me in? Why can’t you let me slip up there and do a number?’ He said, ‘Well, I’ll have to call somebody.’ He called and sure enough, he said, ‘Well, all right.’ Mother sewed and made all my costumes. They were darling,” she continues wistfully. “They made an announcement and took me straight up to the stage. You should have seen the crowd. I did my number “Hello! My Baby.” That was my go-to,” she offers, breaking into song. “Hello, my baby, hello, my honey, hello, my ragtime gal…” The lyrics include the line, “Baby, my heart’s on fire.” Which was especially apt where young Peggy was concerned—hers was a flame destined to burn bright. Mid-century America was a magical place, with seemingly endless possibilities. Post-war confidence fueled the popularity of everything from roadside diners to fantastical tourist destinations like Silver Springs, with its many attractions and amusements. Developed in the late 19th century, the springs became a thriving attraction for both its natural wonders and entertainment park. In its heyday, in the 1960s, the number of guests visiting Silver Springs topped 1 million a year. One of the most popular draws was Ross

Clockwise, from top left: Collins and her ďŹ rst husband Bill Singer; Posing atop a glass-bottom boat; Collins and her sister Margie; On the set of Distant Drums with leading lady Mari Aldon; Posing for a publicity shot by Bruce Mozert, with Lolita the leopard; With her son and a local child. Center: Collins, at home, in front of a painting of an early Hollywood publicity photo.

I just loved all the people and the times we spent together. – Peggy Collins

Peggy photographed by Bruce Mozert at Silver Springs



Allen’s Reptile Institute, which operated from 1930 until 1965. “When I was in school, I worked for Ross Allen,” Collins says, of how she first came to know the noted herpetologist. “He had a little office. I used to type and answer correspondence from people wanting to buy snakes and lizards. I didn’t much care for them. The first time I held one...he tricked me and just threw it at me,” she continues with a chuckle. “I had to catch it. After that, I’d pick them up when people wanted to see them. But I didn’t like it.” Her brushes with wild creatures didn’t end there, however. Another park employee, Eddie Vereen, used to delight in playing tricks on her. “He tied a little old wildcat to my chair one day. I opened the door and there it was, spitting at me,” she remembers. “Course it was all done in fun. One morning I pulled up and I saw this beautiful dog tied up outside the office. I stooped down and I just started loving on him,” she continues. “Eddie said, ‘Peggy, do you know what you’re petting? That’s a coyote.’ But I loved him up anyway. When I’d go home at night, he’d stand up against the fence, watching me and he’d howl. Isn’t that something? I just fell in love with him.” Eventually she went to work with Bruce Mozert in his photography studio. “I would take the photos of the guests in the glass bottom boats.” But Mozert also observed that she had a way with animals, especially a leopard named Lolita. One day, he said, “Go and get your bathing suit on and let’s take some pictures,” she recalls. “I liked Lolita and she liked me,” Collins offers. “But that day, they had me hold her with a rope, so she wrenched my arm and dragged me into a ditch. Then we got set up again and Bruce was snapping pictures when she started mouthing my arm.

I had red marks all up and down. That’s when Bruce said, ‘OK, that’s enough of that.’ But they made the picture into a postcard.” Soon a different type of picture was calling and would put Collins on a path to realizing her greatest ambitions. The first movie filmed at Silver Springs was in 1916 and the area continued to be a filming hotspot through the 1950s. In 1951, Warner Brothers Pictures came to Silver Springs to film Distant Drums, starring legendary leading man Gary Cooper. Her likeness to the film’s leading lady, ingénue Mari Aldon, led to her being cast as Aldon’s double. “I did everything she didn’t want to do, trudged through the sawgrass, went into the swamp with the alligators. Big gators! They were coming right at me and the director starts yelling, ‘Get the girl! Get the girl!’” Collins explains of a close call. “Then this came out in the newspaper,” she continues, gesturing to a yellowing newspaper clipping featuring a photo of the two women standing side by side in matching costumes. The text proclaims, Lovely Peggy Ann Mixon of Ocala, out-lovelies the lovely Mari Aldon. “She did not like that,” she offers. “I know it seems silly, but I think she was jealous.” Collins gave it her all and enjoyed every moment anyway. She even managed to get her sister Margie cast in the film, which led to a romance between Margie and the film’s cinematographer Sidney Hickox. “Margie had planned to marry Sid after the film,” Collins reveals. “That’s how I got out to Hollywood. We took off in a brand-new car.” June ‘20


Newton “Newt” Perry and Nancy Tribble

Mike O’Farrell with a yearling at Ocala Stud

Peggy and her husband Julius Collins



accomplished what I set out to do...to entertain.” The romance was ill-fated, however, and soon Margie After marrying and returning to Los Angeles with was headed back home. her then-husband Bill Singer, she found herself in “I thought, what am I going to do? I decided, I’m gonna the family way. Soon they relocated to New York City. stay! I had heard about the Hollywood Studio Club,” “I am so thankful that I had my boy when I did,” Collins recalls of the famous chaperoned dormitory for Collins admits, sharing that a later struggle with cancer young women pursuing a career in the entertainment left her without the ability to have more children. “I business, run by the Young Women’s Christian just love my boy. He’s a doctor in Orlando. Dr. William Association. Such stars as Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Singer. I am so proud of him.” Rita Moreno and Barbara Eden all lived there for a time. It was also an illness that brought her back home. “I went down there and talked to the lady who ran “Mother got ill and Margie called and said, ‘You have everything. She didn’t have a vacancy. But I said, ‘But ya to come,’” Collins remembers. “So I did.” gotta have one for me! Because here I am,’” once again By that point her marriage was failing, and the couple intoning that irresistible moxie that had served her so decided to go their separate ways. It wasn’t long before well. “I don’t know anybody. And so, she said, ‘Well, I she was back working for Ross Allen. She and son have one girl coming, but if she’s five minutes late...the Billy would eventually move into the family home, but place is yours.’ Well, that other girl was five minutes late something was missing. and I got in the room!” “I used to sit on that dock out there and pray that I Soon Collins was moving at a breakneck speed, would find a bachelor,” she recalls. shooting publicity shots, going on auditions and booking It just so happened there was an eligible one living jobs. She saw nothing but possibilities ahead of her. right down the road and “I was lucky because I mutual friends conspired was always picked,” she to get them together. explains of landing roles “One day we were out in variety shows. “That swimming and he was was the beginning of sitting in the screen porch. Hollywood for me. I got to I had a bikini bathing do both dancing and the suit on with a little lace slapstick skits. It cover up,” she admits was wonderful.” with a chuckle. One of my The auditions were girlfriends said, ‘Peggy, go often for nightclub shows on over and ask for a cup of around the country and sugar.’ I tapped on the door eventually led to Collins – Peggy Collins and I say, ‘I need a cup of working at the legendary sugar.’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t have any sugar, but I can Silver Slipper Casino in Las Vegas. offer you a drink.’” “Most performers did three shows a night. We did “She made quite an impression,” Julius, who works four. No nights off !” she declares. “We did all sorts as a Florida state engineer, offers up with a wide grin. of dances and all in spike heels. We also did comedic “Yes, she did.” things. I was full of energy and I just loved it. That was “He fell in love with me and I fell in love with him,” what I wanted from the time I was a little girl, to dance Collins asserts. “In fact, my son fell in love with him too. and do stage work. I loved an audience. I just came alive He said, ‘Don’t let this one get away, Momma!’ We all every time I got in front of an audience.” loved each other.” And because they were still performing after all the By now, a musical with soaring production numbers other shows on the strip had finished for the night, their has replaced the noir film on the television. Collins is late shows drew an unusually esteemed audience. tapping her toe in time with the music. “All the stars came to the fourth show,” Collins “What else?” she asks mostly of herself, while explains. “We had Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob flipping through the pages of her scrapbook. “Here’s Hope, Jack Benny, Milton Berle...you name it. Howard a publicity photo of me up on top of one of the boats. Hughes used to slip in every night after the lights went They snapped the picture and then the boat took off down and sit in the front row.” with me on top. I was up there for the whole tour. When She even had the opportunity to perform with the USO. I left, they actually had a cake made for me shaped like “Those boys were thrilled. They were starved for a glass-bottom boat,” she explains, with a laugh, of her entertainment,” she recalls. “I did my number and retirement from Silver Springs in 1988. “I thought that it really went over. They hollered three times for an was so sweet. I just loved all the people and the times we encore. And I did it three more times. I couldn’t believe spent together. Those were the days!” it. When things like that happened, I really felt I

That was what I wanted from the time I was a little girl, to dance and do stage work. I just came alive every time I got in front of an audience.

