Ocala Style August '20

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AUG ‘20


VINTAGE STYLE ocalastyle.com




Close to WEC - 25, 44 or 69 Acres! Once you stand on the expansive front porch of this charming southern-style home and take in the flawless view of Granddaddy Oaks, rolling hills, and lush pastures, you will know you’re home. 7-Stall show stable with 1/1 apartment, 6 Stall barn with A/C office/break room, plus separate air-conditioned rooms for tack, feed and storage. Additional barn provide ample storage for hay, feed or equipment. A dressage area, lush pastures and shaded riding trails you can consistently ride on all year long complete this incredible property. $1,500,000 to $3,900,000 Call for options

Fine Details Abound in this Private, Exquisite Home Set on 22¹ acres boasting high elevations and mature foliage, this 5 BR, 5.5 BA home features the woodwork of The Matthew Fortin Collection. Perfectly designed with a floor plan that promotes openness infused with warmth from an abundance of windows. Fine adornments are evident from the faux-painted trey ceilings to the custom crown molding to the intricate chandeliers. Entertaining is easy with the oversized Chef ’s kitchen featuring state-of-the-art appliances and custom, hand-milled mahogany cabinets. After dinner, adjourn to the music room lined with acoustic walls to provide the ultimate listening experience throughout the home and outdoors. Expansive screen enclosed area gives way to pool, hot tub, and summer kitchen with everything you need for outdoor living and relaxing while enjoying time with family and friends. Lush landscaping borders the edges of the lanai making it your own private setting. Small barn for use of your choice. $2,599,000

Bel Lago

Signature Stallions

Newly completed home on 1.55 acres with beautiful views overlooking lake in gated equine friendly community. Open kitchen, formal dining room, family room with fireplace overlooking lake. Pool surrounded by Wrought iron fencing. 2-car garage. $859,000

Strategically located close to WEC & HITS. Show Stable with 8-large stalls, office, feed & tack room. Separate 4-stall barn with hay storage above. Office features reception area, 1.5 bath and full kitchen. Round pen, 8 paddocks, and mature landscaping. $1,299,000

Bellechase Luxurious living designed for entertaining at its finest. The gourmet kitchen and open floor plan caters to both family and guests. Home features 4 bedrooms 4 baths, office, formal dining plus upstairs game room. Master suite and 2nd guest bedroom is located downstairs. Wooden stairway leads you to second floor and offers 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, plus game/bonus room. The outdoor living sports screen enclosed pool, summer kitchen, plus outdoor fireplace sitting area. Residence is positioned just minutes from all local amenities. $ 736,855

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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Hunt Murty Publisher | Jennifer jennifer@magnoliamediaco.com


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DIRETOR OF SALES AND PROMOTIONS Lee Kerr lee@magnoliamediaco.com ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Evelyn Anderson evelyn@magnoliamediaco.com Sarah Belyeu sarah@magnoliamediaco.com Clif “Skip” Linderman skip@magnoliamediaco.com Tammy Slay-Erker tammy@magnoliamediaco.com



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Dave Adams Rick Shaw

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Publisher’s Note

riving an antique car is like bringing a conversation piece everywhere you go. It’s an invitation to everyone you encounter that says you are approachable. So, people feel free to ask questions about all sorts of details that most people would find impolite to ask a stranger who drove up in, say, a fancy new luxury car. I hope this month’s cover similarly piques your curiosity and draws you in. Restoring cars takes lots of money for sure, but it also takes a lot of patience. The gentlemen who restored the car on the cover are good friends and I know they have made many great memories through the painstaking restoration process of every car they tackle. I hope you enjoy reading a little bit about why they do what they do on page 58. Speaking of being approachable, I hope you enjoy getting to know our new Ocala City Manager Sandra Wilson, on page 62, as much as we have. I smiled when she described her aspiration as a very young girl to be a secretary and then the challenge to learn typing in high school. I aspired to the same path until life exposed me to more opportunities, just as in the case of Sandra. With every step we take in life, we bring forward a host of skills and lessons learned to serve us in the next stage. Even the ones we will later take for granted—like our typing skills! When I first met Sandra as assistant city manager in late 2018, I asked her what city departments she oversaw. When she replied, I awkwardly blurted, “Wow! You must be very smart to oversee such technical departments!” I am always enthusiastic to get to know smart women who have the guts to tackle big jobs. They inspire me. But what especially struck me in that initial conversation with Sandra was how gracious and down to earth she was. After learning more about her journey, it’s easy to understand why. She hasn’t forgotten where she came from, the winding road, the sacrifices and the hard work it took to get to this high point in her career. We’re rooting for Sandra’s success in this new role, and are reassured during this difficult time that our beloved city has someone at the helm with wisdom, earned from endurance and compassion for other people. The other fascinating locals you’ll meet in this issue share their broad wealth of knowledge—from highly regarded researchers at IHMC inventing new ways to augment human intelligence, to health care professionals helping us manage our stress and keep our minds sharp, to those guiding the Ocala International Airport into the future who remind us, if we work together, the sky’s the limit.

Jennifer Hunt Murty Publisher



Left to right: Azim Soju, Vice President, General Counsel, Hotel Development & Management Group; and Chris Langley, Market Executive, Citizens First Bank.

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Real Estate by Design Tasha Osbourne


Photography by Meagan Gumpert

hether you want to sell your home or search for your dream home, you deserve personalized service from a real estate expert who can help you achieve exceptional results. Your Central Florida connection to the world renowned Sotheby’s International Realty is The Osbourne Group. Ranked among REAL Trends 2020 America’s Best Real Estate Professionals, Tasha Osbourne is known for always going the extra mile, matching buyers with their dream homes and helping sellers exceed their goals. Building her business knowledge in Massachusetts led Tasha to graduate with a degree in business management, which she parlayed into the mortgage industry, title and real estate acquisitions. Since 2006, she has been able to tailor-fit each customer’s experience to match their personal financial needs. Using her expertise, she is able to minimize unpleasant surprises or delays to make sure clients avoid any future regrets. As one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands, Sotheby’s has served discerning buyers and sellers since 1744. By choosing Sotheby’s, you are aligning yourself with a brand historically known for achieving financial results others didn’t think were possible— proving that exceptional marketing creates a perception of value. As the second largest Sotheby’s affiliate, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty has access to a highly qualified clientele worldwide through exclusive channels and relationships across 72 countries. “We offer our customers the best exposures and opportunities with a personal touch,” Osbourne says. “We provide a seamless real estate transaction from beginning to end.” Her results speak for themselves, but her clients describe her as “exemplifying purpose, compassion, integrity and hard work.” No matter your price point, Osbourne promises to deliver a luxury experience.

I cannot begin to express how amazing my experience with Tasha Osbourne was. We sold our first home and bought our forever home in a very short amount of time. Our home was listed and sold in four days! Tasha was there ready to guide us through every step of the process, from telling us how to stage our house to what moving company to use, to when to set up our electricity at our new house. She was always available to help with a million questions. She always respected my opinions and gave sound seasoned advice and guidance. Buying and selling a house is such a personal complicated experience, I couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone else. I’ve also recommended her to my friends, who all have had equally stellar experiences with her.

Ms. Deals in Heels

Tasha Osbourne

Premier Sotheby’s International Realty tasha.osbourne@gmail.com (352) 613-6613 “Real estate by design— extraordinary results every time.”

-Samantha Kostowicz Aug ust ‘20


contents 52



ta b l e





Sheila Jernigan approaches culinary pursuits as an outlet for creativity and as a way to connect with loved ones. Our resident foodie Jill Paglia shares two crowd-pleasing Italian classics.

de pa r tme n ts

insid e r




When the pandemic hit, the Schlenkers found themselves in a classic “who’s hotter” standoff while binge watching an old TV series.







Meet Ocala’s new weekly newspaper and the distinguished team behind it.

feature s










Selestine Washington-Poole has a sparkling wit and style for days. Great fashion and jewelry take center stage as we peek inside one of Ocala’s most historic landmark buildings. The downtown campus of the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition is home to some fascinating research.







Poor judgment and a tragic accident sent Lauren Bandi’s life into chaos. But she found a new way forward in an unexpected place.






Environmentalists Guy Marwick and Bob Knight are using their expertise to try to save Florida’s natural resources, including our local springs. Ocala International Airport’s new terminal offers visitors a look at where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Frank Amatea and Gene Liles have a long history of restoring beauty and driveability to a wide range of classic and antique vehicles.


New Ocala City Manager Sandra Wilson has crafted a life filled with love, adventure and professional accomplishment.

How discrimination drives the longdocumented health care disparities facing Black people. Ocala Regional Medical Center and West Marion Community Hospital were named among the nation’s top 100 Best Hospitals for Orthopedic Surgery in a 2020 study. Local experts Grace Beck and Susan Cohen offer tips and guidance for exploring meditation and mindfulness. Some of the best preventative care for dementia is rooted in healthy habits.

o n th e c o ve r Sabrina Fissell and Emmanuel Vazquez take a spin in Frank Amatea’s restored 1948 Willys Jeepster, photographed by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery. Stilletto’s Stripe Maxi Dress, hat and jewelry from Dillard’s.

Special thanks to David and Lisa Irwin Midgett for providing the location for this month’s fashion shoot at the historic Coca-Cola Bottling Plant at 939 N. Magnolia Avenue. Built in 1939, the striking Mission/Spanish Revival style landmark building is being reimagined as an exciting new venue.

Clockwise from left: Photo by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery; photo byDave Miller; photo by John Jernigan

h e a l th



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Aug ust ‘20



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Social Braden Sredl was among the guests at the grand opening of the Brick City Farmer’s Market, which is held Thursday afternoons in southwest Ocala and features a variety of vendor offerings, including his family’s goat milk soaps and lotions. Photo by Simon Mendoza

Aug ust ‘20



Mark Davison



Troy and Julie Moore



ichel Martin, owner of Bleu Basil, and Mark Davison, owner of We’re Jammin’, joined forces to organize the Brick City Farmer’s Market, which opened June 4th and runs 4-8pm Thursdays on the grounds of Beautiful Moments Party Rental and Design on Southwest 60th Avenue. Vendor offerings range from handcrafted items to locally grown fruits and vegetables, assorted meats and seafood.

Lucy Cook


Backpack and School Supply Giveaway Local sponsors allow Paddock Mall to help thousands of kids get ready for the school year in connection with their Back to School Fest. By Lisa McGinnes


Photo courtesy of Paddock Mall

very August, local families look forward to Paddock Mall’s Back to School Fest. It’s an opportunity for parents and kids to have a day of fun on one of the last Saturdays before the new school year starts—with live entertainment, giveaways, face painting and more. In recent years, the event has included a collection of school supplies to be donated to needy Marion County students. This year, with help from AdventHealth Ocala, Grandview Clydesdales, Ocala Electric Utility, Public Education Foundation of Marion County and REVO Church, the mall is taking the school supply donations to the next level. “We are giving away 5,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies,” says Ashley Wheeler-Gerds, general manager of Paddock Mall. “You can’t tell they are donated—they are quality backpacks based on grade levels so that the students will want to carry them.” Registration got underway on July 20th. Parents can go to www.eventbrite.com/e/paddock-mallbackpack-and-school-supply-giveaway-tickets114140469216?aff=ebdssbeac to register until the 5,000

slots are filled. Families will have the choice to pick up backpacks at the August 8th event, at a drive through outside the mall, or have backpacks delivered to their assigned school during the first week of class through the Public Education Foundation. “This will allow for anyone in any situation to receive a backpack,” Wheeler-Gerds notes. She says the giveaway was made possible through community partnerships. “We are very excited to host this event and will be joined by Titus O’Neil of the WWE, Joe Johnson, CEO of AdventHealth Ocala, and hopefully more community leaders will lend a hand,” she shares. “We are hoping that with this large donation and the collection of school supplies with our local partners we will be able to help Marion County get off to a great start.” The Paddock Mall Back to School Fest will be held on August 8th from 8am-12pm. For more information, visit www.paddockmall.com or follow on social media @PaddockMall.


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Burning Bright Ignite presents donation to Kimberly’s Center for vital new project. By Beth Whitehead



From left: Niki Tripodi, Lina Piedrahita, Jessica Nisbett, Dr. Manal Fakhoury, Jeanne Henningsen, Dawn Westgate

for children while they are receiving services.” Kimberly’s Center plans to complete construction on the project this fall. “The play area will supply a much-needed outdoor space for our children to begin to heal from abuse and neglect while engaging in therapeutic play in nature,” notes Dawn Westgate, executive director of Kimberly’s Center. Prior to this year’s fundraiser, proceeds from the luncheon were reserved for the Ocala Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Center. But the volunteer organization has now opened the pool of potential beneficiaries to other local nonprofits addressing domestic concerns. Ignite is accepting submissions from nonprofit agencies through August 31st. For more information on nonprofit applications or how you can help, visit www.igniteforocala.com.

Photo courtesy of Ignite


gnite recently took one more step towards its vision of creating a safe and loving Ocala and Marion County community by raising $40,000 for Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection. Proceeds from a silent auction and jewelry raffle at the 2020 Ignite Luncheon are helping to realize the plans for a climbing wall, swings and slides into a reality for the Kimberly’s Center outdoor therapeutic play area. During the March 12th luncheon, volunteers offered heartfelt testimonials as well as presentations on the history of both Ignite and Kimberly’s Center. With the total project cost of $200,000 for the new play area, Ignite is excited to donate a fifth of the expense. “We are so grateful that we were able to have our event before everyone went into lockdown and are delighted to raise $40,000,” says Jeanne Henningsen, founder of Ignite and a certified professional coach. “These funds are proudly raised to provide a safe space

Lost and Found By Dave Schlenker | Illustration by David Vallejo


mid the tension, pandemic and political bile simmering outside our doors, one contentious debate boiled inside our home in recent weeks: Who’s hotter, Jack or Sawyer? These names may ring familiar with people who turned on a TV this century, but the Schlenkers just discovered Lost (the hit television show that averaged over 11 million U.S. viewers per episode). We are not a big TV family—not because we are above the medium but because it is nearly impossible to find something all four of us can agree on. These days, our daughters often watch their shows on mobile devices, while my wife—due to an obvious chemical imbalance—does not like Monty Python. So, during quarantine, we apprehensively settled on Lost, which premiered in 2004. For those who lived in the same cave we did during that time, here is a summary: A plane full of impossibly good-looking people crashes onto an island ruled by angry smoke and the feet of a crocodile-man statue. There, they punch each other often, apparently protecting the hair gel they use to keep themselves gorgeous for six seasons without access to a Publix. Turns out, there are other good-looking people on the island and one malevolent nerd who gets imprisoned in a room with mystery electricity, vintage records, torture cells and a button that must be pushed every 108 minutes because…well, that will be explained later in logical plotlines involving time travel, a fried chicken chain, a nuclear bomb, a Camaro, empty coffins and a secret stash of hair mousse Desmond must have kept in the well of doom.

Spoiler Alert: As our daughter, Katie, adeptly proclaimed in the aftermath, the island’s power ultimately was a giant drain plug. The heart of Lost was the win-the-maiden struggle between Jack the neurosurgeon and Sawyer the sneering conman, whose top five shirt buttons were lost in the crash. It was a battle between the clean-cut doc and the sweaty scoundrel. Much to my surprise, my sweet wife went with greasy-locked Sawyer, while the girls went with preppy Jack (or dead-but-hunky Boone, but let’s not go there). Team Jack vs. Team Sawyer was as intense as the still-relevant Mary Ann vs. Ginger debate from the ‘60s and ‘70s. That answer, of course, is Mary Ann, however the unrest still stings. But here’s the thing we most enjoyed about Lost: We were together every night during dark times. We laughed, gasped and carefully dissected theories. Our dinner conversations were about fun and fantasy instead of pandemics and politics. We looked forward to it every night, sometimes making brownies and cookies for viewing. And there were tears during the finale. We will truly miss these weird and gorgeous people, who may or may not be zombies. We also will miss our time on that island with each other. So much so, we are scrambling for another baffling serial mystery to watch together. Until we find it, I plan to let my hair grow long and greasy, sculp my sneer, unbutton my shirt and learn to punch sexy doctors who try to woo my girl. Homicidal smoke is no match for Team Dave. Aug ust ‘20



Ocala’s New Newspaper

The Ocala Gazette is the new local weekly newspaper from the publisher of Ocala Style. The Gazette is all local, all the time.