June ‘20



Well and Good at Paddock Ridge Coming up with innovative programming isn’t a pandemic response at Paddock Ridge—it’s a way of life. By Lisa McGinnes Photography by Brooke Pace and Cody Mansfield


hile we’ve all been staying home, social distancing and taking extra precautions, many of us have gotten a little lonely, stir crazy or just plain bored. At Ocala’s premier assisted living and memory care residence, they haven’t been able to go on outings around town or have visitors, so the staff got creative with high-tech and low-tech innovations to keep residents entertained and in touch with their loved ones.

Staying Connected

Seniors may not all have smartphones or computers, but at Paddock Ridge that doesn’t mean they can’t stay connected to their families. When Florida assisted living communities were closed to visitors, the care team quickly came up with a new way to facilitate family visits—video calls. “They’ve loved that capability,” says Director of Operations Cody Mansfield, explaining that, by appointment, the staff help residents connect to Skype, which is included in their IN2L (It’s Never Too Late) program and is one of a wide variety of applications to interest senior citizens. From the comfort of their own room, the resident can see and talk to their loved ones for as long as they like. “It’s heartwarming to see them connected,” 68


Mansfield continues. “You look and the family’s all there, you can see the room in the background with their family photos. It really helps.” Terri Young, whose mother, Margie Jacques, lives at Paddock Ridge, has relied on these video calls to check in with her mom while she’s not allowed to visit, and she appreciates being able to see her live rather than just making phone calls. “Thank you, Paddock Ridge, for giving us a glimpse of our loved ones every now and then,” was her message to the staff. “It’s much appreciated! Stay healthy and safe.”

Staying Grounded

Paddock Ridge’s Garden Club is more popular than ever. With raised beds, including height-adjusted, handicap-accessible beds, assisted living and memory care residents can enjoy some fresh air, sunshine and a little “dirt therapy”—even while social distancing. “Gardens are in every neighborhood now,” Mansfield relays. “The residents love it. They grow herbs and tomatoes and lettuce and enjoy caprese salads with the ingredients they grow.” Gardening is a fun way for men and women to keep their bodies and minds active, he explains, revealing that the memory care residents especially

enjoy the opportunity. “It’s therapeutic for them,” he explains. “They need to feel and touch things to remember, and planting and putting their hands in the dirt is just perfect.”

Staying Entertained

What started as a whimsical activity back in February for Mansfield and his friend turned into a colorful, interactive display now located in the activities room. “Brickfield” is the intricate, 6-feet long, 4-feet high Lego city they constructed over three months, winning one of Marion County Parks and Recreation’s weekly Lego Master Builders challenges and bringing the residents of Paddock Ridge a welcome diversion. “We decided to make it for the residents prior to COVID-19,” says Mansfield. Along the way, he sent photos to his grandmother, who enjoyed them so much he brought her some smaller Lego sets to build. “The projects were a great distraction during her self-isolation, and I realized the residents would love this. And it’s been a hit. We have a scavenger hunt and a contest to guess how many Legos are in it. It gets the residents thinking about their childhood or their kids’ childhood or their grandchildren and they all smile. The whole reason we did this was to bring them some joy.” Even with pandemic restrictions in place, you are invited to set up a personal “virtual tour.” No matter what’s going on in the world, when you or your loved are ready to transition to assisted living or memory care, they’ll be ready to welcome you home to Paddock Ridge. Paddock Ridge › 4001 SW 33rd Court, Ocala FL 34474 › (352) 512-9191 › www.paddockridge.com June ‘20


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In The Kitchen With Dave Miller Ocala Style photographer Dave Miller is a foodie who loves experimenting in the kitchen, which also provides him some special time with his youngest daughter. By Lisa McGinnes Photography by Dave Miller

June ‘20



t was near the end of April and we were all growing restless after more than a month of pandemic distancing restrictions. The hashtag #quarantinedinner had tens of thousands of posts on Instagram—people were cooking at home more and were sharing their food pics with the world. Photographer Dave Miller was inspired by the photos he was seeing online and decided to try a new recipe—homemade pasta, from scratch. “I’d seen all these people making all these delicious quarantine dinners,” he remembers. “I didn’t think it was going to get as much attention as it did,” he says of his Facebook post. His photos quickly started racking up the likes, and while he had some good shots, a big part of their appeal was the story of how he wound up in the kitchen with his 7-year-old daughter and kitchen sidekick, Mila. “I thought this would be a fun time to try to make pasta,” says Miller, who developed an appreciation for “all types of cuisine” during some early globetrotting, first as a military kid and then during his five years of active duty with the U.S. Army. “I grew up in the TV dinner generation,” he admits. “Both my parents were in the military so there wasn’t much home cooking. But because of my traveling the world, I got really inspired by food. I love food. It’s one of my biggest passions in life. I’m always trying new things. I actually enjoy my time in the kitchen, so if I see something that inspires me, I’m not afraid to try to go make it on my own to see if I can put my own spin on it.” Mila is just as fearless in the kitchen. Miller says his older daughter Lina and son Cameron “run and hide from the kitchen and just show up for dinnertime,” but Mila is always up for a culinary adventure. He relays the story of that first foray into pasta-making, a spontaneous weekday dinner endeavor.



“I pull into the driveway,” he wrote in his post. “Mila is standing there with her jump rope in tow, waiting on me to get home. I open the car door, lean my head out and say ‘Hey, you want to help make dinner?’ Jump rope hits the ground and she jumps up and down. ‘Yesss!’” he recalls she replied excitedly. “She ended up making the majority of the food on her own,” Miller offers. “I helped out where she needed help, like cutting the pasta, stuff like that. She did most of it on her own.” Following a recipe they found online, the two constructed a “nest” of dough and Mila carefully poured in the eggs. That’s when hilarity ensued. “I was so busy trying to take pictures that we didn’t even notice the egg was overflowing the edges, so we both tried to use our hands to hold it in and then the whole nest breaks open and there’s egg everywhere,” he remembers, laughing. “Our hands were super sticky. She finally got her hands clean and we couldn’t get it off mine so she was scraping the dough off my hands with a plastic knife.” They unanimously declared their first-ever batch of pasta “delicious.” They served it with a butter sauce and shrimp. They even managed to have dinner ready for Miller’s wife Brooke when she got home from a long shift as a hospital charge nurse. Unfortunately, the leftovers Miller was planning to take to work the next day didn’t last the night. “I was excited because I’d been packing my lunch for work because of the quarantine—I normally go out for lunch. The food was on the counter in a container and I walked away for just two minutes…and when I came back it was all gone. Our dog Lyla decided to jump on the counter and eat all the homemade pasta and shrimp. I laughed it off as ‘the whole family’ got to eat our pasta. It was quite an experience!”


Basic Semolina Pasta

Recipe from foodal.com

Makes 4 servings 14.1 ounces semolina flour plus more for rolling the dough 4 large eggs, lightly beaten, preferably organic and free range 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt Put the flour on a well-cleaned kitchen counter and form it into the shape of a nest. › In the well in the center of the flour, add the lightly beaten eggs and the salt.


› Start blending the mixture together with a fork, slowly adding the flour from the outer edges of the nest into the center until all of it is well incorporated. › After the flour-egg mixture is completely incorporated, cover the counter and your hands with a sprinkling of flour.


› Knead the dough for approximately 15 minutes until it is about the consistency of modeling clay. › Form the dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap and chill for around 30 minutes in the refrigerator. › After chilling, plop the dough onto a clean surface dusted with semolina flour (again, to prevent sticking) and divide it into two even pieces.


› Sprinkle more flour on your counter and on a rolling pin. › Flatten the dough ball with the rolling pin (or with a pasta maker if you have one available). › Roll the dough with the pin unit it becomes translucent. › Add dust to the countertop, your hands, and the pin as required. (This is a quite lengthy process requiring up to 20 minutes.)


› Set aside, and do the same with the other half. Then let the dough rest for another 10 minutes. › Slice the pasta into thin strips or into shapes suitable for ravioli or other types of noodles.


› Dust the finished noodles with flour and hang them unit they are semi-dry. › Once they are partially dry, you can freeze them or store them for up to four days in the refrigerator.



The Deep End of Flavor Combining my family’s love of fishing with just the right techniques and ingredients ensures we enjoy a bounty of flavor the way nature intended. Photography courtesy of Jill Paglia


y family shares a love of fresh food, especially when it means spending time together. And there is nothing myself, my husband and sons enjoy more than going fishing in the azure waters around the Florida Keys and in the Bahamas. I tease my husband John by saying that when we first met, his extent of eating seafood was Mrs. Paul’s fried clam strips. But through my cooking, he has discovered the true joy of fresh fish prepared with seasonings that enhance the distinct flavor of the fish. When I was a child, my family had a small cobia boat and we spent many days out on the water, including in the Keys. We’d also go to Cedar Key on the Gulf coast and fish on the banks. One of my most vivid memories was around the age of 8, when I caught 52 shellcrackers in one outing. John and I purchased our first boat in 2003, which brought a resurgence of fishing and fun. We made a trip to the Keys, where we both fell in love with the variety of species you can catch, the people and atmosphere. We started vacationing there every year and are now blessed to own a home there, where we keep our boat right in our backyard. Four years ago, we started entering tournaments and I have earned top lady angler honors in two of those contests. And, with all that fishing, I’ve developed numerous methods for preparing delicious entrées and side dishes. Along the way, I taught my sons John and Anthony to prepare fish and they do great job. Even though my son Vincent is not a cook, he loves eating the dishes we prepare. Our family’s love for fishing is being passed down through my sons and two daughters to my seven grandchildren. My grandsons were on the boat when I caught my first sailfish, and one son and I took turns bringing up a 52-pound amberjack from a depth of 650 feet—which led to burning biceps, wrist and back muscles. We only keep what we can eat and share the catch with neighbors and friends. My favorite method of preparation is grilling, but you can also cook some amazing fish with a cast iron




skillet. I love cooking any variety of snapper, as well as tilefish, which is a deep-water species that has super white meat and tastes almost like lobster. I like to prepare mahi (bull dolphin) in the Bahamian style, in tin foil packets, with butter, lemon pepper seasoning, thinly sliced peppers, onion and baby red potatoes with fresh lemon squeezed all over. You fold up the packets and put them on the grill. It is like no other technique and is not at all messy. With snapper, I like to make a mango salsa. This dish is super easy. It is fresh and lets the flavor of the snapper be the star. You do not want to overcook, because the fish will lose its natural flavor. You want the fish to flake, but it must still have a bit of sheen of moistness. The key to the salsa is finding fresh mango that’s not underripe or overripe. You want to peel the mango and have nice, semi-firm, diced chunks. The same goes for the avocado. The other key is that you have this made up and marinating in the juices before you even begin to prep the fish. There are so many ways you can make coleslaw, which can be a perfect side for so many dishes. I particularly love the one I make with broccoli and sunflower seeds because it’s the perfect blend of tangy, sweet and salty. In putting together my grilled veggies, I always start with a variety of organics and clean them as soon as I come home from the market. I slice them to a nice size and, once they are skewered (in the same pattern, as I love for them to look uniform), I drizzle avocado oil over them and add Everglades All-Purpose Seasoning ®, garlic powder and a bit of Italian seasoning. I often wind up with a large number of diners, so this meal is nice as a buffet. If the gathering is a special occasion, however, I will plate it so the presentation matches the beauty of the meal. To bring it all together, you can’t go wrong with a glass of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio or a nice Chardonnay, and a piece of my frozen Key lime pie. My biggest compliment is when a guest takes that first bite, their face lights up and they say, “This is going to hurt,” meaning they are planning to overeat. Interact with Jill and follow her lifestyle posts on Instagram @festivelysouthern and under Festively Southern Recipes on Facebook.

June ‘20



Red Snapper with Mango Avocado Salsa

For the fish: 4-6 ounce snapper filets Optional seasonings- Everglades All-Purpose Seasoning, Trader Joe’s Chile Lime seasoning or salt and pepper Avocado oil spray For the salsa: 2 ripe mangoes, diced. Taste them to make sure you have good ones. 1 avocado, diced 4 tablespoons minced red onion 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons lime juice 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes Salt and pepper Start by preparing the salsa. › Combine the mango (including the juices), red onion, pepper flakes, avocado and lime juice in a bowl. › Season with salt and pepper to taste. › Mix together and let it sit while you work on the fish, so the flavors can meld a bit. Take a couple of paper towels and dry the snapper filets really well. (Water is the enemy of a good brown sear, so soak up as much of it as you can.) › Season the snapper generously with your choice of salt and pepper, the chile lime seasoning or the Everglades seasoning. › Heat the grill to 400-450 degrees, for a medium-high heat. › Season the snapper filets then place them in a fish basket sprayed with avocado oil to prevent sticking. › Place the fish basket on the grill and cook 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the filets. (Mine are typically 3/4 inch thick and go for 4 minutes a side.) Be careful not to overcook. › Remove the snapper and top with the mango avocado salsa.

Broccoli Slaw

8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled 1 package cole slaw mix 2 cups broccoli florets, chopped 1 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise 1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds 1/2 cup Ocean Spray craisins 3 tablespoons sugar 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, craisins, sugar and vinegar. › Add broccoli and slaw mix and stir to coat. › Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours or up to 24 hours. › Before serving, stir in sunflower seeds and bacon.

Veggie Kabobs

2 large zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick 2 large yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick 1 red onion, sliced in chunks 1 package baby portobello mushrooms, each sliced in half 1 large red pepper, cut in nice size pieces 1-2 tablespoons avocado oil (which can handle higher temps) Salt and pepper Garlic powder Italian seasoning Clean and prep your veggies into nice size cuts that will withstand the skewers and the grill. (I like to assemble them in a repeated order for uniformity.) › Drizzle with a generous amount of avocado oil, followed by your choice of the seasonings. › Place on the grill away from the flame (I like to place mine on the second tier) and grill until the veggies have softened a bit.


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June ‘20



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Leading Through A Crisis The CEP’s Kevin Sheilley scores high marks from area business executives for his leadership during the COVID-19 outbreak.