By Susan Smiley-Height Photography by John Jernigan


n launching the new Ocala Gazette, Publisher Jennifer Hunt Murty expressed

on behalf of the team behind it that among their reasons for doing so is because “we care.” “We are part of this community, and we want the same thing you want—health, security,

prosperity, transparency, acceptance, and hope when the future gets a little dark,” she notes. The leadership team intends for the publication to be a blend of community voices,

watchdog journalism and a chronicle of the lives of area citizens. The mission is to inform and uplift readers by reporting on events, issues and stories with accuracy, fairness and passion. The Gazette print edition appears each Monday and the online presence provides daily news. The inaugural edition was launched July 6th. Immediate responses via social media were along the lines of “Great publication” and “A reason to look forward to Monday.” According to Murty, another reason for starting the newspaper were significant personnel cutbacks at the local daily newspaper, resulting in diminished local news coverage. “Initially, we expected someone else to fill the void, and so we waited and watched,” Murty says. “It seemed that large portions of Ocala were enjoying a renaissance of revitalization and


growth, and yet we worried that powerful groups, politicians and businesses writing their own narrative without the checks and balances of an active local press had the potential to create conditions ripe for irreversible harm to a community we loved.” To underscore the Gazette’s locally oriented mission and character, Murty turned to veteran community journalists. The Gazette’s core news staff includes Brad Rogers, who spent a quartercentury with the Ocala Star-Banner, including 20 years as the paper’s editorial page editor; Bill Thompson, who covered Marion County for the Star-Banner for nearly 15 years; and Bruce Ackerman, a Star-Banner staff photographer for almost three decades. “We did not feel we could afford the learning curve of hiring journalists from outside the market who did not already know the community,” Murty offers. “Ocala needs the Ocala Gazette as a vehicle for community news” as well as a government watchdog,” Rogers states. “A vibrant community needs an equally vibrant news media to not only chronicle the gains and losses of the community, but to keep an eye on our decision-makers to ensure they are acting in the best interests of our readers.”

Meet Executive Editor Brad Rogers


f you have lived in Ocala/ Marion County for any length of time, you likely know the name of Brad Rogers. From 1999-2019 he was the editorial page editor for the Ocala Star-Banner. In that role, he raised awareness about community issues such as water quality, education, children, the environment, politics and demographics, and showcased those locally who have worked to improve the quality of life for all. Rogers, a graduate of the University of

Florida, honed his chops over 41 years in journalism in South Carolina and Florida, beginning as

a cub reporter. His honors and awards include being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He has been married to his wife Debbie, a veteran local schoolteacher, for 37 years. They are parents to two adult children. Rogers serves on boards with the Salvation Army, Kids Central, Marion County Children’s Alliance and Appleton Museum of Art. He feels Ocala/Marion County needs the Ocala Gazette as “a vehicle for community news.”

Meet Deputy Editor Bill Thompson


ill Thompson’s career in journalism started in 1997, when he took a job as a reporter with the Tampa Tribune. In 2000, he joined the staff at the Ocala Star-Banner, where he served as reporter and assistant editorial page editor. In 2014, he became the editorial page editor for the Lakeland Ledger. Thompson, who was born and raised in Maryland, is a graduate of the University of Maryland and is a veteran of the U.S. Army. He and his wife Kelly have four children, ranging in age from 18 to 11. In his spare time, Thompson says he likes to read and “keep up with the honey-do list.” He feels the time is right for the Ocala Gazette because “Ocala needs another news source.” Aug ust ‘20



Meet Photography Editor Bruce Ackerman


discussing a bill,” he says. “It ran five columns wide on the Sunday front page. And I said, ‘This is for me!’ I was hooked.” Ackerman moved to Ocala in 1991 and started working for the Ocala Star-Banner in 1992. Over the years, he has covered local news, features and events, including hurricanes, and a wide variety of sporting events. He has consistently won awards on state and national levels. In his spare time, he is a big fan of auto racing and taking care of his 1997 Chevy Blazer 4×4, which has more than 400,000 miles on it. As for the debut of the Ocala Gazette, this is “history in the making,” he states.

ruce Ackerman received his first camera when he was 2 years old. As he grew up, a camera was never far away, including when he was a student at the University of Richmond. That was where he encountered a crash scene outside campus in which two female students died. The next day, AP, UPI and the Richmond Times Dispatch all wanted his photos. He soon was offered a job as a stringer by UPI. He also shot for the Richmond Times Dispatch, covering sports, features, the Legislature and a visit by President Ronald Reagan. “The thing that really got me hooked in this profession was when the Washington Post ran a photo that I took of two legislators


nitially, the Gazette will be available at Wawa and RaceTrac locations, and some Publix stores, throughout Marion County.

Subscribers, depending on their zip code, will receive the Gazette either by courier or via USPS. Access to the website and digital edition will

Our mission is to inform and uplift our readers by reporting on the events, issues and stories that shape Ocala with accuracy, fairness and passion. We also strive to serve as a forum where all voices can be heard and to chronicle our community’s history.

be free for the foreseeable future. For more information about how to subscribe, advertise or reach the news team, call (352) 732-0073.


Marion’s Youngest Broker

Brittney Mahaffey

Ocala’s Finest Real Estate


cala native Brittney Mahaffey is not only praised by her clients for her proven track record of delivering great results, she’s a dedicated mom and still finds time to give back to the community she loves. She says her marketability as Marion County’s youngest real estate broker begins with her commitment to make her clients feel they are her “top priority.” With a background that includes home inspections, she knows exactly what a buyer should be on the lookout for in a new home— and exactly what one wants to avoid.

What sets you apart as a real estate broker?

People choose me, according to them, because I am patient, consistent, and my communication skills let clients know they are a top priority. I pride myself on my work ethic, going above and beyond for clients. Clients often apologize for “bothering me” because of their past experiences with other agents and feeling as though they were an inconvenience to them. I want [my clients] to understand that I work for them.

Why would other agents benefit from joining your team?

As far as other agents needing a brokerage to join, I believe mine is the place to be. I am equipped with resources to assist new agents. I have quality systems in place that allow other agents to become successful. Having lower overhead enables me to charge a 90/10 split and a low monthly fee.

Who is your typical client?

The majority of my business has been with first-time home buyers, but I am currently expanding into new construction and luxury properties. My goal is to offer my clients access to a variety of great options, no matter the budget. I am now offering sellers to list with me for only $1,000.

How are you connected to the community?

Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery

I was born and raised in Ocala, which gives me leverage in area/location knowledge. I serve on the Success by 6 Leadership Council of ELC [Early Learning Coalition] and I am a member of the Junior League of Ocala.

What others are saying about Brittney

“Brittney is respected by her peers for her great attention to detail and her compassionate demeanor. She has a great work ethic and has demonstrated her willingness to go the extra mile to get the job done. I highly recommend her services!” - Amanda Daugherty

Brittney Mahaffey

Broker/Owner Ocala’s Finest Real Estate www.ocalasfinestrealestate.com bamsellsocala@gmail.com (352) 840-3079 Aug ust ‘20




By Nick Steele Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery

Selestine WASHINGTON-POOLE When we met the lovely Mrs. Washington-Poole, she charmed us with not only her gift for conversation and sparkling wit, but her fashionable attire and striking accessories. Born and raised in Marion County by a dedicated single parent, the spirited 70-year old attended the College of Central Florida and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee before returning home to her beloved mother Frankie Lee Washington and firstborn son Mel. “I cried and came home!” After working in the field of education for many years, she recently opened Precious Oaks, a premier event venue in Ocala.

Three words that describe you? I’m very creative. Interior decorating is my favorite pastime. According to others, I’m also inspirational, especially to the students I have mentored. Lastly, I’m tenacious. The word “can’t” isn’t even allowed in my house. Describe your personal style? I prioritize elegance most of all and I have eclectic taste. I mesh elements from the most diverse of styles in order to create my own. Do you shop vintage or thrift? I have found many hidden treasures in local thrift shops, like Goodwill and Sheriffs Ranches Thrift Stores. Favorite salon? My favorite hair salon is Inspired Creation Beauty Salon. My go-to nail salon is Perfect Ten Nails. Favorite restaurant? Ipanema Brazilian Steakhouse. It engulfs you in an unbelievably cozy and relaxing atmosphere, all while serving the best steak in town. Favorite place to enjoy nature? I really enjoy biking the Santos 22


trails with my three sons when the weather’s nice; it has 80+ miles to challenge beginners like me. Favorite day trip? I love to visit the many breathtaking lakes and springs in the area and watch the sunrise, hoping to catch a hog of a fish. It’s great for relaxation and motivation. Being a nature lover, I love floating on a tube down the Rainbow River. It’s breathtaking! Nickname? I’m known to some as Tina, Mrs. P, Mrs. Poole and Precious. Something most people don’t know about you? I was chosen by my peers to receive the 28th annual Gabor Employee Recognition Award in the category of Career Services for the years 2016 and 2017; it’s a prestigious award that was created to recognize outstanding service to College of Central Florida students, the college, and the community. Most treasured possession? My children Vipond, Mel, Vimel, Mya and Arvelle, as well as the rest of

my family, are invaluable. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in this world. Best book you read in the last year? Becoming by Michelle Obama—It is a powerful and inspiring book by an amazing first lady. I had the opportunity to meet and work with her on President Obama’s campaign trail. It was one of the highlights of my life. Attending the President’s inauguration was an experience of a lifetime! Remember to vote, the choice is yours! Don’t vote, the choice is theirs! Favorite saying you live by? “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” I’ve always made it a point to remember this as “life happens” and I made sure my children learned it as well. Some people enter your life for only a short time but teach you lifelong lessons on what you want and don’t want. Others may stay for a while, long enough for you to get attached and love, just before their time with you comes to an end. When it comes to staying a lifetime, family is the only group of people you know who will never leave. Friends may come and go, but family is forever.

Calvin Klein dress from Dillard’s; 14k yellow gold, amazonite & diamond ring from Gause & Son Jewelers; golden cuff bracelet from Agapanthus.

photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery | shot on location at the historic Coca-Cola Bottling Plant | fashion styling by Karlie Loland hair and makeup by Nicole “Nicci” Orio of Pretty n Pinned | models Caroline Mansilla and MaRah Williams


Opposite: Caroline in an Antonio Melani dress from Dillard’s; 18k yellow gold & diamond earrings and 16 carat pink tourmaline ring with white and black diamonds in 18k rose gold from Gause & Son Jewelers; Pandora silver and rose gold rings with pink Murano glass leaf from Agapanthus. This page: MaRah in Cece top and shorts from Dillard’s; Cucina Artel earrings and Julie Vos ring from Shannon Roth.

Opposite: Caroline in an Eileen Fisher dress from Dillard’s; 14k matte finish fishbone style earrings, cigar band ring & cuff bracelet with diamond accents from Gause & Son Jewelers. This page: MaRah in an Antonio Melani blouse & Tina Rich pant from Dillard’s; Roberto Coin 18k gold earrings, 14k yellow gold, clover design necklace from Gause & Son Jewelers; Julie Vos bangles from Shannon Roth.

Opposite: Caroline in an Antonio Melani silk blouse and CP jeans from Dillard’s; tiered chain and bead necklace from Shannon Roth; White agate bracelets and rings from Gause & Son Jewelers. This page: MaRah in a DKNY chiffon dress from Dillard’s; Green quartz necklace and bracelet with 14k yellow gold detail, Freeform 18k yellow gold rings with diamond accents from Gause & Son Jewelers.

The Future is Now Inside IHMC Ocala’s hexagonal glass walls you’ll discover the most fascinating research into artificial intelligence, robotics and more. By David Moore Photography by Bruce Ackerman and courtesy of IHMC


ou’ve driven by the unique hexagonal shaped building along Silver Springs Boulevard in downtown Ocala. You’ve heard longtime Ocalans call it the old library. Your neighbor takes her children to Science Saturday events. You may have even attended a fascinating lecture there. And yet you still find yourself trying to recall what exactly the IHMC on the sign in front of the building stands for and what it is they actually do there. The building is home to the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System that is affiliated with several state universities. The organization is one of the world’s leading research institutes, with scientists and engineers investigating a



broad range of topics related to understanding cognition in humans and machines. And now you know what the IHMC stands for. IHMC has locations in Ocala and Pensacola and the researchers work jointly between the two locations on many projects. You’re sure to be impressed with IHMC’s areas of research, which may sound like something straight out of the science fiction section of the library. These include: robotics, exoskeletons and human robotic interdependence; human health, resilience and performance; language processing; agile and distributed computing; autonomy and coactive design; computational and philosophical foundations; visualization and humancentered displays, among many others.


Pensacola people on it or has had Pensacola people on it at some point.”

Phishing and Email Scams

Bonnie Dorr

Artificial intelligence, or AI, may be what comes to mind as you read terms like augmentics, robotics and human-machine communication, but the work IHMC is doing goes beyond the standard definition. “For all of us at IHMC, AI is less about artificial intelligence and more about ways we can augment and amplify human intelligence,” says Ken Ford, IHMC’s founder and CEO. “Our scientists are very focused on improving the human condition by creating technological systems that leverage and extend human cognition. That’s the heart of the work we do.”

Research in Ocala

Ford’s words ring true when you look at the scope and variety of research projects being worked on here in Ocala, and how they may impact your life. Think cybersecurity, active defense against email scams and the spread of misinformation on social media, collaborating with computers, assessment tools for the military, and even a smartphone app that could help diagnose COVID-19. And that’s just a few of the projects we learned about when we met with Laurie Zink, IHMC’s development and community outreach director, and spoke with the five local researchers based out of the Ocala facility. One thing that’s clear from our discussion is the emphasis on collaboration at IHMC. As we share about some of the work the local research scientists are doing, keep in mind that all projects include researchers from both locations. They refer to this collaboration as the “six-hour hallway” between Ocala and Pensacola. “We are one organization and we have great collaborations with the folks in Pensacola,” said Bonnie Dorr, associate director and senior research scientist in Ocala. “Every project we speak about has Adam Dalton

As a leading researcher in the field of natural language processing, Dorr was recently recruited by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a think tank run by the U.S. Department of Defense, to join its Information Science and Technology (ISAT) study group. Dorr was excited to talk about the cybersecurity project she is currently working on as it deals with email scams, something almost everyone can relate to. Her research deals with phishing, which is an attempt to gain personal information like usernames, passwords and credit card details via email or electronic messaging by someone posing as a trusted entity. A social engineer is the name the researchers use to identify those who are conducting the scams. In the early stages of a phishing attack, Dorr explains that it is actually bots— autonomous programs on a network that can interact with computer systems or users—that send out these mass emails. For this project, researchers conducted an experiment to play along and respond, but they stretched responses out over the course of two months. As you progress in communication, you can begin to see when a human—the social engineer—takes over, based on spelling and grammar errors in the email. That should be a clue for you, Dorr says. In this scam, the social engineer asks the potential victim to buy gift cards, scratch off the back portions to reveal the numbers and then post photos of them into the email. With that info they can use the gift cards, basically stealing them away from you. But these scammers didn’t realize they were being played by the researchers.

Aug ust ‘20



“There were two things going on,” Dorr explains. “We were wasting the scammers’ time, and the other is that we were keeping them from scamming others. We were stalling so that we could collect some additional information and part of the goal of that project was indeed to identify the attacker. They actually revealed where they were because we deployed some software to find out that they were in Central Europe on an Android device. We can tell their language and what type of connection they have.” Lessons learned from this experiment led to the development of a system that received high marks from DARPA based on the conversational language used in the software to respond to the scammers and make them believe they were communicating with humans. Working with Dorr on this project was Adam Dalton, who served as lead, and Archna Bhatia, a research scientist in natural language processing at IHMC.

COVID-19? There’s An App For That

Imagine a smartphone app that could help you determine whether you should be tested for COVID-19 based on the sounds of your breathing. Researchers Bhatia and Arash Mahyari began working on this project several months ago to identify and distinguish COVID-19 breathing from regular breathing and other lung sounds. The conclusions from this research could be used to develop an app that would record a person’s breathing sounds. Based on those sounds, the app would inform you if you were a good candidate for COVID-19 testing. It would not offer a definitive answer for diagnosis, Bhatia notes, but it would reveal positive indicators for the disease. The app could be used by someone to determine if their cough is just a cold or potentially something more. The research for this app is based on a similar study conducted by Bhatia and Dorr relates to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which

Archna Bhatia

is a neurological disease that weakens muscles and impacts physical function. Because it weakens muscles, your speech and lungs can be impacted. Based on the sounds of your voice, researchers can determine if you have ALS or how much it has progressed. Using this research, an app could be developed that would record your speech and offer indicators for the disease. Once work on the app is completed, this would be a valuable tool for the medical community.

Viral Misinformation

We’ve all likely seen or read about an information campaign that has gone viral across social media and news platforms. When such campaigns bring about positive results, it’s considered a good thing. But what happens when it’s a misinformation or propaganda campaign spreading false information, or a scam like the Twitter hack in July regarding a bitcoin deal from 130 high profile accounts? The goal of one of Dalton’s other projects is to be able to identify the start of these information campaigns. “So, the first goal is to identify when that’s happening and who is initiating the campaign and who is it targeting,” Dalton offers. “Those are the big things that need to be discovered. Once identified, we need to understand the properties of the campaign and what mechanism it is using to disseminate this information. Once that’s known, what are the good counterstrategies to negate the effect of a negative campaign or to encourage the effect of a positive campaign?” This could be a game changer for social media platforms in the future. The goal is not to squash free speech, even if it’s erroneous. Instead, this software would alert gatekeepers to the campaigns and offer counter posts, from reputable sources, to help dispel the false information being touted.

Computers as Collaborators Arash Mahyari



Research scientist Ian Perera studies human and computer collaboration and communication, looking


for ways computers can be more of a collaborator for humans rather than just a tool. Think Siri or Alexa, but it’s not just those types of programs. Perera is working with systems that can not only give you the information you ask for, but one that remembers your previous requests and can potentially offer additional information related to your request. In the science domain, with cancer modeling, they are working on something called biocuration. It’s where you take all of the wealth of data you find in papers or databases and create an exchange where scientists can talk with the system and have a back and forth of ideas. “The computer can come back and say ‘Well, I see this thing that you mentioned is connected to something else that may be relevant,’” he reveals. “So that’s really enabling that back and forth collaboration.”

On Target

Mahyari is also conducting another study that involves examining the electroencephalogram (EEG) signals from the brains of military personnel before and after shooting practice. The brain activity is recorded before a shooting exercise and the accuracy of the shooting is measured. Then they go through two months of training and return for another recording of brain activity before a shooting exercise. “We want to see if just by looking at the EEG signals before the shooting activity, we can predict who will be a good shooter,” he said. “The second objective is to see which person is a better learner, which of these individuals made improvements after two months of training.” This information alone has great value to our military, but this work is also being combined with Perera’s collaborative communication analysis work

and Bhatia’s speech and language analysis work. While soldiers are having their EEG signals recorded during this shooting task, they will also be evaluated in terms of how they communicate under stress, and Bhatia’s work can be used to measure how they handle stress based on changes in their speech and linguistic patterns. As Perera notes, “to be a leader, it’s not enough to just be a good shooter—you also have to be able to make vital decisions and communicate effectively under stress. This work brings us closer to quantifying a holistic view of what it means to be a soldier.”

An Architectural Marvel

The IHMC building itself is a bit of an architectural marvel. With its hexagon shape, glass walls and a skylight that spans 30 feet across the center of the roof, it is unlike any other building in the city. It was built in 1969 as the public library. After the library moved to larger quarters in 2004, IHMC purchased the building in 2008 and opened it as its second location in 2010. Most would agree this one-of-a-kind building in Ocala is perfect for the one-of-a-kind IHMC and the extraordinary research and collaboration it supports. CEO Ford certainly agrees. “First of all, Ocala is a great community,” he asserts. “The city has welcomed us with open arms from day one and local officials helped us locate a wonderful facility downtown. Our researchers and staff love the convenience of having an office downtown, where they can walk to so many restaurants for lunch or dinner. Also, Ocala is centrally located in the state and puts us within easy driving distance of other research centers and universities.” In addition to housing offices and labs for its research scientists, IHMC has hosted a variety of popular public events including its Evening Lecture Series, which features guests speaking on a variety of educational and scientific topics, and monthly Science Saturdays for elementary students during the school year as well as summer robotics camps. The researchers love these opportunities to connect with the local community. “That’s one of the great things that I think we all like to do,” Dalton offers about the Science Saturdays events. “We find a topic that is scientifically relevant in some way—like how to build a bridge—and we teach them how to build paper bridges or race cars and teach them how to build race cars out of balloons. It’s just so great to have the opportunity to interact with the community and to teach the next generation of scientists in Ocala. It’s a great place to do this work.”

For more information on IHMC and its many areas of research, go to www.ihmc.us Ian Perera

Aug ust ‘20



Loving Care at Paddock Ridge Trying to decide between home care and assisted living? The senior care experts at Paddock Ridge can help your family understand your options.


hen considering care options for you or an elderly loved one, there are multiple options to choose from: adult daycares, senior home care, assisted living, skilled nursing facilities…how do you decide? Two of the most prevalent choices for seniors who need assistance are home care and assisted living communities. Deciding which option would be a better fit for your family depends on numerous considerations. How much assistance or care is needed? What are your main objectives for care? What is your budget? What resources will be needed on a routine basis? “When contemplating which option is best, it is not as straightforward a process to just choose a company or community and call it a day,” explains Brittney Graham, Paddock Ridge director of sales. “Certainly, every individual preference is different, but considering the differences casts a true benefit in comprehension. It may actually cause you to



reevaluate your original thought process.” The senior living experts at Paddock Ridge recommend that when your family reaches the point of considering assistance, determine what has triggered you to consider looking in the first place. That will help you evaluate your options. When living at home, there are an endless number of tasks to be done regularly and, at some point, one or more of those tasks become taxing endeavors for a senior to complete. That’s when assistance becomes necessary. Most families will choose either senior home care or moving to an assisted living community. You might be astonished at the differences between the two. When considering full-time care, we all want the best care we can afford. Most of our senior population live on a fixed income so stretching that income is essential. When comparing the costs of home care and assisted living, one is based on an hourly rate and the other a monthly rate. Local home care agencies cost, on

Photo courtesy of Paddock Ridge

Photography by Bruce Ackerman and Meagan Gumpert

SPONSORED average, between $20-$24 an hour. Local assisted living communities, after the monthly charge is divided by 24 hours a day, seven days a week, average around $4.50 to $7 per hour. While some folks only need limited hourly assistance, if your loved one needs 24/7 care, the costs for home care could run between $14,000 and $17,000 a month—triple the cost of assisted living. Of course you could opt to receive a shorter amount of time and care, if that’s a viable option, but you’d still have to factor in the regular household expenses and maintenance which are included in assisted living. Both home caregivers and caregivers in assisted living have, at minimum, the training required to work in senior care. With home care, you have one caregiver per shift. In an assisted living community, you have a collaborative team and support available at all times. Why is this important? Dependability. It’s the difference between relying solely on one person versus a team. As your family considers which will be the more manageable option, the team at Paddock Ridge

recommends you make a list of objectives that are important to you. This list can vary but may include the capabilities of providing balanced and nutritious meals daily, a clean and safe environment, an engaging atmosphere, opportunities for socialization and interaction and transportation. “The best thing to do is your research,” Graham recommends. “We know the choice is overwhelming, which is why we consider ourselves counselors in helping you make the best decision for you or your loved one. At Paddock Ridge, everyone is family, and our goal is to find you the best care solution.” Call to arrange your family’s free care consultation. No matter which option you choose, they’ll be ready to provide expert assistance at Paddock Ridge. Paddock Ridge › 4001 SW 33rd Court, Ocala FL 34474 › (352) 512-9191 › www.paddockridge.com

Environmentalists Guy Marwick and Bob Knight are using their expertise to try to save Florida’s natural resources. And many of their efforts begin and end at Marion County’s freshwater springs. By Marian Rizzo


Photography by Bruce Ackerman


ou dip a paddle in the Silver River and your kayak glides noiselessly between two riverbanks encased in cypress knees, moss-shrouded oaks and palmetto fronds. Or maybe you’re draped across a huge inner tube, leisurely drifting down the Rainbow River. Or, perhaps, you’ve hitched a ride on one of Silver Springs’ glass-bottom boats, and you’re shooting pictures of long-nosed gar beneath your craft and of the turtles and alligators basking on the riverbanks. Such is the world Florida’s environmentalists are striving to protect and preserve. Among the most vocal are Guy Marwick, executive director of the Ocala-based Felburn Foundation, and Robert L. Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute in High Springs. Though they have traveled along different proverbial highways of life, and though each of them has his own personal interests in Florida’s natural resources, ultimately their paths crossed in Marion County partly because of a shared interest in North Central Florida’s voluminous web of freshwater springs.

Marwick’s Journey

Marwick got the shock of his life at a young age when he realized his native state’s landscape was beginning to change, and it wasn’t for the better. “It started with me seeing the unplanned growth of Broward County where I grew up,” recalls Marwick. “Pompano Beach was completely overrun with uncontrolled growth. It happened so fast that in about a 10- to 12-year period all the green spaces were literally chopped up into subdivisions. One thing that should have been done was to preserve Cypress Creek. There’s no other creek like it in Florida that has plants that grow in the tropics. There were things down there like

the shiny bark gumbo limbo trees—huge, enormous trees, 6 and 7 feet in diameter—that had massive strangler fig vines that we don’t have growing up here. “They channelized the whole creek,” Marwick adds with a touch of bitterness. “Now there’s nothing left. All the reefs that I used to dive in when I was a kid and used to snorkel in for lobster, they were all polluted and died.” Marwick experienced another awakening in his late teens when he spent the summer working with a crew surveying a mangrove swamp by boat off the Intracoastal Waterway. “That mangrove swamp became a subdivision,” Marwick groans. “They dug canals and then they put rows and rows of houses on these waterfront canals. Then they started to move west into the everglades. Some of those houses are now in areas that used to be under water. I was too young in Broward County to be an activist, so I said, ‘I’ve gotta get outta here.’” It was 1970 when Marwick, then in his late-20s, felt drawn to another part of the state, North Central Florida, and specifically to the unadulterated Ocala National Forest. “I knew they had no chance of developing that,” he says with tongue in cheek. As it turned out, Marion County presented a whole new set of issues. Among them, subdivisions and industries, an overabundance of septic systems, groundwater extractions, increasing pollution of the area’s artesian springs, reduction of the lush forests and pristine horse farms, and a growing threat to Florida’s balance of wildlife, including the world of insects. “We’ve got 1,000 people a day moving into Florida,” Marwick notes. “My favorite saying is, ‘If we don’t direct our growth then the growth will direct us.’ For Broward County it’s too late. The whole southeastern Aug ust ‘20


that are green and still a beautiful part of Florida. The question is, is this something the citizens will need and even desire? Toll roads are a big environmental threat wherever they end up going.” Marwick also has concerns over what’s happening to the balance of nature in Florida and beyond. Even the bat populations that live in many of the nation’s caves could be destroyed, he contends. “Caves are unique ecological systems,” explains Marwick. “Limiting access to caves is the best single thing you can do. Serious spelunkers practice good habits because they know they’re in a fragile environment. Except for those in supervised tours, other people break off stalagmites and stalactites for souvenirs. Teenagers and young people sometimes come into caves and drink beer and vandalize them.” Then there’s the world of insects, another vital part of the circle of life, Marwick insists. “Up to a hundred species of plants and animals a day may be becoming extinct,” warns Marwick. “But we go on about our lives as if everything is OK. Around the world insects are down 75 percent in some places. Even some of the rain forests had a 90 percent decrease. The planet is going through a real death knell of species. Butterflies have taken a tremendous hit in their population. There’s been a huge drop in butterflies and moths. They all populate different kinds of plants and flowers

Guy Marwick



Opposite page: photo courtesy of VISIT FLORIDA

coast of Florida is one megalopolis. It’s important that we protect what should be protected now. We need to save what we can.” After working for the Marion County Public Schools system for 36 years, with 20 years in the classroom and 16 as director of the Silver River Museum, Marwick retired in 2004. Following a five-year hiatus backpacking the canyons of the West, he became executive director of the Felburn Foundation. Established in the 1970s by Phil Felburn and his daughter, Ellie Schiller (both deceased), the foundation has distributed tens of millions of dollars to environmental causes throughout the world, including $899,000 disbursed in the first four months of 2020, Marwick notes. Last year, the foundation funded $350,000 to add a 3,600-square-foot wing to the Silver River Museum, bringing the total donation to more than $800,000 for the museum’s construction additions over the years, Marwick declares. Meanwhile, Marwick has a host of other concerns, starting with the state’s proposed plan to run toll roads through some of North Central Florida’s most pristine landmasses. “Those could be an environmental and ecological disaster for Florida,” insists Marwick. “One of them could go up the east coast through some of those rural areas

Aug ust ‘20


and the food we eat.” Marwick is not alone in his quest to save the planet. He gets plenty of support from his wife, Pat, who shares his passion for the environment and the preservation of wildlife. “She’s an animal lover,” says Marwick. “She believes in what I believe in.”

Knight’s Journey

Silver Springs is dying by a thousand cuts. Based on the state’s analysis, the largest sources of nutrient pollution at Silver Springs are septic tanks, livestock wastes, and agricultural and urban fertilizers.

Knight followed a slightly different path to Marion County. Born in a military hospital in Maryland, Knight traveled the world as the son of a career Navy captain. He credits his love of nature to his father, who went along with him on his Boy Scout camping trips. “My dad was very interested in birds and butterflies, insects and the outdoors,” Knight recalls with a hint of nostalgia. “I started my first bird list when I was 12. I do Christmas bird counts every year now.” A turning point in Knight’s life happened in 1953 during a family trip to Ocala and his first visit to Silver Springs. “I remember the glass-bottom boat ride, the enormous numbers of fish, the clarity of the water, the Seminole village, the flamingos, the palm tree with a curl by the statue of Osceola, and Ross Allen,” muses Knight. “That trip gave me a direct view into the underwater world and the fact that it was complex and just as interesting and exciting as what was above the water.” That introduction to Florida’s natural environment eventually helped Knight decide his career choice when he got into college. It turned out his professor, Howard T. Odum, had researched Silver Springs in the early 1950s. Then, 25 years later, Odum sent Knight to Silver Springs to do the same thing for his doctorate. From that two-year study, Knight earned a PhD in environmental science from the University of Florida. But that was only the beginning. “I returned again in 2004 and 2005, and that’s when my eyes were opened up to the damage that was being done to Silver Springs,” Knight recalls with a touch of sadness. “I found the springs were greatly impaired. Many of them were polluted almost across the board. They also had problems with reduced flow, which is the lifeblood of the springs.” For eight years Knight worked under contract with state agencies as an expert on freshwater springs. “I studied 18 springs,” recalls Knight. “I found they were in trouble and getting worse. They were 42


polluted by nutrients and the groundwater was being depleted through pumping.” A resident of Gainesville, Knight documented his findings and, in 2010, he founded the High Springs institute, named for the late Howard T. Odum, an American pioneer of ecosystem ecology. The nonprofit organization monitors and collects data on the condition of Florida’s springs through staff and volunteer efforts. A few years after establishing the institute, Knight opened its educational center as a way to increase public awareness about the decline of the quality and quantity of Florida’s most vital resource. The public can make a difference, insists Knight. He recommends that homeowners cut back on fertilizers and lawn watering. And they can participate in ecological outings and river cleanups. The institute offers plenty of volunteer opportunities, and there are classes - Bob Knight and informational resources to get people activated. Knight’s wife, Debbie Segal, also an environmental scientist, volunteers with the institute. “She goes to high schools and tells the students where their drinking water comes from and why it’s important to preserve the springs,” Knight boasts. “She’s been doing that for years.” Not one to sit quietly on the sidelines, Knight, 71, also gives presentations to civic, university, and government organizations. He has written numerous restoration plans, plus reports on the springs’ condition, and a ton of opinion pieces, many of which are included in his third book, Death by a Thousand Cuts—An Anthology of Springs Opinions. “Silver Springs is dying by a thousand cuts,” maintains Knight. “Based on the state’s analysis, the largest sources of nutrient pollution at Silver Springs are septic tanks, livestock wastes, and agricultural and urban fertilizers. Flow reductions at Silver Springs are the result of excessive groundwater pumping throughout the region, from Gainesville to the north and The Villages to the south.” Despite his accomplishments, Knight continues to swim upstream in his efforts to save the springs. For years he has fought against the relentless requests for groundwater extraction permits by local businessmen such as Frank Stronach, a billionaire cattleman who has waged an ongoing legal battle with environmental groups for years.