By Susan Smiley-Height

June ‘20






I think the job of any leader is providing hope. That becomes especially true during a crisis. – Kevin Sheilley

leadership, and genuine concern for our community and its business leaders.” Saju adds that Sheilley and others from his team were “readily available, routinely checked in on us, and offered a significant amount of communication and training to those who needed additional assistance navigating the past few months.” “I’m very, very bullish about the short, middle and long-term future of our community,” Sheilley asserts. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to have struggles. It doesn’t mean there is not going to be hurt, but I think there is tremendous upside. We just all have to keep moving forward. There can be no retreat. There can be no standing still. And that’s really going to be the key to keeping our community successful.” “I think Kevin and his team at the CEP have done an incredible job helping local businesses navigate this crisis,” remarks Todd Rudnianyn, president/CEO of Neighborhood Storage. “He has been proactive, communicative, strategic, and perhaps most important—he has stayed positive. You can always feel Kevin pulling for us. With all the doom and gloom out there, it has been nice to have someone at the helm who you feel really believes in this community.” To learn more, visit www.ocalacep.com

Photographs courtesy of Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership

n March, when news about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, led to area businesses closing their doors or finding a new way to operate, Kevin Sheilley’s first thoughts were about how to best plan ahead. “As it began to become clear this was going to be something, it was ‘we need to be proactive, not reactive,’” explains Sheilley, president and chief executive officer of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP). “I think the job of any leader is providing hope. That becomes especially true during a crisis. That doesn’t mean we sugarcoat things, but that we’re able to provide a path to get through this and if we have to make sacrifices, they are the right sacrifices so people can have a belief they are moving towards something and not running away from something.” He is very proud that the CEP team quickly launched its Get. Gather. Go. initiative to help businesses navigate the loan program established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) to help them keep paying workers. “We saw that as Congress was passing the CARES Act that the Paycheck Protect Program (PPP) could be a huge opportunity,” he recalls. “And it was going to be incumbent on businesses to be ready to go quickly. That bill got signed by the president on a Friday and we were ready to launch on Monday. We also began working very closely with our lenders.” The work paid off, as 1 out of 8 local businesses received a loan through the PPP. The state average was 1 in 25 and the national average was 1 in 19. The CEP also facilitated more than 30 webinars since the onset of restrictions and, in mid-May, was focusing on a second round of PPP loans and on loan forgiveness. “We’re helping people understand how to start planning to get as much of that loan forgiven as they can, to understand how to work their cash flow, how to look at sales and marketing differently, how to deal with the stresses,” Sheilley explains. “And, we called around 2,800 businesses over six weeks, less than 1,500 of those CEP partners, to find out, ‘How are you doing?’, ‘What can we do to assist you?’ and [to say] ‘Let me make sure you’re aware of these resources.’” “Kevin and his team have been very response driven,” offers Angie Lewis, chair of the CEP board of directors and owner of Angie Lewis State Farm Insurance. “They created a plan of action and knew they must stay focused on the goals of best helping the community as they also look ahead to solving the next and most pressing problems. Kevin communicated with transparency by providing honest and accurate descriptions of reality—being as clear as humanly possible about what he knew, what to anticipate, and what it meant for the CEP team and our community. The board is so proud of what they have accomplished during this unique time.” Navroz Saju, CEO and President of HDG Hotels, says “Kevin and Team CEP once again demonstrated support,


Who’s Helping the Helpers? The future for some nonprofits is in doubt. By Allison B. Campbell, Director of Strategic Communications, Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County


very day, the neediest among us—the homeless, the hungry, the hopeless—look to our community’s nonprofits for help. They’ve always been there. But recently, as COVID-19 economic shutdowns wreaked havoc across the country, the future became blurry. That’s when the Community Foundation for Ocala/ Marion County reached out to local nonprofits to learn how they’re weathering the crisis, and what new, different or growing needs they’re seeing in the community. In late March of this year, the Community Foundation surveyed local nonprofits about immediate needs, financial stressors and concerns for the future. More than 70 percent expressed serious concerns. One-third said the demands for their services have increased during the pandemic. “I had childcare businesses that couldn’t get milk or cleaning supplies,” explains Roseann Fricks, CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Marion County. With healthcare workers and others deemed “essential workers,” their children were still in childcare centers. But many store shelves were bare, and those that did have small stocks of essential items were limiting quantities. The Early Learning Coalition was not alone with its increased need. “We are seeing families we’ve never seen before,” says Karla Grimsley, CEO of Interfaith Emergency Services and chair of the Community Foundation’s NonProfit Business Council. “The need became so great, we had to take a break.” Grimsley and her staff took a week in

April—coordinating with the Salvation Army to ensure services were still available—to regroup and catch their breaths from the influx of need. Interfaith’s Food 4 Kids program provides food backpacks to more than 1,900 schoolchildren on the weekends. With kids out of school, the need increased while the program had to create new ways to get the food to families in need. The pantry was bare, and many of Interfaith’s most faithful volunteers fell in the categories most susceptible to the coronavirus, so they couldn’t help either. “The community has been great,” she continues. “They have donated money and groceries to restock our shelves at a rate we’ve never experienced before.” More than 95 percent of all Marion County nonprofits said they expect moderate to high impacts on their programs, services or general operations. “Behind every number is a person,” asserts Lauren Deiorio, president and executive director of the Community Foundation. “Either that person is trying to meet the needs of another, or that person is in need. Regardless, it’s important to realize the essential services our nonprofits provide to our community’s most vulnerable citizens.” The local statistics mirror those across the nation. A survey conducted in April by Charity Navigator and Reuters showed 50 percent of the nation’s nonprofits have increased demand while 90 percent have suffered financially due to the shutdown. “We are concerned right now, but even more June ‘20



concerned for the next three to six months,” Deiorio explains. “Our community relies on nonprofits to provide essential services to our most vulnerable citizens. We are hopeful we can turn things around, but realistically things are going to be hard for our nonprofits for a very long time.” The longer the community stays in shutdown, the worse this picture could get. The Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans helped some nonprofits in the early days. “The SBA loans have enabled all of Heart of Florida Health Center’s (HFHC) dedicated and committed staff to continue to be essential, allowing us to fulfill our mission to our patients,” offers Jamie Ulmer, CEO. HFHC is a health center with nine locations, that provides care for both the insured and uninsured. “The PPP has given us the opportunity to continue to focus on the health and safety of the residents of Marion County and do our part to contribute to the incredible team of community healthcare providers.” Locally, 55 percent of nonprofits who completed the survey applied for more than $6.5 million in PPP aid. While it helped many, the PPP is a short-term solution. The survey showed 80 percent of nonprofits have cancelled programs and events that bring in much needed revenue to support their missions. “Now, more than ever, we have to consider the long-term implications on this community if one of our vital nonprofits cannot stay afloat,” Deiorio explains. In response to the community need, the Marion County Hospital District’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, administered by the Community Foundation, has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to more than a dozen nonprofits. Businesses have created additional funds at the foundation, directly related to COVID-19 relief for their employees, and individuals have worked to impact immediate needs. The Grant Services department at the Foundation’s Nonprofit Resource Center stands ready to help. “The needs may be great, but our community is greater. Everyone is so generous here,” Deiorio declares. “Now is a great time to get involved. If a business or individual wants to impact a specific need in our community, we are here to guide them along the way. We can put their passions to work.”

Survey Answers Snapshot Between March 23 – April 24, 2020, 109 nonprofits responded representing all nonprofit sectors (animals, arts, education, environment, faith-based initiatives, health and human services, housing and more) with annual budget sizes from under $250,000 to more than $25 million. Of those respondents, 62% represent the small business sector with budgets less than $750,000. All 109 nonprofits responded “yes” to the question: Has your organization been affected by COVID-19?