“It’s the big permits that are killing us,” avers Knight. “The Florida Water Management Districts are authorizing more than 4.5 billion gallons a day in groundwater extraction, which is half the historic flow of the springs in Florida. Basically, it’s like taking half the blood out of your body and expecting you to live that way.” In another war, Knight attributes the decline of fish populations to the Rodman Dam, an Ocklawaha River remnant from the 1964 construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Knight contends that Rodman Reservoir is getting the flow of water naturally meant for North Central Florida’s springs. “Silver Springs cannot be restored without removal of the Rodman Dam,” Knight maintains. “The flowing water connection between the Silver River and the St. Johns River is a superhighway for migrating fish and manatees. The Rodman Dam is like a knee across the neck of this natural blue-way, and the aquatic environment cannot ‘breathe’ as long as the dam remains.” But it’s not just about the springs, admits Knight. Florida’s rivers, lakes and aquifers also are in danger. “Lake Weir is in the same springshed that feeds Silver Springs,” explains Knight. “When I was giving talks to the homeowners’ associations, I noticed the water levels were clearly reduced, so the docks were stranded and the nutrient concentrations were very high. It’s the same issue throughout the lake region.” The Silver River in 1990 and, at right, 2013, photographed by John Moran

The depletion of groundwater can trigger other problems, such as the formation of sinkholes. Also, there has already been an intrusion of saltwater into the freshwater springs on both of Florida’s coasts, Knight affirms. “I became the voice for the springs,” Knight says, although he confesses he’s merely grabbing onto the coattails of men who went before him, like Jim Stevenson, a biologist and former park ranger with the Florida Park Service. “The state had started the Florida Springs initiative under Governor Jeb Bush, thanks to Jim Stevenson,” Knight notes. “Jim has never stopped advocating for the springs. He’s on my board of directors at the institute. I call him ‘the grandfather of springs protection.’” Without hesitation, Stevenson humbly accepts the title. “I just turned 80, so I guess ‘grandfather’ is pretty accurate,” he concedes. A resident of Tallahassee, Stevenson remembers taking Jeb Bush and his newly appointed DEP secretary on a canoe trip through Ichetucknee Springs State Park near Lake City, shortly after the governor took office in 1999. “I don’t even know if he’d seen a Florida spring at that time,” chuckles Stevenson. “I explained what was happening to Florida’s springs. The DEP secretary said they should form a springs task force, and he appointed me to

Bob Knight

head it up. In the 2000 legislative session, Governor Bush arranged for $2.5 million, the first ever money for springs protection. Education was our most important strategy. Few people in Florida knew anything about the springs.” Bush continued to fund the program, as did Governor Charlie Crist after he took office in 2007, notes Stevenson. “Then we got Governor (Rick) Scott,” Stevenson says with a sigh. “He cut the funding. The springs are still in trouble,” he laments. “There are two parts to springs protection, one is protecting the springs flow and the other is protecting the springs quality.”

A Rainbow on the Horizon

For Knight, the answer may come with his latest venture, a Silver Springs Environmental Center to be built at Silver Springs State Park. The center’s 12,000-square-foot first phase would include biological and cultural displays, classrooms, and a research lab where visiting scientists can study the area’s springs and hopefully find a way to restore them. 44


“It’s been a dream for me since 1980,” muses Knight. “Silver Springs is the largest artesian spring in the United States. It’s arguably the most important spring in the whole world. It has the largest long-term flow. The environmental center will be one more step on the stepping stones leading to Silver Springs restoration.” The ideal location, says Knight, is the former Wild Waters property on the corner of State Road 40 (Silver Springs Boulevard) and Baseline Road. He has set a fundraising goal of $5.7 million. Phase 2 of the project would include a lecture hall. Knight’s plan is already attracting local support. The Felburn Foundation has directed $40,000 toward the architectural and basic engineering phases for the center, says Marwick, who sees it as a win-win proposition. “I think it will be a great opportunity for scientists from all over the country to be able to come there and study the springs and to learn what it will take to preserve them and bring them back to their original glory,” notes Marwick.

Photo courtesy of VISIT FLORIDA

However, Knight’s dream won’t become a reality without the approval of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Weesam Khoury, press secretary for the DEP, states in an email that the Florida Park Service already has education centers at numerous locations throughout the state. “Adding one at Silver Springs State Park is certainly something we are interested in,” Khoury writes. “Typically, the Department would operate its own facility, although in some instances, we do partner with academic institutions and nonprofit organizations on information and exhibits. In this instance, whether the Department would create an education center and/or partner with an outside entity on information and exhibits has not yet been determined...The addition of an education center is not currently in the existing Unit Management Plan for Silver Springs State Park, but is certainly possible.” Scott Mitchell, director of the Silver River Museum, believes the center would complement the programs that are already being offered at the museum and would draw a different audience. An estimated 10,000 school children, mostly of elementary age, come through the museum’s doors every year, whereas the new center would draw research scientists, college interns, and possibly high school students who are studying chemistry and biology, Mitchell notes. Although he considers himself an archaeologist and historian by profession, Mitchell admits he has a soft spot in his heart for environmental causes. “What’s it going to look like when our grandkids are here?” he cautions. “If we don’t have our beautiful horse farms, prairie, Rainbow River, and the springs pumping out clear, fresh water, Marion County will become a landlocked county with an interstate and bad water and subdivisions as far as the eye can see, and people aren’t going to come here. “Bob Knight is widely considered as an expert of Silver Springs and the Silver River,” Mitchell adds. “I hope he’s successful. It would be a great use of that property.” For more information about the Silver Springs Environmental Center, visit www.floridaspringsinstitute.org. To make a donation or to volunteer, send an email to info@FloridaSpringsInstitute.org or call (386) 454-9369.

What You Can Do Join the Silver Springs Alliance: Support sustainable stewardship of the Silver River ecosystem. For information, visit www.silverspringsalliance.org or email SilverSpringsAlliance@gmail.com Donate to the Florida Springs Institute: Support water quality and quantity monitoring of Florida spring systems as well as education and outreach programs designed for springs and aquifer education at all levels. Donations will help establish and operate the Silver Springs Environmental Education Center in Silver Springs State Park. Visit www.floridaspringsinstitute.org/, send an email to info@floridaspringsinstitute.org, or call the office in High Springs at (386) 454-9369. Write to Governor Ron DeSantis asking him to restore the Ocklawaha River and Silver Springs by breaching the Rodman Dam. www.freetheocklawaha.com Learn more about the Free the Ocklawaha campaign from Florida Defenders of the Environment at www.fladefenders.org or call (352) 475-1119. A recent Free the Ocklawaha exhibit hosted by the Marion Cultural Alliance included interactive elements and may be accessed via www.artsteps.com/ view/5f04a552d107b23ab4afb70e Contact Marion County’s state legislators and request funding of Florida Forever projects. Contact Marion County commissioners and request renewal of Pennies for Parks, the proceeds of which were used to establish the local park system and purchased 220 acres of land now incorporated into Silver Springs State Park and funded various improvements at Rainbow Springs State Park.

Aug ust ‘20


Ocala International Airport’s new terminal welcomes visitors with an artful look at where we’ve been and where we’re going. By Richard Anguiano


Photography by John Jernigan and Bruce Ackerman


f you visit the new, $7.3 million terminal at Ocala International Airport often, you might bump into Eddie Martin, an unofficial tour guide through the history of aviation in Marion County. The 90-year-old conjures images of biplanes in the skies, of days when North Central Florida, including Ocala and Dunnellon, was a buzzing hive of World War II flight training. Martin is a living link to the airport’s beginnings, having worked decades for the man largely responsible for building it, expanding it and later, moving it. “I watched every bit of it go up,” Martin says of the new terminal. He could almost say the same about the airport over its entire history.

An Early Start

Martin recalls his mother telling him she spotted her son’s “affliction” when the Goodyear Blimp floated above their farm on the Suwannee River near Trenton: Baby Eddie took off after it wearing nothing but his diaper, which fell off. “She said I wanted that balloon to land,” Martin recalls. “I wanted to touch it.” Martin’s family moved to Marion County, near Dunnellon, where the World War II-era airfield now known as Ocala International Airport once bustled with military airmen in training. By his late teens he was a licensed pilot and mechanic. His practice of befriending influential people took him into the orbit of Rupert Caviness, a driving force in local aviation. Martin himself served as Ocala’s assistant airport manager for a few years in the 1950s. Martin’s remarkable career began when he was 14 and he got the newspaper concession for the Dunnellon airport, then being used for military training. Despite 46


his age, he parlayed the paper route into a civilian job behind the bar at the officers’ club on the airbase. “They had five slot machines and a whole bunch of pinball machines,” Martin recalls, adding that one day, the provost marshal took a seat at the bar. “He said, ‘Martin, how old are you?’ And I said, ‘You don’t really want to know, I don’t think,’” Martin remembers. “He said, ‘You are 21, aren’t you?’ I said, ‘No sir. Not by a pretty long shot.’” Martin recalls that he delivered papers in the morning, attended school during the day and worked at the officers’ club at night. Meanwhile, he began to log flying hours through his friendships with instructors at the base, mainly in Aeronca L-3 aircraft. Martin says he learned the most about flying from Charles Adolf, an instructor at Greenville Aviation, the military flight training school based at Jim Taylor Field in Ocala. Adolf also taught Martin to paint airplanes, which led to a career in auto paint and bodywork for the Buick dealership of Rupert Caviness. “Every morning I go by the airport,” Martin admits. “I know the girls behind the counter at Sheltair and I’ve established a friendship with them. They treat me very well, a lot better than they should an average, bumbling, 90-year-old man.” Martin describes the new terminal as “fantastic.”

A Working Monument

The new terminal “nails” the first impression officials were looking to create in its design, according to Matt Grow, airport director. The outside architecture evokes a horse-barn feeling and visitors are greeted by a row of lawn jockeys flanking the arrivals’ entrance, painted in the colors of local thoroughbred farms, which pays homage to the

Eddie Martin

Airport director, Matt Grow



Horse Capital of the World’s signature industry. Inside the spacious, modern terminal, contemporary seating arrangements mirror the blueskies color palette and an 85-inch, high-definition, flat-screen television is girded by a stone façade that continues the luxe horse farm style. Overhead, a 1947 North American Navion plane is suspended from the ceiling, at what Grow explains is, “a slight pitch up and a right bank” that recalls the airport’s days as a military flight training facility during World War II. This 17,500-square-foot facility is, as Grow reveals, a working monument to a county with a passion for flying that dates back more than a century. On the grounds is a 12,000-square-foot Quonset hangar that was a landmark of the original “downtown” airport, inaugurated as Jim Taylor Field, which occupied a large wedge of land between State Road 200 and Southwest 17th Street. On the walkway to the departures’ entrance is an antique beacon that took an interesting journey from Dunnellon to Ocala and guided pilots for decades. The fascinating stories of the aviation hub’s history are alive and well, thanks to the leadership team’s enthusiasm for all things aeronautic. Grow, 49, who came to the airport from Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 2005, describes himself as a “hopeless aviation romantic” who began flying hot-air balloons at 13 in a childhood that bounced between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He says he earned licenses to fly balloons at 17 and planes at 18. So how did the flying bug bite Grow at such an early age? “Come with me,” he urges, walking in the direction of his new corner office. On the way, Grow explains he inherited his love of flying from his father, Allan, who will turn 80 soon. Allan Grow never flew airplanes himself, but sketched, painted and built models of them, sparking his son’s imagination. Arriving in the office, which has two picturewindow views of planes parked on the apron, Matt Grow walks to a bookcase in the corner. The volumes include first-edition copies of aviation-related books from his father’s library, including Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Ted W. Lawson; Samurai! by Saburō Sakai; and The Great Santini by Pat Conroy. Grow scans a row to the right with nonfiction works which feature his father’s art. He picks up War Wings, and opens it to a black-and-white illustration of a Messerschmitt Bf 109, a German World War II fighter. “This one’s really amazing,” Matt Grow says, smiling proudly as he points out his father’s detail. “He basically dipped his pinky and camouflaged it. You can see his fingerprint in it.”

Drawing on his childhood, Grow says benches outside the terminal and his vision of a playground there someday are aimed at a particular kind of visitor. “There’s the little kid that comes in who wants to see the airplanes take off and land,” he explains. “We can spur that interest and that growth in aviation.”

The Borrowed Beacon

David Cook, the longtime Ocala Star-Banner editor and Marion County historian, writes that Caviness, a pilot whose interest in aviation dated back to his military service during World War I, persuaded Jim Taylor, owner of the Ocala Manufacturing and Land Co., to donate land in the late 1920s for the original airport in Ocala that bore Taylor’s name. As a president of the Ocala City Council in the 1950s, Caviness led the effort to relocate the city airport, Cook writes. It began operating from its current home along Southwest 60th Avenue, now known as Airport Road, in 1968. Martin remembers that in the early 1950s, after Adolf became manager of Jim Taylor Field during its years “downtown,” he served as his assistant manager. It was during this time, according to Martin, that the city airport’s old beacon went “kerflooey.” Martin knew the airport in Dunnellon had a working beacon— the artifact now on display outside the new Ocala International terminal. Turning the beacon, Grow gets a twinkle in his eye as he relays the secondhand tale he heard of how Martin and some friends “liberated” the beacon from Dunnellon. Martin himself recalls the move in terms less buccaneering: The airport in Dunnellon was getting practically no use, he explains, and it had a good beacon that Ocala needed, so Martin, his brother and a friend moved it with the help of a block and tackle. “When you’re working for a municipality, you have all kind of people that know what you’re doing,” Martin offers. “You can’t shield much of anything, unless it’s illegal.” Martin’s brief stint in airport management ended, he recalls, when Caviness begged him to return to his dealership. But Martin would still put his flying skills to use as a company pilot for Caviness and other Ocala car dealers. “I flew them all over the eastern United States,” he recalls. “I remember going to Indianapolis, Indiana, numerous times. I had some pretty decent airplanes too. I was given the keys to about 12 different brand new ones. I was usually part owner or complete owner of most of them.” While Martin savors his daily visits to Ocala International, he says he doesn’t expect air travel to return to what he calls “the golden years.” “Too many distractions and regulations and dog-eatdog business tactics just won’t let it happen,” he states.

Terry Crawford was among the speakers at the new airport terminal grand opening event

History Lesson

Eddie Martin was one of the regulars hanging out at the Ocala airport when Terry Crawford returned to Ocala in 1970 after graduating from the University of Mississippi. Crawford has served on the city’s Airport Advisory Board for 40 years. He says the new terminal “has been a work in progress for some time.” “We have a new face on the entrance to Ocala,” Crawford remarks. “That’s really what we wanted to accomplish.” An Ocala native, Crawford can map the general dimensions of the old “downtown” Jim Taylor Field using current landmarks like Marion Technical College, Target, and State Road 200 car dealerships. “Seventeenth Street originally ended at the railroad tracks, because that was the airport in front of you,” he recalls. Crawford, however, learned his flying at Ole Miss and didn’t use the Ocala airport until it after it moved to Airport Road. Now 74, he comes from the family that started what is now Signature Brands. In the 1970s, Crawford himself launched Conimar Group, Aug ust ‘20


an Ocala manufacturer of housewares and tabletop products. His entrepreneurial success supports his aviation habit—he still flies—and Crawford has owned a number of planes over the years—including a Piper Cub he co-owned with Eddie Martin. Crawford has a keen interest in Stearmans, the open-cockpit biplanes used as military trainers during World War II. In Ocala, civilian flight instructors trained Army Air Corps pilots on Stearmans at Jim Taylor Field in Ocala. The end of the war saw a glut of Stearmans, which either “got cut up and melted and made into beer cans” or refashioned into crop dusting planes, according to Crawford. In the late 1970s, Crawford recalls, he and Gid Thompson, a local crop duster pilot and plane restorer, began going to Stearman fly-ins. On an early trip, to Tennessee, Crawford bought a Stearman for a friend who didn’t have a pilot’s license and had Thompson fly

it back to Ocala. He recalls watching with Eddie Martin as Thompson landed the plane. “We tried to get him to take us for a ride in it and he said, ‘No. The last couple hundred miles, I swore that if I got the SOB on the ground, I was never going to get back in it,’” Crawford professes. “It needed a lot of work.” At another Stearman meet, this one in West Helena, Arkansas, Crawford and Thompson bought three planes, mostly in pieces. Crawford recalls the restoration work stretching past a decade because he had another plane to fly. Around 1992, Crawford says, he showed one of the restored planes to a historian with the Stearman Restorers Association—and found out the craft had been built in 1941 and was assigned to Greenville Aviation in Ocala.

Commercial Considerations

As an airport board member, Crawford says he’s frequently asked if commercial air service will return to

Clockwise, from top left: Vocational School for commercial classes in Marion County; Eddie and Barbara Martin; students learning how to weld; ‘Safety Suggestions’ pamphlet from a flying instruction manual.

Ocala, where Eastern Air Lines had a terminal in Ocala from 1947-72. He has served on several task forces charged with bringing back commercial service but says “none got anywhere.” Crawford believes Ocala likely has a larger air service market than Gainesville, but Gainesville Regional Airport’s established commercial service has been in place since the 1950s. “There’s too much parochialism,” he alleges. “They’ve already got the airport in Gainesville. Kids up there don’t want to give it up.” Deborah James of Ocala is certain that demand exists for commercial service out of our airport. She worked from 1982-84 as a ticket agent in the Ocala airport for Air Florida, a commuter airline. Then in her early 20s, James didn’t just sell tickets; she had to earn an “observation weather license” and also took passengers through a metal detector to their planes. “I had no police officer there,” James recalls, laughing. “If anybody ever went through that metal detector and that thing went off, I don’t even know what I would have ever done. I was never trained for security.” The risk at the time was low; James recalls handling about three flights per day of between 12 and 24 passengers per flight. Also in the terminal at the time was Allegheny Commuter, a one-man operation, she recalls. That’s not to say James didn’t have the occasional interesting moment. One time, a man and woman came to the metal detector with a baby. James remembers the couple had her hold the baby while they went through. After the plane departed, police arrived at the airport looking for the man and woman. James recalls officers telling her the couple were robbers trying to get to Miami and they likely handed her the baby to conceal a gun in the child’s blanket. Police later caught the duo, she explains. Another time, a man walked out to the tarmac, took off his clothes and broke into a sprint, streaking down the runway. What James calls her “best job ever” ended abruptly when Air Florida went belly up. She says after she began what would become a 20-year career with FedEx, she would still call the city in hopes they were bringing back commercial service. Now 60 and a real estate broker based in Belleview, she argues there’s no time like the present. “My gosh, they’ve got that equine center coming in,” James offers. “People from all over the world are going to be there. So why not make our airport do what it’s supposed to do?”

Into the Future

Grow reveals that operations at Ocala International got “basically slashed in half ” year over year in March and April due to COVID-19, but sees the World Equestrian Center and growth between Ocala and The

Deborah James

Villages increasing demand. The airport has handled Air Force One and charter flights of Division I college teams coming to play the University of Florida Gators. Grow believes it could handle commercial traffic now. “If the airlines thought they could make a dollar out of Ocala, they’d be here,” he asserts. I’m not anti-airline service. I think it’s going to come eventually, but it has to come when it’s right for the community. We can’t paint ourselves into a corner and be financially liable for a failed airline.” In the meantime, Grow admits, he feeds off “the personality” of the airport as it is. “I’m talking about the pilots and tenants and the different, diverse mix of people. You’ve got your recreational pilots. You’ve got the Terry Crawfords and the Eddie Martins that bring the history. You’ve got smaller business owners. There are physicians with offices throughout Florida that use their airplanes to fly between their offices so they can treat more people. “It has a soul. There’s an essence to it. All of these people help make it and it’s really enjoyable to be a part of that.” Aug ust ‘20



CHANCE Poor judgment and a tragic accident sent a young woman’s life into chaos. But she found a new way forward in an unexpected place that put horses back in her life, just in time. By JoAnn Guidry | Photography by Dave Miller


y the time she was 16, Lauren Bandi was a self-described party girl. By the time she was 20, Bandi was in prison. And it was at the Ocalabased Lowell Correctional Institution (LCI) that she found redemption, thanks to a unique equine program. “When I got into high school, I fell in with a bad crowd; started drinking and partying every weekend. We had our party spots; we knew what bars wouldn’t check our IDs,” recalls Bandi, who grew up in the Tampa area. “When I graduated from high school, my grades had gotten so bad that college wasn’t an option for me. But I was going to a local community college and thinking about getting a nursing degree. Then on August 19th, 2012, my drinking and my recklessness caught up with me.” After a night of drinking, Bandi, then 19, ended up at an ex-boyfriend’s house. She left at 6am, still intoxicated, to drive home. “It was a very foggy morning, not that I’m making any excuses for what happened, but when I turned into my neighborhood, I never saw the motorcycle and struck it,” recounts Bandi, now 27, shaking her head at the still vivid memory eight years later. “The man flew off the motorcycle. I jumped out of my car and ran to help him. Drivers who had seen the accident called 911. From that moment on, it all became surreal.” Given a blood alcohol test at the scene, Bandi’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level was 1.18 percent. In Florida, a person is considered driving under the influence (DUI) with a BAC level of .08 percent or more. She was arrested, booked into the Pinellas County jail and charged with DUI causing serious bodily injury, a third-degree felony. While Bandi was out on bail, the legal process played itself out over the next year. On July 3rd, 2013, she was sentenced to five years in prison. The motorcyclist, a 52-year-old man, was left a quadriplegic from the injuries he sustained. “It was all so horrible, but I knew I had to take responsibility for what had happened,” Bandi declares. ‘Within days of my sentencing, I was sent to Lowell. Going to prison is humbling. Being in prison is humiliating.” If going to prison can offer a bit of serendipity, Bandi being sentenced to LCI did. Before Bandi was a party girl, she was a horse-crazy girl. “When I was 9, I started going to horseback riding camps,” explains Bandi, a petite blond whose bright hazel eyes give no hint of her past ordeals. “Later, I took hunter/jumper lessons at Windward Farms in Tarpon



Springs. I even came to Ocala to compete in HITS (Horse Shows in the Sun, an annual multi-week equine competition). But when I started drinking, the horses dropped out of my life.” As it turned out, horses were going to re-enter her life at LCI. Since 2001, the women’s prison has hosted the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s (TRF) Second Chances Farm, which serves as a home for retired Florida-bred racehorses and as a rehabilitation center for LCI’s female inmates. The inmates participate in hands-on work experience with the horses and in an equine care technology (ECT) vocational program. “It’s a great program to teach these women life skills, work ethic and a vocation,” reports John Evans, a lifelong horseman who has served as manager and vocational instructor of Second Chances Farm for 14 years. “A great many of the women come into the program with none of that, but I see a transformation in them as time goes on. If they apply themselves, they graduate with a great foundation to restart their lives once they’re released. Many of them go on to find work in the equine industry, but, even if they don’t, they have acquired important life skills.”

before I could start the equine program,” offers Bandi, who, for a time, was housed with 70 to 100 women in one large common area of the general population unit. “But knowing that it was going to happen kept me going. While I waited, I started taking correspondent business classes from Adams State College.” After a year, she was indeed moved to the work camp unit, where she shared a room with four other women. Most of them also participated in the Second Chances program. “The first day that we were transported to the farm, we came over the hill and I saw the farm and the horses for the first time,” Bandi remembers. “I was overwhelmed with emotion. It brought tears to my eyes and I felt hopeful.” Bandi threw herself into the equine program, immersing herself in the farm from 7:30am3:30pm, six days a week. The inmates feed and groom the 45 - John Evans to 50 horses and learn basic equine care, including dental and farrier work, alongside professionals. They also do farm maintenance work, fixing fences and mowing. For those interested in riding, lessons are provided by Carol Fletcher, a well-known Ocala trainer. The inmates also help retrain the retired racehorses that can be adopted out. “I had never been around thoroughbreds before and I fell in love with the farm’s horses,” Bandi declares. “Some of them come with racing injuries, so you help nurse them back to health under a veterinarian’s guidance. When we got OK Dude, he became my special project. Once he was healthy, Carol taught me how to teach him tricks. He became the farm’s ambassador at public functions. I’m very proud of OK Dude.” At night, back in her work camp bunk bed, Bandi

It’s a great program to teach these women life skills, work ethic and a vocation.

Life Inside After her sentencing, Bandi became aware of the TRF program and was looking forward to participating in it. However, she was still considered a youthful offender at 20. She would need to wait a year before being classified as an adult offender and gain entry into the work camp unit. “I was very disappointed that I had to wait a year 54


would cross off another calendar day of her sentence. Then she’d sleep fitfully, anxious for the morning and to be back on the farm. “I loved learning everything I could with the horses and in the equine care technology course. And I loved being able to ride horses again,” says Bandi, who became one of the farm’s best riders and earned her ECT certification. “All of that made me feel like a human being again and gave me a purpose.”

A Second Chance As a model inmate, Bandi’s sentence was reduced from the original five-year sentence. On September 9, 2017, she was released after serving four years and two and a half months. “It was just before Hurricane Irma struck and I was so afraid that I wasn’t going to be released,” she recalls. “But, thankfully, I was, and by that time, I knew I wanted to work in the thoroughbred industry in Ocala. Mr. Evans and Tammy Gantt, who’s with the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, were both so encouraging and pointed me in the right direction.” Less than a month after her release, Bandi began

working for Niall Brennan Stables. The latter is one of the top training operations in the country and a perennial 2-year-olds in training leading consignor. “I love galloping horses in the mornings, I maintain the operation’s website and I’ve really gotten into photography,” asserts Bandi, who will graduate from the College of Central Florida this December with a bachelor of applied science in business and organizational management, equine specialization degree. “I am so grateful for where I am right now in my life. So grateful for my family who stuck with me through it all. And I owe so much thanks to TRF, Mr. Evans, Tammy Gantt, the Brennans and everyone else who has helped me.” “I never thought of her in terms of the past. She was very excited to have this opportunity,” offers Niall Brennan. “She has been humble, never negative. She definitely turned a negative into a positive.” Going forward, Bandi sees plenty of options for her, including, perhaps, starting her own equine-related business. And she’s thinking of writing a book, already titled Happenstance, about her experiences “I believe everything happens for a reason,” professes Bandi. “I got a second chance and I’m making the most of it.”

Aug ust ‘20




TRF and Second Chances Founded in 1983, the Saratoga Springs, New Yorkbased Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s primary mission is to save thoroughbred racehorses no longer able to compete from possible abuse, neglect and slaughter. TRF has 18 thoroughbred retirement facilities located across the country. Of those, seven are also Second Chances Farm programs at state correctional facilities. At those locations, inmates provide supervised hands-on care to the horses and also participate in an equine care technology program. The TRF Second Chances Farm was established at the Ocala-based Lowell Correctional Institute (LCI) in 2001 in a joint effort by the TRF, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (FTBOA). LCI is the only all-female inmate correctional facility with the Second Chances program. The program is situated on 100 acres at state property that also includes the Marion Correctional Institute for male inmates, and the FDOC provides the land and labor at no cost. The FTBOA administers funding for the farm’s other expenses through its charitable arm, Florida Thoroughbred Charities. “The FTBOA believes the care and support of retired thoroughbreds is a common sense responsibility shared by all who participate in the racing and breeding industry,” states Lonny Powell, FTBOA chief executive officer. “Through the Second Chances program, we have been fully committed to this mission for two decades and will continue to be so committed.” Tammy Gantt, the associate vice president of

membership services and events, concurs and says, “It’s a wonderful thing to help horses and people together to provide such positive benefit, from giving retired thoroughbreds lifelong homes to giving women self-worth while learning lifelong skills. And, according to FDOC statistics, the LCI Second Chances program has helped account for a 3 percent recidivism rate versus an average state 16 percent recidivism rate.” The success of the LCI Second Chances program has not gone unnoticed by the TRF. “In my role with the TRF, I have had the unique opportunity to visit many of our Second Chances programs across the country,” explains Kim Weir, TRF director of major gifts and planned giving. “While each reflects the special partnership we have with each one, the LCI program is truly special because it is the only women’s prison in our network. There is truly something extraordinary about the relationship between the women inmates and the horses.” Weir also notes that “the TRF will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the LCI Second Chances program in Ocala later this year and looks forward to sharing it with the community of Ocala.” For more information about TRF, visit www.trfinc.org or contact Kim Weir by calling (518) 226-0028 or by emailing kim@thoroughbredretirement.org For more information on FTBOA, call Tammy Gantt at (352) 629-2160 or email tgantt@ftboa.com

Aug ust ‘20


These two longtime Ocalans love to restore beauty—and driveability—to vintage vehicles. By Susan Smiley-Height | Photography by Bruce Ackerman s the two men do a little “bench-racing,” peals of laughter ring out inside the cavernous garage in northeast Ocala where Gene Liles and Frank Amatea have partnered on multiple vintage vehicle restorations. And when the two get into the cab of Liles’ gleaming red 1950 GMC halfton pickup, sitting outside near the vintage Gulf Oil gas pumps, their faces light up with the anticipation of a joyride in the truck, which emits the low, throaty hum of engine power from days past. Amatea, a retired attorney, says he got the car bug early in life. “You know, some kids are just infected with it,” he offers. “They want to go to the racetrack. They want to drive cars. They want to do hot rods. I was one of those kids. I was never very good at any of that stuff, but I still loved doing it.” For Liles, the owner of Liles Collision Service for 42 years, his involvement began at Vanguard High School. “It got started when I took an auto body class in vo-tech (vocational and technical educational training) in high school,” he explains. “That’s where I learned the basics. And my dad had a trailer business and we did sandblasting and painting, so I learned how to do that stuff young and then just grew into it.” The two longtime friends currently are restoring Amatea’s 1928 Model A Ford, which he drove from his home to the garage. Sitting under a sprawling oak tree near the building, the vintage auto, a dull grey primer color, looks at home on the dirt beneath the massive wheels. “This is in what we call rough assembly, and it is pretty close to going to paint,” Amatea notes. “In rough assembly, what you’ve done is all of the body work and fixed all the rust on it and made the changes you want to make to the car, if you’re going to make any. This is a mechanical brake car with original wheels, original style tires, and original ahooga horn.” He says it drives at up to 50 mph, which is “about as good as you want to go in one of these.” Amatea bought the Model A from the family that bought it new in Philadelphia in 1928. He has had it a year and a half. At the same time, he also bought a 1933 58


Frank Amatea next to his latest restoration project, a 1928 Model A Ford

Chevrolet Deluxe Master four-door sedan, both from the widow of a family member. He has the bill of sale for the Model A, dated January 15th, 1928, and paperwork that shows the family was still driving the car as late as 1972, when it had its last inspection in Pennsylvania. The open cockpit reveals a dashboard with minimal gauges. “They didn’t need much, just the bare necessities,” Amatea remarks. “There is a speedometer, a fuel gauge, an amp meter, a choke and a step-on starter button. We put turn signals in it.” He hits the horn and the distinctive loud “ahooga, ahooga” fills the air. He says the Fords weren’t built for distance, but for getting around town. “When Henry Ford was building these cars, gas was probably 10 or 12 cents a gallon and there were fill stations all over the place, but there weren’t a lot of paved roads,” Amatea offers. “At the beginning of the Second World War, you couldn’t drive from Washington, D.C., to Tampa on paved roads. They built Highway 301 all the way to Tampa and paved it so they could transport soldiers down there for embarkation.”

Part of the Process

The next step in the restoration process for the Model A is what Amatea calls “paint prison.” “It will be taken all apart, primed and block sanded, and primed again and block sanded again, using a rubber block so you don’t put fingerprints on it,” Liles explains. “And then the paint, then the clear coat, then the buffing, sanding again and buffing it and reassembly.” “It’s a lot of touch time,” Liles adds. “You’ve just got to spend a lot of time on them. In the collision body 60


shop we fix about 1,200 cars a year. It could take us a year to do this car.” Amatea says his wife picks out the color for each of his restoration projects and this one will be painted a 2018 Ford dark green with a little “flake, or pearl” in it. “Gene has painted every car I’ve ever owned, putting an excellent paint job on them,” Amatea states, adding, as he runs a hand over the hood of the old car, “It has a bunch of new parts on it and we did some things to improve it, but it’s got a stock motor in it, just like Henry built it. It is an original, not to this car, but the same kind it came with. It purrs like a kitten.”

Drivers vs. Museum Pieces

Looking around the complex, Liles points out unrestored pickups, Willys Jeeps, a 1963 U.S. Postal Service Jeep, and a 1977 Smokey and the Bandit car like the one used in the popular movie. The restored beauties include a 1935 Canopy Express, known as a Huckster because vendors would drive through neighborhoods and sell food and other items from the back. Among the vehicles he has restored for Amatea is a 1948 Willys Jeepster (seen on the cover). “That car came from a collection here in Marion County. I bought all those cars in a single buy, there were about six or seven, all Willys,” he notes, as Liles pipes up in the background, chuckling as he says, “There were actually six and a half cars.” “We disassembled them and catalogued all the parts then we picked out the best ones and we built the chassis right here and put the motor in it and made sure it would start and pushed it out and then it sat for 12 years,” Amatea says, further noting, “Stuff happens.” Once the two got back on the restoration, Amatea’s wife picked out the turquoise aqua color, with beige trim,

and they sent the car out to have the upholstery done. “Then we got it ready,” Amatea says, nodding at Liles. “We thrashed and thrashed and got it on the trailer and I headed to North Carolina and we took first in class in a show that I liked doing at the time. They have since changed that show. It used to be a kind of a fun show to go to, but everybody’s going to what they call juried shows, which are very tense.” Both men say they prefer to restore cars as “drivers,” rather than “museum pieces.” “That car was built as a driver,” Liles states. “It’s very nice looking, and it’s very useful. You don’t have to worry about somebody leaning on it or something like that. You’re not going to hurt it. It’s just a fun car and a fun color.” Liles’ restoration customers over the years also have included such personalities as racer “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and actor John Travolta. “Eisenhower’s limousine that’s in there (the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing south of Ocala), I painted that one for him,” Liles notes. “And I did a Corvair convertible for him and a ’34 Ford Phaeton.” “There’s a funny story about Travolta,” he continues. “We were looking for parts for one of his Lincolns and I was calling around and they were saying, ‘Nah, there’s none available,’ and I said, ‘That’s too bad. I’ve got Mr. Travolta’s car here and I can’t find the parts for it. Oh, you got John’s car there? Yes. Well I just might be able to help you out.’ And within a week the parts were there.” “Gene has done a wonderful job on some of my cars,” Travolta says. “He does very good work.”