Moderate Impact

What type of impact has/will this have?

High Impact

Little to No Impact

Pet Food/Supplies

Non-perishable Food

Technology Services for Remote Work

What are your immediate needs?

Hygiene Items

Payroll Help for Essential Employees Education Resources

To see the full Nonprofit Survey Report, visit www.ocalafoundation.org/covid-19

The Community Foundation for Ocala Marion County is building a stronger community…one passion at a time. Programs include the NonProfit Business Council, the Estate Planning Council, and the Nonprofit Resource Center in partnership with Marion County, the City of Ocala, the Marion County Hospital District and AdventHealth. 82


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June ‘20



Road to Redemption Bernard F. “Bernie” DeCastro left behind a life of addiction, crime and incarceration to pave a road to redemption for himself and many others. By Marian Rizzo

ig Bad Bernie” DeCastro, as he was known by the men he touched through his prison ministry, came a long way from prison inmate to upstanding citizen. Whether he was sitting behind a huge desk in his office at Time For Freedom, his nonprofit ministry, leading a Bible study for men in the organization’s reentry program, or interviewing another applicant, he tempered the no-nonsense scowl on his face with a contrasting twinkle in his eye. “Are you ready to change your life?” was the one question he asked every applicant who came to the ReEntry Center of Ocala (RECO) for help. On April 8th, DeCastro died of natural causes at the age of 75 at his home in Ocala, leaving a legacy that reached thousands of prison inmates and helped more than 1,600 ex-offenders reenter society.

A Rough Start

DeCastro grew up in a low-income Miami suburb, today known as “Little Havana.” His father left home when he was 4 years old. His mother, Mado Pratt, a single mom, did the best she could, but her oldest boy’s “life of crime” started when he was 14 and soon landed him in the infamous Arthur G. Dozier Reform School in Marianna for nearly a year. As soon as he was back on the streets, DeCastro got into hard drugs and alcohol and went to prison three times for armed robbery. By 1976, at the age of 31, he stood in a Miami courtroom and awaited sentencing on another armed robbery charge. The judge labeled him a “career criminal” and sentenced him to life plus 30 years. DeCastro’s mother was sitting in the gallery. Her pitiful cry, “Oh, my son, my son!” sent a wave of remorse through him, but it came too late. He was heading for Raiford Prison (now Union Correctional Institution). Even while in prison there was hardly a day when DeCastro was sober. He made homemade wine, called “buck,” and he smuggled drugs into the prison and sold them to other inmates. He would have continued on this path had it not been for several inmates who shared their Christian faith with him. He saw in them a peace



and a joy that he wanted for himself. One day, after spending time with one of them, he fell on his knees and cried out to God. He felt free for the first time in his life. More hope entered DeCastro’s cell one day when an Ocala minister, the late Robert Askren, and his wife, Kathy (now Kathy Ryan Cole), visited him with their prison ministry. They approached the Florida Parole Commission on his behalf. After several attempts over four years he was paroled on November 20th, 1984. “We believed in Bernie,” recalls Cole. “We believed he deserved his freedom and he would do well. We saw his deep faith. He was walking the walk, not just talking it. He had a Christian singers group called The Master’s Men. He was very talented. And, Bernie had a wonderful work ethic. He was the maintenance man outside the gate. He worked as if it was the most important job in the world.” The Askrens were there to pick up DeCastro the day he was released. “We decided to make the offer to have him live in our home as part of his transition from prison,” says Cole. “John Marren at Concord Print Shop had already offered him a job.” DeCastro was 40 years old when he moved to Ocala. Two years later, he married the Askrens’ daughter, Laurie. They had five children together: David, Noelle,

Photo courtesy of the DeCastro family


Michael, Hannah and Olivia. They continued to coparent their children after they divorced in 2004. “Bernie taught them really good things in life, how to treat people and to love God,” Laurie DeCastro maintains. “His death has been difficult, especially for the girls. They want to call him and he’s not there to give advice. What an influence he was in a lot of people’s lives. It’s a legacy for them to hold on to.”

Paying It Forward

Grateful for his own fresh start, DeCastro founded Time For Freedom in 1987. “Freedom House” opened in downtown Ocala and housed 25 men who were transitioning from prison to public life. The program later relocated to northeast Ocala. Two buildings house 132 men on work release. RECO Director Mauricio “Chevy” Chevalier, retired from his job as an officer at the Florida Correctional Institution in 2010 to work full-time at the center. “At the prison I wasn’t helping anyone. I was a glorified babysitter,” Chevalier admits. “Now I’m actually helping individuals change their lives so they don’t go back to prison.” Impressed by DeCastro’s transition, the late Governor Lawton Chiles granted him an Executive Order of Clemency in 1988 and, in 1994, a full pardon. A few years later, DeCastro was named to Gov. Jeb Bush’s Ex-Offender Task Force and Drug Policy Advisory Council. After DeCastro’s passing, his sons, David, 30, and Michael, 26, took over Time For Freedom as president and vice president, respectively. “My dad left a huge legacy,” David declares. “I hope to help more people and, in the future, to expand in order to help transform more lives. What I mainly learned from my dad was, don’t look at the number of times a person has failed in life. Give them the tools for success, but it’s their choice whether they use them.” Laurence “Larry” Hankin served 20 years of a life sentence before entering RECO’s reentry program. He says the transition from prison life into society is like culture shock. “I hadn’t been in a grocery store in 20 years,” Hankin recalls. “They took us to Walmart. I was overwhelmed. I also had to learn how to use a cellphone. You gotta go to a job interview and you’re on a bicycle, so you gotta have GPS.” Now the owner of a residential painting business in Ocala, Hankin says he’s going to miss Bernie. “He walked in our shoes. He knew what it was like,” Hankin offers. “He was a warrior for us.”

For more information, visit www.reentrycenterofocala.com

Hearts & Hands that care

Every day, hospice nursing assistants offer compassionate expert care. We thank you!

National Nursing Assistants Week June 18-25

Sudie VanOrder—since 2014

Tami Ritzi—since 2007

Gloria White—since 1989

Stephen Daley—since 2015

Brianna Merlino—since 2018

(352) 873-7400 | www.hospiceofmarion.com June ‘20




Banking on Integrity Doug Oswald put his life on the line during World War II and has devoted himself to helping improve the quality of life in Marion County for decades. At 96, he is being recognized for his life in the service of others. By Susan Smiley-Height | Photography by John Jernigan