The “Sweet Spot”

In preparing for a restoration, the men say these days it is much easier, because of the internet, to research the background of the vehicle and find motors and parts, and that having like-minded friends helps as well. Gene Liles

“We’ve got friends that mess with these cars and if we need to look at one, we can go see theirs,” Liles offers. “It’s not just us. We couldn’t do it without them.” “If you need to look up something, you can put in ‘Model A Ford coupes’ and it’ll pull up 50 and you can start scrolling, and bump over to discussion groups,” Amatea adds. As for the actual work itself, it takes a “lot of patience and you’ve got to stick to it, stay on it, keep pushing yourself to get them done,” Liles says, as Amatea chimes in with, “And you have to just persevere. Just keep at it.” “You’ve got to want it and, unfortunately true of Gene and myself, we build these cars as if we’re going to keep them, not do the minimum to sell them,” Amatea explains. “And that makes them more expensive to do. I think the passion is, for me, doing them. Once I’ve gotten the sweet spot of doing them and the bragging rights of driving them, I’m done. Send it on to somebody else’s garage and let them enjoy it. I don’t ever think I get all of my money out of them, once in a while I get a sweet deal, but not too often.” “You can definitely go buy one cheaper than you can rebuild it, with what’s out there at the auctions and internet, but you don’t know what you’re getting,” Liles adds, cautioning, “If you’re buying off the internet, you’d better go look at the vehicle.” Liles says his all-time favorite restoration was his 1948 DIVCO Model UM milk truck because it took so long to do, roughly eight years. “The next one I’m working on will probably take the place of that one though,” he states. “It’s a 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk. It’s going to have a Dodge Viper drivetrain in it, a V-10 engine and transmission. It’s my next real challenge and I’m looking forward to it.” “Gene doesn’t have a favorite style or car, he sees the beauty in every one of them,” Amatea offers. “And he is willing to massage it a little bit to bring it to the surface. It is a real feeling of accomplishment, and it tests your ability to stay on task.”

Aug ust ‘20


Leading Change Sandra Wilson has crafted a life filled with love, adventure and professional accomplishment. By Susan Smiley-Height | Photography by Meagan Gumpert


fter being appointed Ocala’s city manager in June, Sandra Wilson went into her spacious new City Hall office on a Saturday, alone, to hang her three framed college degrees and her certifications, put up photos of family members, and bring in a treasured orchid in full blossom. It was a sweet moment of victory—and a chance to reflect on her journey and the sacrifices she made along the way. In her 20 years with the city, Wilson has served as deputy city manager, assistant city manager for support services and human resources (HR) and risk management director. She is best known, she says, for her “hallmark” of fairness. “I had to be fair, especially in HR,” she notes, “because people trust you more when they believe you are fair. They might not like your decision, but they respect you if you are fair.” When asked to describe other personality traits, she erupts in laughter, playfully slaps her beautifully manicured hands on her desk, and declares, “I’m fun! And I’m a lover of people.”

Rise, Rise, Rise

Wilson was born in Dade City and spent her early childhood in Hernando County. When she was in seventh grade, her parents divorced and she and her older sister moved with their mother to Wildwood, where they had extended family. She says she was a “pretty good student,” but then lost interest in education. She was keen, however, on something else. “Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be like a secretary,” she says with a smile. “My mom bought me and my sister little typewriters and little desks. I always wanted to have an office.” It was at Wildwood High School that she learned how difficult becoming a secretary might be. “It was funny because I was like, ‘I’m never going to learn how to type. This is hard.’ But then you learn it.” She graduated high school, then balked at going to college and joined the U.S. Navy instead. “I left for boot camp on my 18th birthday,” she explains. “Even though you go through medical exams before you arrive, once you get there you go through additional exams. I have severe eczema and they deter62


mined that, with that skin condition, I wasn’t a good fit for military life. So, I came home and got a job at Maas Brothers in the mall in Ocala. My Mom said, ‘You have to go to college.’ I said, ‘OK, OK, OK.’” She enrolled at Lake-Sumter Community College in Leesburg and got a job with Barnett Bank in Eustis. “I was going to college part-time in the evenings and it took me five years to get a two-year degree because I was going part-time,” she notes with pride of her associate degree in office systems technology. She soon took a job with the city of Eustis, as recording secretary. “I put together all of the agenda packets, did the minutes, all of the handling of land use ordinances,” she notes. “I had to read everything. I had to go to the commission meetings, so I understood all of the decisions that were being made. You learn a lot in that position. I worked there for seven years.” While in that job she would see interesting job openings and “look at the people around me that had higher level jobs. And I would think, ‘Oh, I could do that job,’ but I didn’t have the education,” she reflects. “I went to Saint Leo University and got my bachelor’s degree in business administration. Then I became eligible to apply for some of those other jobs.” Before long, she became town clerk for the town of Lady Lake. “It was basically what I was doing in Eustis, but when you work in a small town you wear a lot of hats. I was not only the town clerk, I was the purchasing officer, the personnel officer, risk management person. I told the gentleman who hired me that I knew how to do some parts really well, but there were other parts of the job I had no experience in. He said, ‘Well, it’s not rocket science, you can learn it.’ He gave me the opportunity, and I did, I learned it.” As the job grew, the town split the duties and Wilson became the head of human resources and risk management. And, once again, she pursued higher education. “While I was in Lady Lake, they had a benefit where they covered the entire cost. I got my master’s degree in human resources development from Webster University,” she says. “And I did that in the evenings. I had to drive to Orlando a couple of evenings a week, but it was worth it.”

Aug ust ‘20


The Path Forward

Four years later, she went to work for the city of Lauderdale Lakes, as HR director. But South Florida wasn’t home. And she missed her mom and sister. “Every chance I had to come home on weekends, I would do that. And on one of those trips home was when I met my husband, Jerome Wilson,” she recalls with a big smile. “That’s how God works our lives out. Because if I had still been living up here, I probably wouldn’t have been hanging out with them on the weekend...but I was. My sister had to go to the furniture store and I said to wait for me. And he was there. That was April 24th of 1999. And on August 9th of 1999 we got married. And the rest is history.” The two have a daughter together, Kourtney, 20, who is enrolled in the law enforcement academy at the College of Central Florida, with a goal of becoming a police officer and possibly, long range, working for an agency such as the FBI. Jerome Wilson owns a construction company in The Villages. He has a son from a prior relationship, as well as a granddaughter and grandson. Wilson says that after she and Jerome were married, she was still living in South Florida and he was living in Bushnell when she became pregnant. “And, just how fate would have it, I had an appointment with a gentleman with a company from out of Tallahassee and I didn’t go to work that day. I had forgotten about the appointment. I was just tired. I was newly pregnant,” she remembers. “When I went to work the following day, he called and said he was still in town 64


and would like to talk to me. He’s the one who told me about an opportunity here in Ocala.” Wilson interviewed with then City Manager Susan Miller on Veteran’s Day in 1999 and started with the city of Ocala on January 3rd of 2000, as head of the HR. “Everything just lined up for me to come back to this area,” she offers. “And I was so happy to be given the opportunity and it seemed effortless. It’s been a real blessing. Even though, of course, a lot of effort went into getting prepared for the opportunity because getting your education is not easy. When my friends were sleeping in on weekends, I was on the interstate driving to school on Saturdays and Sundays. I just thank God I made it through. It took a lot of energy and sacrifice. “I tell people, whatever you decide to do, it’s a sacrifice,” she continues. “If you decide to have your kids and that’s where you’re going to devote your energy, then you sacrifice your education and your opportunities in the workplace. If you decide to pursue your education, it’s a sacrifice of time and energy and you may put off having a family or doing something else. Anything you do, there is a sacrifice somewhere.” She says she tells new hires with the city that if they aspire to do something more with their career, they should “determine what it takes and see what they need to do to be ready for that opportunity because when it presents itself, that’s not the time to get ready, you have to already be ready so you can apply and say this is how I’m qualified for it.” In 2011, Wilson was named by then City Manager Matt Brower as chief of staff for support services. She also obtained certification through the International City/County Management Association. Under City Manager John Zobler, Wilson was named deputy city manager. When he retired in late 2019, she became interim city manager. “I have professionally known Sandra prior to working with the city of Ocala, when I worked with Marion County as an assistant county administrator and interim county administrator,” notes Ocala Assistant City Manager Bill Kauffman. “I always found her to be professional and she demonstrated a desire to serve the citizens of the city. In August of 2015, I had the privilege to work for the city of Ocala as an assistant city manager, where I worked directly with Sandra in her role as deputy city manager. Again, I found her to be professional in her work and desire to make the city a better place for all the citizens. We have a great leadership team here at the city, where each of us brings a unique skill set that works together to make the city great. I am looking forward to seeing Sandra lead the city to its next level of greatness as we come out of this pandemic. The future for the city of Ocala has endless possibilities and I am sure Sandra will lead it with integrity and a steady hand to make it a great place to live, work and prosper.” Ken Whitehead, also an assistant city manager,

sent the mayor a copy of In the Shadow of Statues,” she recalls. “He’s talking about his awakening, his awareness to how a lot of the Confederate monuments impacted his community and his friends who were African Americans. And it had never dawned on him that their presence was so oppressive until he finally asked and they told him and he felt like, ‘How can I be so insensitive to that, how could I not see that this was a problem?’” The book outlines Landrieu’s mission to remove a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee and Wilson says the original contractor for the job received death threats and the subsequent contractor worked anonymously. “They had to change their whole way of doing business beThe Travel Bug cause of what happened. Just to One of the joys of life for Wilson get these statues removed,” she is traveling with family memexplains. “And you know what’s bers and friends, including on going on right now. It’s a topic of couple’s getaways each Super discussion everywhere.” Bowl weekend, to the moun“I talk to people on both sides tains of Tennessee. and it’s like both sides want to “We get this huge 12-bed, come together and we do for a lit12-bath cabin,” she notes. “And - Ken Whitehead tle bit, but it doesn’t seem like it’s we’ve gotten to know each lasting,” she offers. “I’m hopeful other very well and we support that as we continue to promote each other.” unity that we will get better at it, better at conversing She says she and Jerome really enjoy visiting with each other. Because once you get to talk to people, New York City. you find out that you have many things in common. I’m “We love going to the Broadway shows, Central sure there are many, many things we could connect on Park, going to Macy’s, just walking around, going to if we just take the time to do it. When I’m at different comedy shows. We just love the city,” she says. “I don’t places, I try to listen to what other people are chattering know if it will ever be the same. But that’s our favorite about and I often think ‘I can be part of that conversation place to go. We went last year for our anniversary.” easily.’ But if you’re not invited into a conversation, you She says they also “loved Canada. We went to Toronto just get left out. We should work on being more inclusive, when our daughter graduated.” bringing everybody to the table. I participated in the last They had trips lined up this year for Jamaica, REACH (Racial Equity and Cultural Harmony) event Charleston and Myrtle Beach, which were all cancelled (Reach Across the Table). That was a great event and I because of the pandemic. A planned journey to Dubai is think we need to do more of that. You have a topic you in jeopardy. talk about and you get to hear everybody’s perspective “And I just got inducted as president of the Rotaand everybody is open and honest about how they feel.” ry Club of Ocala. I was supposed to go to the Rotary She says during that event, she talked about working International convention in Honolulu, but that got for the city for 20 years and being introduced to a lot of cancelled,” she notes with a sigh. people, but coming away feeling “invisible.” “I like spending time with my mom and my sister. I “I’ve met people at different meetings and at difhave other siblings, too. My dad had nine children,” she ferent places and I would know who they are, but they adds. “My mother only had two of those, me and my siswould reintroduce themselves to me over and over. And ter. We are close. She is a nurse at Ocala Regional. My I was like, OK, we’ve met like four times,” she explains. mom will be 80 this year and we have a cruise planned “I shared that at the REACH event and others had the for her 80th birthday in October, if we can go.” same experience.” “Hopefully, people will recognize who I am going Making Connections forward,” she remarks. “And I’m hopeful that I will be In her precious spare time, Wilson enjoys reading and given the opportunity to do the things I need to do for recently found a connection between Ocala and New Orlethis community. I look forward to working with everyans in a book loaned to her by Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn. body, and hopefully everyone will get a chance to see my “I’ve read a couple of books out of the mayor’s office. personality. I want them to see my authentic self—who The titles catch me, and they’ve been some really good I am, how I am.” books. Mitch Landrieu, former mayor of New Orleans, has been there for five years. “What I have appreciated most about Sandra has been her honesty and integrity as a public servant,” he offers. “She is a proven leader that I trust and respect because of her core values. I learned a long time ago that who you work for has as much to do with your job satisfaction as what you do in that job. I am delighted to work with the city largely because of the caliber of people I work with in the organization and in the community. It will be fun watching the city continue to grow and prosper in the years to come, especially with Sandra at the helm of city management.”

She is a proven leader that I trust and respect because of her core values.

Aug ust ‘20



Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille 24 SE 1st Avenue, Ocala

(352) 840-0900 › hookedonharrys.com Mon-Thu 11a-10p › Fri & Sat 11a-11p › Sun 11a-9p Located in the heart of downtown Ocala, Harry’s offers traditional Louisiana favorites like Shrimp and Scallop Orleans, Crawfish Etouffée, Jambalaya, Shrimp Creole, Blackened Red Fish, Louisiana Gumbo and Garden District Grouper. Other favorites, like French Baked Scallops and Bourbon Street Salmon, are complemented with grilled steaks, chicken, burgers, po’ boy sandwiches and salads. Their full bar features Harry’s Signature Cocktails, such as the Harry’s Hurricane, Bayou Bloody Mary or the Cool Goose Martini. They also feature wines by the glass and a wide selection of imported, domestic and craft beer.

El Toreo

3790 E Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala

(352) 694-1401 › 7 days 11a-10p SR 200, Ocala › (352) 291-2121 › 7 days 11a-11p New lunch specials include Taco Salad on Mondays, $5.45; Speedy Gonzalez on Tuesdays, $5.45; Quesadillas on Wednesdays, $7.95; Chimichangas on Thursdays, $6.95; and Burrito Supreme on Fridays, $5.95. New dinner options include Fajita Mondays, $10.95; Chimichanga Tuesdays, $8.95; Alambre Wednesdays, $9.95; and Tacos de Bistec Thursdays, $9.95. Plus $1.95 margaritas on Mondays. On Sunday, kids 12 and under can enjoy $1.95 children’s meals (take-out not included). Wednesday is Special Margarita Day, 99¢ all day. Saturday is 2-for-1 margaritas all day. Happy Hour daily, 3-7pm. Everything is 2-4-1 (exceptions may apply).

Louie’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant 422 South Pine Avenue, Ocala (352) 304-5199 Opens at 11am daily

Have you had a good piece of pizza lately? If not, it’s time to try Louie’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant. This family owned and operated restaurant uses only the freshest ingredients and everything on the menu is made to order. If you crave it, chances are they make it. You have to try the hand-tossed pizza. Pile it high with your favorite toppings or try the Sicilian with its one-of-akind meat sauce. No matter what you order, you’ll be satisfied and ready to call Louie’s a new family favorite.



Happy Hour Specials: 2-7p every day $3 Draft Beer $4 House Wine & Premium Cocktails $5 Super Premium & $6 Harry’s Signature Cocktails $7 off bottles of wine We are open for dine in, carryout and delivery through Doordash and BiteSquad

Wednesday: 99¢ House Margaritas All Day Thursday: Trivia Night, 7-9pm (Blvd. location) Thursday: Mariachi band at the 200 location, 6-9pm OPEN FOR TAKE-OUT DAILY 11a-9p

Follow us on Facebook Dining room open Delivery and takeout available


In The Kitchen With Sheila Jernigan This photographer and artist approaches culinary pursuits as another outlet for her creativity, but it’s also a way she connects with loved ones. By Lisa McGinnes | Photography by John Jernigan

Aug ust ‘20




heila Jernigan’s happy place is, well, just about any place. She approaches the world with a rare joie de vivre—a natural exuberance for the great outdoors, an artist’s eye for beauty and an appreciation for good food, wine and coffee. But in her kitchen, Jernigan feels a visceral connection to loved ones. It’s where enticing aromas and the familiar repetition of chopping vegetables and stirring sauces evokes fond memories of times gone by, and where she and husband John now spend quality time together. “My best memories of cooking as a kid were when we all cooked together in my grandma’s kitchen,” she remembers with a smile. “We were a very large family. It didn’t have to be a big event, we all got together for just any reason. It was always my part to cut up things, whatever they stuck in front of me. I enjoyed it very much. But nobody really had a part, they were jumping around everywhere. It was wonderful chaos.” Back then, fried chicken was the favorite meal served at family dinners. “I don’t know how they did it— cooking fried chicken for all the people that would be at our family gatherings—but that was a big thing we would have,” she recalls. “My mom and grandma made the best. It was absolutely the best.” These days, she tries to keep the menu more on the healthy side—mostly keto-inspired recipes that support the couple’s active lifestyle, with plenty of fresh vegetables and clean proteins. She enjoys experimenting with “the different textures that come together and the different flavors that complement each other.” “I like to eat, and I like to create,” she explains. “We sometimes will start with a recipe and then we start adding our own things and doing it our own way.” When their schedules allow, John and Sheila retreat to the woods as often as possible, riding bicycles and running on the Greenway trails. In the kitchen together, she says, they “just jump in and do what needs to be done,” the same way they do in their photography studio. “Our lives are seamless,” she explains. “I love that about our relationship.”



One of their favorite dishes to prepare is Garlic Chicken, which comes together quickly with colorful fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and a creamy low-carb sauce. However, if sons Jordan and Jeremy are joining them for dinner, Jernigan is likely to serve it with slices of coarse, freshly baked beer bread to soak up the savory sauce. “John and I are trying to not eat bread, trying to be good,” she says, admitting that the easy, three-ingredient rustic loaf is “delicious” and noting that it’s also a “sentimental thing.” The beer bread was a favorite of her son Joshua, who passed away in January. “Out of my three boys, he’s the one who loved to cook with me,” she shares. “The beer bread was one of the things we cooked together. He had actually made that not too long before we lost him.”


Jernigan says she baked more often when her sons, now in their 20s, were younger. “I used to love to bake cookies and stuff like that with them, especially around the holidays,” she recalls. “All of them were included. If it was cookies, all of us would do it together. But Joshua was the main one that took interest in cooking. I think he found his talent and his love for cooking as a young kid.” After they remodeled their kitchen last year, Jernigan personalized the décor with two of her own paintings—a 4-foot by 4-foot fried egg and an equally sized portrait of a selfie taken with John. But her favorite thing in the heart of their home will always be the loved ones there with her—in person and in spirit. “I liked cooking with Joshua and I cook with John, and it definitely is more fun when somebody’s doing it with you, doing it together.”

Aug ust ‘20



Garlic Chicken

The sauce is the star of this keto-inspired dish. Start with cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, either grilled or baked. 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked (grilled or baked) 1 pound bacon 3 cups baby spinach leaves, washed 5 ounces sun-dried julienne-cut tomatoes in oil 4 ounces fresh mushrooms, washed and dried 4 cloves garlic, finely diced 1 small onion, chopped 1 1/2 cups heavy cream 1/2 cup chicken broth 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese Salt and pepper to taste Grill chicken breasts or bake in the oven. Set aside, keeping warm to be served with sauce.

Fry bacon in a large skillet until crisp. › Remove bacon and set aside, leaving a little bacon grease in the skillet. › Sauté onion and garlic in bacon grease until fragrant. › Add mushrooms, spinach and sundried tomatoes and sauté until spinach is wilted and mushrooms begin to soften. › Reduce heat and add broth and cream. › Stir and bring to a gentle simmer. › Sprinkle in parmesan cheese. › To serve, pour sauce over cooked chicken breasts and add crumbled bacon.

Beer Bread

3 cups self-rising flour 1/4 cup sugar One 12-ounce bottle of beer, at room temperature Mix flour and sugar. › Pour in beer. › Mix just until combined, but don’t overmix. › Pour into a loaf pan. › Bake at 375 degrees for 60 minutes.


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OCALASTYLE .COM/SUBSCRIPTION Ocala Style Magazine is still available for free at any of our distribution locations. Aug ust ‘20




The Secret is in the Sauce This month I am sharing my secrets about two Italian classics that are total crowd pleasers. By Jill Paglia Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery


he presentation of this dinner is very colorful and can be prepped in advance before your company arrives.

Great Gravy

San Marzano tomatoes are grown in volcanic soil in Italy. They are more sweet than acidic, compared to Roma tomatoes, and I feel they are far superior to any other type of tomato you can buy in a can. They are typically priced $1 or more per can and you will realize why once you taste this sauce. If I can find fresh San Marzano tomatoes, I boil them down in olive oil to start from scratch, but the canned variety is the next best thing. These tomatoes are magic. When used to make pizza, tomato soup or a marinara sauce, San Marzanos make me look so ridiculously good. I usually have a can or two in my pantry for a go-to meal. People who don’t even like spaghetti love it when I make marinara sauce—especially kids. I’m often asked for recipes when I use these tomatoes in dishes and I always give these tomatoes credit. You could say I am a San Marzano evangelist. My basic San Marzano Marinara Sauce is also known as Pomodoro and, in Italian families like mine, we call it “gravy.” I have been making this sauce for years, but this is the first time I have ever actually written down the recipe! In addition to the best tomatoes, it is never a complete sauce without fresh, thinly sliced garlic (the more the better), which I sauté in olive oil along with diced sweet onion and red pepper flakes. Throughout my years of experimenting with my gravy I have found that this combo is simple and pleases everyone. If I want to add more heat, I use more red pepper flakes. You can make a huge batch of this and freeze it for a future quick meal. The longer you simmer it, the more intense the flavor. My ingredients are all organic and non-GMO Aug ust ‘20




(genetically modified organism). I am also a fan of Flora 100 percent Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil, first cold pressed from certified premium olives. It has a fruity taste that complements all dishes.

Perfect Peppers

When picking peppers for stuffed peppers, I look for vibrant colors and firmness. I feel the red, yellow and orange peppers are sweeter than the green ones. When I am prepping the peppers, I cut off the tops and remove the seeds. Then, I put them in a pan close together, spray with a bit of olive oil and roast about 10 minutes. You still want them to be undercooked before you add the stuffing. I love my stuffing to be a blend of ground beef and sausage, but you can adapt to your family’s preferences by using ground turkey or chicken. This recipe is a favorite of my daughter Danielle. She often makes it for her family and even my 4-year-old grandson devours the peppers. I am not a real “saucy” person, so I always have a side bowl of gravy for family members and guests because you can add but it’s hard to take away any excess. This dish becomes complete when served on a bed of pasta. I prefer angel hair because it is delicate and doesn’t overpower. Now what could make this even better? A fine bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. There are many great options depending on your budget. My husband, son Vincent and myself are fans of Caymus. Another great option is Austin Hope Cabernet, which I order through eBay at about $40 a bottle, and you can always go for Josh Cellars Family Reserve, available at Publix, Target and

ABC for around $15. Happy shopping! And maybe I will run into you in the produce aisle—just don’t buy up all the San Marzanos. Leave a few for me! Interact with Jill and follow her lifestyle posts on Instagram @festivelysouthern and under Festively Southern Recipes on Facebook. Aug ust ‘20



Jill’s Pomodoro Gravy

2 28-ounce cans of San Marzano crushed tomatoes 1 14-ounce can Muir Glen Organic petit diced fire roasted tomatoes 1 Vidalia onion, diced 10 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped 1/3 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning 2 tablespoons organic cane sugar 1 tablespoon garlic salt 1 tablespoon parsley 1 to 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes (to taste) 1 full rind with skin removed from Pecorino Romano cheese 1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese Put three tablespoons of the olive oil in a pot and add in the onion, sliced garlic and one tablespoon of red pepper flakes. › Sauté until onion is translucent and caramelized. › Fold in the two cans of San Marzano tomatoes and fire roasted tomatoes. › Add in remaining oil, parsley, basil, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, sugar and garlic salt and stir. › Add in the Pecorino Romano cheese rind and Parmesan Cheese and stir until blended. › Simmer for one to two hours. *After I boil whatever pasta I am using, I reserve some of the liquid to thin out the gravy as needed.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (or substitute with ground turkey, chicken or pork) 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice 6 bell peppers any color (large size) 6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped 4 garlic cloves, minced or thin sliced 3/4 cup long-grain white rice cooked until just underdone (cooled) 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 teaspoons oregano 1 yellow onion, chopped 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped Salt and pepper Preheat oven to 400 degrees. › To prepare the peppers, trim about 1/4-inch from the tops and snip around the core and remove core and seeds. › Place the peppers snugly into a foil-lined baking dish just large enough to fit them so they do not fall over. › Brush or spray the inside of each pepper with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. › Roast the peppers until just undercooked and firm (about 15 minutes - be sure to not cook the peppers completely as this can cause them to collapse.) › Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. › Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent (around 4 to 5 minutes). › Add the garlic and cook another minute. › Add beef (or other protein), season with salt and pepper and cook until browned. › Break up the beef and toss it with onions and continue to cook another 2 minutes. › Remove from heat and drain off excess fat if necessary. › Stir in tomatoes and crush them with a spoon or potato masher. › Mix in the just underdone cooked rice, parsley, basil and oregano. › Taste for seasoning and season with salt and pepper to taste. › Spoon the mixture evenly into the roasted peppers. › Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the peppers are tender and the tops are crisp and golden. › Serve warm.

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H E A LT H Black Health Matters By Leah A. Taylor

The coronavirus has brought the topic of how discrimination drives the long-documented health care disparities facing Black people front and center in the national dialogue. There is no denying the facts, such as Black people are more likely than white people to die from cancer. They are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease and disorders such as sickle cell blood disorder. Blacks are more likely to suffer from depression, diabetes and chronic pain. Black children develop higher levels of stress and Black mothers are more likely to die in childbirth. So, what are the realities here in Marion County and what is the way forward?

Aug ust ‘20




an we all agree that for everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven? If so, might we also agree that seasons and times are converging in unimaginable ways? We are living in a season of acknowledgement and action, simultaneously. As soon as a predicament presents itself there is an immediate call for change. Our microwave culture has cooked itself into a boiling moment and, basically, if you can’t stand the heat you might as well get out of the kitchen because things are shifting more swiftly than ever before. But this isn’t entirely new. Solvent civil rights activists have always demanded justice to be fair and swift in protecting human rights, and not left for a more palatable time by those least affected. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best in his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” when he wrote, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” So as the corrections of social ills are playing out nationwide, it is vital that the health care industry lead the charge. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health’s (OMH) principal standard is to “provide effective, equitable, understandable and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy and other communication needs” as an aim to improve health care quality and advance health equity to serve the nation’s increasingly diverse communities. Therefore, in communities like Marion County, where the largest industry is health care and social assistance (20,449 people), it is essential that we analyze how our health care systems measure up to the standard of culturally competent care for African Americans (nonHispanic) who account for 12.1 percent or 43,500 people, the second largest ethnic group in Marion County



behind white people (70.1 percent) and represent the second most common ethnic group living below the poverty line (12,630 people or 18 percent), especially during a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which is most deadly to those with certain preexisting conditions. As Dr. Emery Brown, an Ocala native, who is, among other accomplishments, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School, states, “If you look at the risk factors for coronavirus and risk factors common to African Americans they are the same—diabetes, obesity and hypertension—many due to a genetic predisposition, especially diabetes and high blood pressure.” However, Brown emphasizes, there are other reasons for the chronic illnesses that affect Black people disproportionately. According to another Ocala native, one of the first five to integrate at Ocala High School in 1965, Dr. Ernest (E.K.) Johnson III, a “semiretired” surgeon, front-line worker and medical director of several long-term care facilities in Nashville, Tennessee, “Disparity probably runs along socioeconomic lines. Blacks just haven’t had the access that other people have had and everybody is entitled to good health care in a prosperous country like America.” When Congress asked the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) (formerly the Institute of Medicine) a private, nonprofit organization that provides health policy advice under a congressional charter granted to the National Academy of Sciences, to investigate racial and ethnic disparities in health care delivery, the NAM was instructed to determine how wide the health care gap was and identify potential reasons why it occurs. In its final report, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare, a panel of leading scientists and doctors concluded that minority patients are less likely than whites to receive the same quality of care, even when they


have similar insurance or the ability to pay for care. To make matters worse, this health care gap is linked with higher death rates among minorities. Their research stated that even when they had the same type of insurance as their white counterparts, minority patients received a lower quality of care than non-minorities, that there were wide differences in access to health care and insurance between racial and ethnic groups than whites and that minorities are less likely than whites to have private health insurance. According to the report, even those minorities who have insurance are more likely than whites to be enrolled in health plans with tight limits on the types of services they may receive. And often, the best quality health care services and providers are not generally found in the communities where they live. These are just a few of the major reasons why minorities receive a lower quality of care and represent some of the major disparities. In a statement issued in response to the report by The National Academies Press (NAP) on behalf of The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, NAP reported that, “surveys show that, by and large, the general public is unaware that minorities receive a lower quality of care than whites. Many physicians, too, are unaware of the extent of racial and ethnic disparities in care.”

The Evolution of Racial Disparities

Access is a formidable barrier to quality care. Dr. Rosemary Oraedu, a local obstetrics and gynecology specialist, posits on the disparities in the country as a whole. Besides access to general medical care, “there are a lot of disparities, especially as it affects the African American community and the white community when it comes to wealth inequality, housing inequality, access to good education, access to good health insurance, and so those kinds of disparities lead to a preponderance of disease.” She lists the disproportionate

higher risk of chronic illnesses, aforementioned by Brown and Johnson, and adds that for every baby born, “Black mothers are three to four times more likely to die from the complications related to childbirth than mothers who are white. It is a sad fact, but it’s true.” Oraedu admits she has seen some things changing. “I started seeing people coming through the doors who had not been to the doctor in seven to 10 years,” she offers, a fact she attributes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which allows her to see more Black patients. Yet, she adds, “the African American community is still lagging behind” and is still more likely to be uninsured and underinsured, a point echoed by Brown and Johnson. “Health care is always a team effort,” she says. “Many people with serious illnesses require collaboration and referrals to a different specialist.” Oraedu explains that this scenario has sometimes forced her against a “brick wall” when the insurance she accepts is not accepted by some of the subspecialists who need to collaborate in her patient’s care. As a result, some of her patients have travelled as far as the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville to find a provider. This creates transportation and financial barriers for the patient. Challenges like these have made Oraedu a proponent of an expansion of the ACA to cover subspecialists. Other barriers to access are psychological, Oraedu admits. “Having quality insurance does elevate the patient’s psyche, confidence and likelihood to seek access to care,” she states. Conversely, unseen stressors related to accessing care can adversely impact behaviors and mental health. U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, says “the concept of allostasis refers to the idea that stressors that you’re facing in your day-to-day life ultimately are manifested in different ways that your body deals with that stress. And that can be anything from blood pressure changes to kidney changes to heart Aug ust ‘20


attacks to higher rates of cancer. And what we’ve seen medically also plays out, quite frankly, in people from a mental health point of view.” Finding the right medical and mental help can be an exhaustive process, not to mention the stigma attached to mental health. “By the time Black people come in for therapy after trying to handle it on their own, the symptoms are so much more severe,” according to the online community Black Mental Wellness. Oraedu also says trial studies are needed to research the diseases most prevalent in the African American community, such as sickle cell anemia, lupus and uterine fibroids, which “cause a whole lot of morbidity for our African American women and yet a lot of these areas do not get a lot of funding in terms of research.”

Barriers to Care

Technology has also proven to be a barrier, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Enoelia Velasquez, a medical assistant at the Cardiovascular Institute of Central Florida, acknowledged a decline in people of color keeping their medical appointments during this time. Even with the availability of telehealth appointments, some patients simply didn’t have a smartphone or other device to access those services. “When the outbreak first started, we saw a decline in patients overall,” Velasquez explains. “African Americans definitely were a large part of that group. I’d say about 45 to 50 percent.” 82


Fear as an Obstacle

There is much justified fear and mistrust within the Black community based on vast historical accounts of mistreatment within the medical community. If you’ve heard of the Tuskegee Study, “Mississippi appendectomies” and Henrietta Lacks’ HeLa cells, you might understand the strained relationship between Black people and the mainstream medical industry, replete with taking advantage of poor and uneducated Black people. Many times, this occurred without informed consent and sometimes for millions of dollars—dollars that never benefited the Black community. The legacy of trauma is passed down, contributing to allostasis and forcing many to seek physician assistance only in dire circumstances. Linda Lonon, a local Black resident, tenderly recalls, “So many ingrained emotions have been with us for so long. My dad didn’t like to go for checkups. As far as we knew, he was the picture of health—despite all the ‘indigestion’ he often had.” One day it was so bad she recalls that her father asked her to drive him to the doctor, only to find a “Gone Fishing” sign on the door. “He didn’t want to go to the ER, so I took him home,” she notes. “But he didn’t stay there long.” His wife told him she was taking him to the ER, but by the next morning he had died from a massive heart attack. “It cost him his life,” she says. “His doctor said he probably had been having little heart attacks for some


time because seldom does a person just have a massive one. Prevention, I believe, would’ve saved him.”