Photo courtesy of the Oswald family


oug Oswald’s soft southern drawl pulls you into conversation—and keeps you there. What he has to relate, you will see, paints a picture of a young man who loved agriculture, who played football as a Florida Gator, who endured the bitter cold and horrors of the Battle of the Bulge, and who influenced decades of life in Ocala and Marion County, including helping establish the Appleton Museum of Art. And, recently, in addition to the many awards and honors he already earned as a businessman and civic leader over his 96 years, Oswald was awarded the French Legion of Honor award, that nation’s highest decoration and symbol of outstanding merit in a civilian or military capacity. The medal is a five-armed Maltese asterisk hung on an oak and laurel wreath, suspended on a red ribbon. On the front is the effigy of the Republic and on the back are two tricolor flags and the motto “Honneur et Patrie” (Honor and Fatherland). “It is given to people who helped eliminate Germany from France,” Oswald offers. “I was one of those during World War II.” On June 6th, 1944, more than 2 million troops were mobilized and headed for Paris. On August 30th, the French capital was liberated. Oswald, who was with the Army’s 290th Combat Engineer Battalion and was injured in one shoulder during a reconnaissance mission, for which he earned a Purple Heart, was among the men who endured a brutal winter to win victory on May 8, 1945. “His unit went to the south of the line to keep the Battle of the Bulge from expanding,” explains his daughter, attorney Lynne Oswald. She recalls her father telling family members stories about being in the snowy French Alps and how he found ways to avoid frostbite so he didn’t lose his toes. She also recalls a time when some children were arguing over a candy bar, which was witnessed by her father. She says he counseled them on how he had seen soldiers on the war front actually fighting over candy

bars because they desperately needed the sugar for energy and how each man only got one candy bar in his rations. The lesson put the argument in perspective for the children, she shares. She says her mother, Virginia, told her not long before she died in 2016 that her father still had nightmares about his experiences. And, she adds, there is a physical reminder as “he is missing a big chunk of his upper arm [from] where he got shot. “He was a 19-year-old kid from Marianna, Florida. He called upon his skills that he developed as a kid, hanging out in the woods with his shotgun and his dog and hunting birds and stuff, to be able to keep alive in that foxhole,” she says with reverence. “It’s pretty horrible, the stories he told me. He always said he felt respect for the Vietnam War soldiers who did not get the support of Americans like he did in WWII. He said the reason they were able to win the war was because they all knew their country was 100 percent behind them.” After the war, she says, her dad graduated from the University of Florida and worked as a soil conservation agent in Jefferson County, where he married and started a family, which includes her siblings Ginger Oswald and Doug “Buddy” Oswald II. Before long, the family was bound for Ocala. “I was working for the Department of Agriculture in Monticello and the guy that owned the Commercial Bank and Trust Company contacted me and said he wanted to start an agricultural loan department here in Ocala,” Doug Oswald recalls. “I started the department, which was the first bank in Florida that had one.” He says his work initially was with people in the cattle industry, but “we soon started making loans to people moving here for the horse industry and that got bigger and more people came in and the bank grew and merged and developed into SunTrust. I worked my way up and for 10 years was president.” While at the bank, he served as mayor of Ocala and June ‘20


Tampa and a local contractor won the bid for the job. “Then Mr. Appleton began giving, in addition to his $8 million, a lot of stuff that he had been collecting,” Oswald offers. “It started getting bigger and got to be very expensive to run and so, I think, because Jim Kirk was a Florida State University booster, they gave it to FSU to run and the state started putting up some money. The state, after a couple of years, gave it to the Central Florida Community College [now the College of Central Florida]. They’re doing a very good job. I don’t believe there is any city of our size in the country that has a museum like this one, of that size and that quality. I think it’s a real asset.” “He has said the Appleton Museum was the greatest thing he did for the community,” offers Lynne. “He struck the deal with Mr. Appleton. He had a vision it would be good for Ocala and worked very hard for it. He has been very devoted to the community. He taught me that professions exist to make communities a better place, and if you have the privilege of being a member of a profession, a banker, lawyer, school teacher, doctor, whatever, then you have a responsibility to work to make the community a better place. That’s his philosophy.” Among Oswald’s many accomplishments was serving as president of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association and the Southeastern Youth Fair. On the fun side, Oswald was an avid golfer. He was particularly fond of the City of Ocala’s municipal course. For many years, he served as president of the Ocala Golf Board and had a hand in operating the course. The annual Doug Oswald Senior Invitational Golf Tournament is named in his honor. also had a little something to do with businessman and In 1955, Oswald started the annual Ocala Bull Sale, horseman Arthur Appleton. which is the oldest graded bull sale in the United States. “Mr. Appleton said if the city would put up 40 acres Hugh Dailey, who met the Oswald family when of land it owned, he would give us $8 million to build Virginia was his second-grade teacher at Eighth Street a museum,” Oswald says with that syrupy drawl. “I Elementary, later worked for Doug at the bank and, as a knew all the city council members and I knew we had farmer himself, also helped him with the bull sale. the land and weren’t “He felt like local folks doing anything with it. I weren’t improving their got my friends Jim Kirk genetics because they didn’t and Dick Chazal to go to have a good purebred bull the council with me, and pool,” Dailey recalls, “so he the council members went all over the country said OK. We started a and talked to purebred corporation and had breeders and had them ship three people from the bulls here for the first sale. – Buddy Oswald Appleton family and the You still have a group of three of us, appointed by farmers who assign grades the city. We applied for a nonprofit organization and to the bulls, and a lot of gentlemen farmers, like myself, they notified us that the city had to be in control of it buy based on the grade. So, you know if you want an and we had to put on another person, so we put Jim A-Plus bull you’re going to have to pay a premium to get Jernigan on. I was chairman of the group.” one, but you’ll have the top genetics available at the sale He says Appleton selected an architectural firm from to add to your herd.”

He is a great dad, and a great family man. And he is always working to improve the community.



Doug Oswald and his grandson John. Photo courtesy Lynne Oswald.



Dailey was hired by Oswald as a banker in 1984. Dailey later organized Community Bank & Trust with David Denyer, which last year was acquired by MidFlorida Credit Union. “He was definitely my banking mentor,” Dailey says of Oswald. “And he’s a true civic leader. He bridged the agricultural community with the town folk. He knew about the thoroughbred horse industry early on and helped the forefathers be successful in this market. He was a community banker that helped all those people realize their dreams by providing capital and guidance. One of the things I learned from him, you help the little guy just like the big guy. A lot of those little guys he helped are now the big guys.” Buddy Oswald, who practiced law with the Ayers, Cluster Law Firm for 18 years and then taught high school for 17 years, fondly recalls days of hunting, fishing and coaching football with his dad. In noting business and civic accomplishments, he says his dad has been a member of the Kiwanis Club of Ocala since the mid1950s and that, “the camaraderie of the members and the service to the community have been, and still are, a big part of his life. “He is a great dad, and a great family man. And he is always working to improve the community,” he adds. “Whether it was through his banking service and position, or any of the numerous volunteer activities, that’s been a theme throughout his life, working to improve the community.” “He is an agriculture man who became a banker,” Lynne remarks. “He was proud he was able to get a policy changed at the bank so the women employees could use their sick leave when their children were sick. That really is him, he takes a situation that needs improvement and improves it the best he knows how. I think one of his hallmarks was that he realized change needed to happen and he was very progressive in helping lots of areas of the community.” She recalls one incident that, for her, defines his integrity. “In high school there was a tradition of senior skip day and parents would write a note saying their kid was sick so they wouldn’t get in trouble. Some friends invited me to a ski party at Lake Weir, and I was dying to go, but my father would not write the note. He said, ‘I did not tell you that you could not go, I just told you that if you make the decision to go, I’m not going to lie for you with the school.’ That’s my dad!

“When I was a girl, one of the radio stations had a contest for Father’s Day where you could win a leather recliner for your dad by writing a jingle as to why he was the greatest. I remember my jingle to be, “My dad’s the greatest, he is always happy, never sad, I’m so glad he’s my dad.” We had that green leather recliner in our family room until it just fell apart. And, over 50 years later, I still think he’s the greatest dad.” Circling back to the French Legion of Honor, while there typically would be a public celebration, Buddy says the COVID-19 coronavirus put the kibosh on that for a bit but that friends are making plans for “some kind of celebration or presentation in the future.” In the meantime, Doug Oswald is content to walk beneath his prized chestnut trees, a special gift from UF researchers, and say hi to neighbors near his home in southeast Ocala. “It’s been a very good life. I’ve enjoyed it,” he drawls. “And I enjoyed raising my family in Ocala. It turned out to be a really good place to live.”

June ‘20



Sense of Destiny Meet the Ocala horse farm owner and CEO behind a company headquartered in Marion County that is researching a possible treatment for COVID-19, whose own family is on the front lines of the epidemic. By Andy Fillmore

one family member is a police officer and three are firefighters and EMTs. Equels conducts the business of AIM Immuno Tech, which he calls a “David” dealing with “Goliath” pharmaceutical companies, from the corporate office in southwest Marion County. The corporation also has a 30,000-square-foot production facility in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In mid-May, FDA authorization was given to begin clinical trials. “I have a sense of destiny,” he offers. “If I find something to make this a better world, I become committed to completing it.” Equels, 68, was born in Beaver, Pennsylvania. Six weeks later, his family moved to Key West, when his father was transferred there with the U.S. Navy. They returned to Pennsylvania about four years later. His interest in becoming a lawyer was piqued when, in junior high school, at his mother’s request, he would go to the courthouse in Beaver to walk with a family friend, Mr. Kovacic, who was blind, on his way home. “The chief judge would let me in the law library,” he recalls, “and judges would let me sit in on closing arguments.” The family moved to Titusville, Florida when he was 13. He enlisted in the Army at age 17, and after later graduating high school, he attended flight school and flew Cobra attack helicopters in the Vietnam War from January 1972 to January 1973. He twice was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions under combat conditions, once for his part in rescuing about 30 trapped Marines and CIA personnel, and also when his craft destroyed some enemy tanks. At 20, he was struck by shrapnel and awarded a Purple Heart for his wounds.

I have a sense of destiny. If I find something to make this a better world, I become committed to completing it. – Thomas Equels



Photo courtesy AIM Immuno Tech


or Thomas Equels, an investment in a biopharmaceutical firm more than a dozen years ago has led to a new career and, possibly, a new tool to protect his family members, and others, in the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus. In 2008, Equels, whose background includes serving as a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, raising Paso Fino horses and working as an attorney, became a major stockholder and was asked to join the board of directors of AIM (Amplified Immune Modulation) Immuno Tech. Eight years later, he was named chief executive officer. AIM Immuno Tech is currently focusing on the effectiveness of their immune system enhancing drug, Ampligen, which “has potential as a prophylaxis for first responders and other medical professionals, and early-onset therapeutic and vaccine enhancer for a broad spectrum COVID-19 vaccine,” Equels explains. “Several years ago, I studied Ampligen very carefully and became a true believer in its potential,” Equels asserts. “I believe I play an important part in unlocking that potential. If successful, we can create a better life for people all around the world. “My family is on the frontline of this battle against COVID-19,” Equels adds, revealing his “personal interest” for finding an effective drug to combat the virus. His daughter is a nurse, his son is a doctor,


Equels later served as a flight instructor and earned his Bachelor of Science in Social Services and Master of Science in Criminology and Justice Administration from Troy State University. He earned his juris doctor degree Florida State University before he moved to Miami. One of his earliest pro bono cases involved gaining access for religious leaders and lawyers to Haitian immigrants held in a camp in Dade County. As counsel, he wrote to President Ronald Reagan; the case was eventually settled and access was allowed. He also handled litigation against slum lords in Miami as counsel for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). An award in his office from the SCLC of Miami in 1984 cites his “outstanding contribution to the Housing and Human Rights Program.” Equels worked with the Greenberg, Traurig and Askew law firm in the 1980s and in 1990 established the Equels Law Firm, operating in Miami and Orlando. He was the lead attorney when the firm won a judgment in what a November 2008 Orlando Sentinel article called “one of the biggest insurance fraud cases in Florida history.” Wall Street brokerage firm Bear Stearns paid a $27 million settlement following the judgment in the case, which revolved around giving “deceptive and misleading investment advice” on mortgage related securities to the National Heritage Life Insurance Company. Equels was recognized by the Daily Business Review for his work in the Bear Stearns case with a 2008 Most Effective Lawyer Award. He received a similar award in 2008, from the review, for his work in an appellate case heard at the Florida Supreme Court on patients’ constitutional rights to review doctors’ past history and information archives at hospitals. “I started my adult life as a fledgling pilot fighting in daily combat in a war. I learned in combat to fight to win. I was 19, and admittedly not the best of pilots, when I showed up for combat in Vietnam,” he remarks. “However, because lives were on the line, including my own, I studied to master my craft as a combat aviator, to be the best I could be. We won many battles and I survived with but a few injuries. In such victories, you have the great satisfaction of being alive, but in all fairness there is a certain joy in in winning. As I moved into legal victories as a trial lawyer, involving important social justice matters, the satisfaction of making the world a better place and the joy of winning sustained me.

Victory is victory! It almost always tastes sweet.” For his work with the poor and for contributing his religious paintings of Christ and other biblical figures to churches throughout the Diocese of Orlando, Equels was named a Knight of the Papal Order of Saint Gregory the Great. He also has donated his artwork, depicting the ultimate sacrifice of veterans, to The Villages VA Clinic. Laura Fabar Equels, who calls her husband a true “Renaissance man,” currently serves as president of the law firm. An endowment at FSU is named the Equels/ Fabar Endowment for Social Justice. The couple raise Paso Fino horses and he is an award-winning dressage rider. In the mid-1990s, they established the Equels Racing and – Thomas Equels Training Center, where Structor, the Breeders’ Cup 2019 Juvenile Turf Champion, began his training. Equels still enjoys being a pilot and riding his motorcycle. “I ride my motorcycle through the Ocala National Forest, not a car in sight,” he explains. “I fly around just for the joy of flying in a small Cessna, often being the only plane in the air. I ride my horse for hours on the CrossFlorida Greenway, on trails draped in the forest’s royal splendor. In Ocala, if one takes advantage of all there is to offer, life itself is a hobby providing endless enjoyment.” Peter Rodino, chief operating officer and general counsel with AIM Immuno Tech, has worked with Equels for 10 years and calls him an “inspiration.” “Tom is not only driven, he has integrity and the goods to back it up,” he offers. “We have a small staff of about 30 and it’s a team process. He has compassion for people and really wants to do something significant to help, especially now.” “Since I was young, I have lived my life without fear of failure,” Equels affirms. “I am a husband, a father, an artist, a pilot, a lawyer, an immunology researcher, a Christian—each of those things involves the potential for failure, but each is also the opportunity for success, and success is often the child of failure. We learn from our mistakes, and I have made many. But I do not stop trying, striving to be the best me I can be. By analogy, I look at life like a river, ever flowing to the ocean, and with each day, life’s scenery goes drifting by never to be seen again. I try to savor every moment of this ride we call life without fear. Why? Because the river does not fear losing itself in the ocean, but rather the river exalts in becoming one with the ocean.”

I have lived my life without fear of failure. I am a husband, father, artist, pilot, lawyer, immunology researcher and Christian—each of those involves the potential for failure, but also the opportunity for success.

June ‘20


A Voice for the Homeless Dennis Yonce heads up the City of Ocala’s Office of Homeless Prevention with a hands-on and heart-guided approach. Story and photography by Andy Fillmore


t the tip of the spear of the city’s homeless outreach, Dennis Yonce, manager of the City of Ocala’s Office of Homeless Prevention, has a heart for the homeless. He responds 24/7 to help people in desperate situations, such as families with children living in cars. Some of the homeless camps that dot the central Ocala area have elaborate arrangements of makeshift tents, central kitchens and outdoor facilities, and are secluded in wooded areas just a short distance behind busy roads and retail shopping areas. Yonce has contacts in the encampments, and on the streets, all developed through trust and respect. He also is a regular presence at shelters and outreaches such as the Salvation Army and Interfaith Emergency Services, and maintains contact with partners of the Continuum of Care, a group of social service providers in areas such as housing, child care, legal aid and domestic violence. 92


“He was the first person to start building relationships with the area homeless and connect them with us and the Continuum of Care,” says Karla Grimsley, chief executive officer of Interfaith Emergency Services. “It is a bigger challenge than you might think. For example, a person may need a job but have no identification or Social Security documents. You start to peel the layers and it’s complex.” “We have to forget the cookie cutter approach toward helping the homeless and realize each person has a background and unique story,” Yonce offers. “You have to ask why the person is homeless, get at the cause, and match each person with the proper help, follow up and case management. It’s been eye opening, and a learning process.” Yonce, 64, a native of Hollywood, Florida, says he has had a “passion to serve as a first responder” since his teens. He earned his EMT certification and worked


on an ambulance crew before he enlisted in the Air Force in 1976 and served until 1980. He then joined the Hollywood Police Department, where, he remarks, he saw the homeless in a different light than he had as a youth. Yonce moved to Ocala in 1983 and joined the Ocala Police Department as a patrol officer. He attained the rank of major and became a bureau commander before he accepted the position with the city in 2016. He remains a certified reserve officer with OPD. Yonce and his wife Darlene, married for 38 years, have two sons and two grandchildren. Darlene Yonce said his family’s safety has always been her husband’s “number one priority.” Diane Coleman, a longtime advocate for the local homeless community, serves as manager of the Center for Life on North Pine Avenue, which is a program of Interfaith Emergency Services and helps homeless persons with health care services including medicines. She collaborates regularly with Yonce. “The trust Dennis builds up with homeless people in the field allows us to get to know their true story,” Coleman asserts. Yonce feels that all people, regardless of income or social standing, should be treated equally and with respect. “Everyone deserves the chance to improve their lives but, for some, the right opportunities and resources haven’t been there,” he notes. Yonce regularly shuttles between several motels on Silver Springs Boulevard, where he places clients and then follows up on their security and confirms that room charges are paid. He recently had seven clients in one of the locations, with some of the placements completed under COVID-19 emergency grants. He says a mix of issues contribute to homelessness, such as mental health concerns, substance abuse, past criminal history and prior employment problems. He feels that constantly arresting people is not the long-range solution. Resolutions might involve emergency shelter, medications or mental health services, housing placement, or providing the person paid transportation back home, where there may be support that is lacking here. Such was the case with a woman from New England who was living in a tent near Maricamp Road. She had been arrested for DUI and her vehicle was towed, impounded and sold at auction. Yonce learned she was on probation and was “scared of living on the street.” He quickly developed a plan and

she was provided transportation back to her home, where she had a support network. Yonce was “awesome and vigilant” in his help, she affirms. “He helped me at a low point and I felt empowered, I felt I had a voice. He’s a good listener and he wants to make a difference.” The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that communities receiving HUD funding for homelessness intervention and prevention services conduct a yearly census of the homeless population, called the annual Pointin-Time Count, which is required for federal grant distribution. According to Marion County Homeless Council data, that census shows an average of 574 people each of the last four years who were in emergency and transitional shelters or were unsheltered. Yonce remains concerned about high “barriers,” or rules and regulations for clients—such as curfew hours and access denied for outdated criminal records—which are put in place by some shelters, many of which are faith-based. There also has been some controversy over a city ordinance that doesn’t allow people to “lodge” or sleep and remain in a place where trespass laws might apply. He says he would like to see increased cooperation among the Continuum of Care partners and governmental agencies, especially when it comes to children in homeless situations. “Over the years, I have seen people from all walks of life suffer in ways far beyond explanation,” he notes. “The sense of fulfillment that I have been a part of making a difference in someone’s life has been the driving force. To have been there for them, either by myself or as part of a team, has always fulfilled the inner me and drives my next step. I just follow my heart and the guidance has been right on.” He says he does expect effort from those he tries to help and that if a person “will give effort, I’ll match it.” “As a community,” he offers, “we can make it happen for the homeless, one person at a time.”

Everyone deserves the chance to improve their lives but, for some, the right opportunities and resources haven’t been there.

To learn more, visit the City of Ocala Office of Homeless Prevention website at www.ocalafl.org; the Marion County Homeless Council at www.mchcfl.org; and Interfaith Emergency Services at www.iesmarion.org United Way of Marion County offers information about local resources through its 211 phone line.

June ‘20


Day in the Life By John Jernigan

In observing the beauty that exists in the here and now, we can find the extraordinary revealed within the ordinary. Each month we invite you to see our community with fresh eyes through the lens of our talented photographers.

“This photo is a perfect combination of photography, nostalgia and pizza. It really is a slice of everyday life photographed, shot in a sort of “street style” that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places. There is a feeling of comfort at Lorito’s. It is part of Ocala, from the neon sign that illuminates the boulevard to times spent watching John keep up with orders on a Friday night. I was raised on their sauce.”


Virtual Viewing Appleton Museum of Art Curator of Exhibitions Patricia Tomlinson talks about going beyond just seeing art and moving toward experiencing art. Tomlinson, a former professional archaeologist, joined the Appleton in 2016 after serving as curatorial staff in the New World Department at the Denver Art Museum. By Patricia Tomlinson



do this for you, but we also do it for ourselves. All of us in the arts do it because we truly love it. In addition to filling your souls, it fills ours. We are in the arts because we are very aware that art changes your lives for the better, as it has changed ours.

JUNE’S TEACHING TUESDAYS A new project video is posted every Tuesday at 10am on The Appleton’s Facebook page, YouTube channel and website. They are perfect for ages 7-12, but anyone at any age can enjoy them using basic arts and craft supplies found at home. 6/2 Make Gluten-Free Dough 6/9 Make Salt Dough 6/16 Coil and Pinch Pot 6/23 Draw a Guitar 6/30 Simple Fireworks Visit www.appletonmuseum.org for more information. Appleton Museum of Art, 4333 E Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala (352) 291-4455

Photo courtesy of the Appleton Museum of Art


t’s well known that people turn to the arts for comfort, solace and beauty. Even in the most difficult of times, art can offer hope and provide snippets of joy that shine through darkness. That is why, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been so vital that arts communities keep functioning, even though it may be in different ways than we are used to or perhaps even imagined. Whether it be a Facebook Live viewing of a world-renowned symphony or a small-town band, the arts have helped make sense of a confusing world and provided an anchor to those who’ve felt adrift. Additionally, certain platforms provide the ability to “see” that your friends are watching the same event as you. This helps bring a community together, even though they may not all be in the same location. It’s been fun for me to see who has joined a live performance I’m watching online and then commenting with them on the performance. Someone mentioned to me that when she sees that her friends have also joined live digital events, she doesn’t feel as alone. That’s a wonderful thing. In addition to the performing arts, visual arts have stepped up, too. Artists are painting live, participating in online interviews and conducting virtual gallery tours. Zoom has provided an online platform for art conversations that multiple people can join. Museums, as vital community participants, have also generated incredible content. My curatorial colleagues across the globe have investigated specific paintings in depth, giving interesting behind-the-scenes information. Museum educators have provided fun and educational art activities for children, and museum directors worldwide have sent out messages of comfort and reassurance that we will continue to preserve and protect the world’s heritage. The Appleton Museum of Art is no different. We always strive to bring you the best we can, from educational programming to inspiring exhibitions, to new and interesting research about art and artists. During these challenging times, we have worked hard to create videos of our exhibitions for you to enjoy from home, began our “Teaching Tuesday” make-athome programming and introduced you to insider information about our artworks. I will admit that we



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