Education as a Key

“I don’t think there is anything magical,” opines Brown. “Basically, we need to take care of ourselves. Earlier wellness checks factor into the disparity. If you don’t go, you may not know your risk factors. Just having a doctor and dentist that you see regularly, once or twice a year for health maintenance, is a benefit. We need to improve our education system, which is the root for all things.” Johnson agrees. “Solutions moving forward from COVID-19 have to start with education, in the home and in the family, and with eating habits. The good thing is, now we have so many qualified people. Blacks are really going to benefit from some of the leaders we have now who are taking to the forefront and correcting some of the things we never got a chance to correct.”

More Representation

Black health care professionals increase the trust factor for the Black community. Lonon admits to being “so happy to see the increase in doctors, especially in a small town where you knew the few Black doctors...almost too well.” Although the exact number is unclear and no local

association of African American physicians exists, the diversity is evident. A lot of doctors have moved into the Ocala area. “There are a lot of African (immigrant) physicians” in the area, Oraedu asserts. “The trust goes up when people are visiting with people who look like them. And then the understanding...because as a Black woman you understand what another Black woman might be going through.” Bridget Boynton, MSN, and one of the five founders of Ocala’s Black Nurses Rock (BNR), can attest. At an early age, Boynton knew she wanted to take care of people. After nearly 30 years of professional training, she is currently stationed at AdventHealth Ocala, where she works extensively in cardiology, seeing patients for chest pain, uncontrolled high blood pressure, congestion and cardiac arrhythmia. She says she “loves the specialty” partially because her parents are heart patients and it allows her to remain updated on new medications, technologies and treatments. Boynton says she has lost family members as young as 50 to strokes and heart attacks and stresses the importance of eating right, exercising and taking care of your high blood pressure. “I see patients all the time with a new diagnosis of high blood pressure who probably had it for years and never took the time to check it or didn’t even realize

Aug ust ‘20


they had ‘the silent killer,’” she explains. BNR has a mission to assist determined nurses to grow professionally while addressing health care disparities through annual health fairs and by providing educational talks on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

Community Clinics

When Oraedu and her husband Dr. Christian Oraedu finished their residencies in New York the couple began looking for a medically underserved community in which to practice. In 2002, Ocala qualified as a health professional shortage area. While that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore, certain parts of Ocala are designated as food and medical desert areas— like Tucker Hill, where the northwest community is awaiting the open doors of the Estella Byrd Whitman Wellness & Community Resources Center. Formally approved as a clinic by the city of Ocala in February, founder Carolyn Adams, MSN, and Dr. Pamela Lewin are still fundraising to secure operating expenses and working diligently to open the facility in order to provide health care services to the community. In the meantime, Langley Health Services offers dental services by appointment at the venue.

Allies in the Struggle

Partnerships with community organizations help when making decisions that affect the health of those most vulnerable to disease. Florida Blue, the state’s leading health insurer; and 84


Florida Blue Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Florida Blue; announced $25 million in investments over five years to organizations focused on diversity and inclusion and health equity in the communities the organizations serve. “We are at a turning point in the historical fight for equal justice, opportunity and better health care for Black people,” says Pat Geraghty, president and CEO of GuideWell and Florida Blue. “We cannot fulfill our mission of helping people and communities achieve better health without doing the urgent and necessary work to end systemic racism. We will make financial and operational investments to foster unity and an equal playing field and create a meaningful and lasting impact in the communities we serve.” Direct services like Elder Options, the statedesignated North Central Florida area agency on aging, can also help reduce disparities. Johnnie Jones III, caregiver support coordinator, says, “The Elder Helpline is where disparities can definitely be addressed, because most people don’t realize they have access until they call and are put in the triage to have services that they may not have known about.” These critical services are plentiful: Tele-talk, animatronic pets, SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders), Savvy Caregiver training, monthly stipends to full-time caregivers, tai chi, Matter of Balance fall prevention classes, chronic disease selfmanagement, Pearls—a depression management program, and other counseling. The 40-year-old


Heeding factual information from trusted advisors, who have your best interest at heart, while avoiding the pandemic of misinformation that initially trended on social media (i.e., rumors claiming people of color were immune to COVID-19) is essential. To defend against the disease, Boynton advises African Americans to take vitamin D, C, and zinc to keep your immune system intact. She also encourages exercise and, of course, washing your hands and wearing a mask when going out in public. Brown adds, “An issue like the coronavirus makes you realize how bad risk factors are. We all need to use this as a wake-up call. It doesn’t take a lot to exercise. It could be a few minutes a day and by the time a week has gone by, you have 120 minutes.”

maternal mortality rate among Black mothers. The argument has been made in many public forums and articles on the topic that bias in health care may even be more dangerous than many of the other threats currently facing the Black community in America. Internationally recognized researcher, senior vice president and dean of the University of South Florida Health Morsani College of Medicine (USF Health) Dr. Charles Lockwood described the issue of discrimination in the health care industry as a “pervasive public health problem” in a recent message to USF Health faculty, staff and students. “Racial differences in health outcomes are well documented. While there are many proximate causes of these health disparities, they are all intertwined with this country’s shameful legacy of racism,” he noted. “Racial discrimination is reinforced through de facto segregation in our churches and neighborhoods, by inequities in education and the criminal justice system, and by chronic unemployment and underemployment. And, finally, it is manifest in adverse health outcomes accruing [because of ] poor nutrition, the chronic stress attendant [to] these inequalities and limited access to high quality care. And when Black Americans finally access health care, they are often confronted by implicit bias and poor cross-cultural communication from providers.”

Mental Health Counseling

The Road Ahead

agency also recently received a grant to donate and loan electronic tablets, complete with hotspots, to eligible families. “People who need services the most tend to access them the least,” explains Jones, who likes to partner with houses of faith to get the word out. But don’t let the name fool you; Elder Options is not exclusively for those 65 and older. They also assist younger clients with Medicare/Medicaid through SHINE, and caregivers as young as 45.

Common Sense and the Coronavirus

As U.S. Surgeon General Adams said publicly, “It’s OK to not be OK. We need to give people ways to express their concern and their emotions and their pain. We need to give them the space to grieve and to vent. And we also have to try to balance that, though, with the need to protect property and to protect lives from violence and from COVID-19.” Good mental health and understanding the mindbody connection makes us healthier overall. And while referrals to holistic programs are good coping mechanisms, Black people, especially, need to look at the origin of their mental stressors.

Implicit Bias and Racism

Among the most daunting factors that keep Black individuals from seeking care are implicit bias and racism. Inherently, Black people have been taught to appear strong by their family members and community, but this has worked against them. According to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association of Medical Colleges, some providers miss key components when it comes to diagnosing Black people’s pain. A survey conducted by NPR in collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health revealed that Black patients’ feelings are often minimized and not validated in a positive manner by the medical community, which has also been linked to the high

With regard to health care specifically, there will be no panacea for the problems plaguing Black Americans. The potential remedies are as varied as the socioeconomic issues, and from institutions to individuals, everyone has a part in the healing. The NAP statement notes, “It may seem like an unbreakable cycle, but it is not a hopeless situation. The first step toward correcting the problem is to make people aware of it. Greater awareness is likely to lead to more public and professional concern to solve the problem.” Ocala/Marion County can absolutely foster a greater awareness of the issues and find solutions to the disparities that have kept the Black community from the best possible health care opportunities. Yes, we are living through a difficult season of change, but through adversity comes the possibility of true progress.

For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health at www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov or the National Institutes of Health’s Center on Minority Health Disparities at www.nimhd.nih.gov

Aug ust ‘20



Making The Grade Ocala Regional Medical Center and West Marion Community Hospital were named among the nation’s top 100 Best Hospitals for Orthopedic Surgery in a 2020 study by Healthgrades. At the forefront is orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Duke. By Marian Rizzo


cala Health’s twin hospitals were recently recognized as top 100 U.S. hospitals in orthopedic surgery by Healthgrades, an independent online source of information in health care. For the seventh year, Ocala Regional Medical Center and West Marion Community Hospital were selected from among 4,500 hospitals (excluding military, veterans and long-term care facilities). The 2020 study, which was released in October 2019, also credited the two hospitals for excellence in joint replacement (2019-2020) and spine surgery (2013-2020). Another part of the report recognized both hospitals in the category of prostate operations (2018-2020). According to Anthony Del Vicario, senior vice president and general manager of quality solutions at Healthgrades, the short-term, acute care hospitals are evaluated on 32 common conditions and procedures, including quality of care, patient safety and outcomes following surgery. In a follow-up report in June, Ocala Health’s hospitals also were among 456 hospitals that received Healthgrades’ Patient Safety Excellence Award. The findings are free to the public on the Healthgrades website. “Patients can essentially make a more informed, educated decision,” Del Vicario notes. “We take into consideration the clinical profile of every patient that is evaluated by looking at age, gender, and any conditions that patient has. The data is de-identified, so patients’ identities are protected.” Orthopedics is one of many areas of treatment addressed by Healthgrades. In each category, hospitals are evaluated on several levels of expected outcomes, ending with a comparison against hospitals across the nation. In the end, they are awarded stars according to three separate ranks. “Everybody knows five stars are great, three are good, and one is not so good,” acknowledges Del Vicario. “When I look at how Ocala Regional and West Marion perform today, they have five stars in 12 areas.” Lauren Debick, director of public relations and communications at Ocala Health, credits the entire staff of physicians and certified orthopedic nurses for the Healthgrades awards. She notes that West Marion has its fifth-floor Joint Care Center and Ocala Regional is a Level 2 trauma center.

“The awards cover both hospitals and all of the people involved,” declares Debick. “It’s just another example of our commitment of quality care for Marion County.” Dr. James Duke had the honor of being the first surgeon to conduct orthopedic operations at West Marion after it opened in 2002 on State Road 200, an ideal location amidst a multitude of senior communities. Like Debick, Duke is quick to recognize the entire team. “The Healthgrades report is a reflection on the whole group,” Duke insists. “We have two or three other guys who do a whole spectrum of orthopedics. All the nurses and therapists are on the same page. Put all those together and we get a bunch of great outcomes to the point we get blessed enough to win this kind of award. We consider that a pretty special honor, a reflection of all that hard work and dedication.” A graduate of the University of Florida, Duke moved to Ocala in 1991 and had a solo practice until last year, when he joined the Orthopaedic Institute. Recently, Ocala Health added 36 more beds to the fifth floor Joint Care Center, bringing the total to 48 beds. “We now refer to it as a private penthouse,” Duke quips. “We have all these beautiful trees. Every room looks out on a very tranquil and serene place to recover from.” During his career, Duke estimates he has performed more than 11,000 implants. He has tackled everything from putting a cast on his 7-year-old grandson’s fractured wrist to performing a hip replacement on a 90-year-old man. His grandson was out of the cast within a month. And, surprisingly, the elderly gentleman walked out of the hospital with only a cane, explains Duke. “He was a tough old farmer,” Duke recalls with a chuckle. “When I saw him two weeks later, he was already walking independently. When I first got started in the early 1990s, I wouldn‘t think of operating on someone past their 80s. It’s just amazing to me how many folks are healthy and active.” Duke says the median age of his patients is around 70. Former patient Virginia “Carol” Ayers proudly declares herself one of them. She had a right hip replacement at West Marion in February 2016 and a total right knee replacement in January 2020. In the beginning, Ayers sought advice about orthopedic doctors. She kept hearing Dr. Duke’s name. Aug ust ‘20



“I thought, he must be phenomenal if everybody says he’s the best,” recalls Ayers. “I’ll never forget it, when Dr. Duke walked in the office to meet me. He brought such a calmness into the room. Prior to my surgery he said to my husband, ‘I promise you, when I bring your wife back she will be out of this pain.’ The very next morning when I woke up I had no pain. “I’ll be 80 in December,” proclaims Ayers. “Because of my surgery I got my life back, thanks to Dr. Duke and God.” Meanwhile, Duke’s easygoing demeanor seems out of sync with what most folks would consider a stressful career. So the question bears asking, Does he feel a lot of pressure? There is hardly any at all, claims Duke. “I would define pressure as doing a total knee replacement on my mother-in-law, which I did three years ago,” he admits. “She’s got some medical issues, so I was sweating it out, but she did well.” At 62, Duke marvels at how far orthopedics have come and where they’re headed.



“Things have remarkably improved even in the last three to five years,” Duke reflects. “I think our knee surgeries are getting better with therapy and how quickly patients go home. When I first started, people stayed in the hospital three to five days. Now they stay maybe one night. Orthopedics is very technologically driven—computers, robots. In 2020, our total hip and knee implants are like iPhone 11s. As technology continues to expand over the next 10 to 20 years it could be quite revolutionary. I really think we’re going to have to do more with preventatives and biologics to try to alter the formation of arthritis, so one day we may say, ‘Hey! We don’t have bone-on-bone anymore.’” To read more about independent rankings of health care providers, visit www.healthgrades.com. For more information about Ocala Regional Medical Center and West Marion Community Hospital, visit www.ocalahealthsystem.com


Guarding Against Equine Accidents in Horse Country Living in Ocala/Marion County, the “Horse Capital of the World,” we are surrounded by equines of all breeds. With more than 900 farms in the area, thousands of horses are used for pleasure and business.


f you’ve been to a local horse facility, you’ve likely noticed a sign posted which states the following: “Under Florida law, an equine activity sponsor or equine professional is not liable for an injury to, or the death of, a participant in equine activities resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities.” As this statue notes, Florida has a strong law that helps protect stable and property owners from lawsuits, but this law doesn’t provide blanket immunity in the event of an accident. Making the choice to ride and handle a horse comes with some assumed risks, but property owners are still responsible for providing safe equipment and conditions. “Anything the owner does

that is considered negligent, intentional, reckless or wanton that is not an inherent risk of equine activities will not be covered by the immunity from liability, allowing the victim to sue for equine-related injuries,” notes Greg King, Managing Shareholder of the King Law Firm in Ocala. For example, even if someone signs a waiver at a trail riding stable, the landowner may be held liable if, for example, the rider is injured due to a faulty saddle or irresponsible actions, such as putting a rider on an inappropriate horse. King explains that in the case of such a lawsuit, the injured party would have to show that their injury resulted from dangerous conditions or other negligence.

“The law does allow a victim to sue a business that provides equines or equine equipment if the business fails to make a reasonable and prudent investigation of whether the rider can manage the animal safely,” says King. “This is based on the participant’s representations of his or her abilities, so riders should never misrepresent their experience level with horses. Basic inquiries should be made as to a rider’s experience and efforts should be made to match riders with horses of appropriate sizes and temperaments. In some cases, it may mean denying the ability to ride a horse at all.” If you have an equine facility or horse property, you are not legally required to display

the equine liability sign, if you provide written notice of the statute’s immunity provisions in document form to persons who are using the property for equine activities. It is a good idea to do both. In the event that someone is injured by your horse, on your property, you should notify your insurance company. If you are injured while participating in an equine activity, you should have the injury treated and documented by a medical professional. Then talk with a qualified local attorney about your legal rights to determine if you have a case. King Law Firm › 2156 E. Silver Springs Blvd. Ocala, FL 34470 › (352) 261-6648 › www.kinglawfirm.org

Aug ust ‘20



Learning to Chill Two Ocala experts on meditation and mindfulness offer insight into the differences between the two and how to begin your journey. By Susan Smiley-Height


have heard from friends that meditation and mindfulness can provide many benefits for the mind and body. They attest that the practices help improve quality of life, reduce stress and can even help with challenges such as illness and addiction. The venerable Mayo Clinic has a mediation section on its website. Clinic staffers state that “Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional wellbeing and your overall health.” But who can sit still for very long, much less quiet their mind? I have tried it on my own, and even tried an app on my phone—once. But I failed at achieving any state other than agitation at myself. So, what are some of the secrets to being able to meditate and practice mindfulness? We asked two experts in Ocala to offer guidance. I began by asking Grace Beck, the owner of Nadi Om Wellness, if one must sit still to meditate. Beck is a licensed massage therapist, Reiki master teacher, certified reflexologist, Ayurvedic lifestyle consultant and registered yoga instructor. She offers guided meditation in a group setting and private sessions.

“No, not all meditation requires sitting still,” she responds. “Some do well with stillness, others need a more active, moving meditation practice like walking meditation or sound meditation. Some may even consider yoga a moving meditation when the correct mindset is achieved.” When queried about how to begin, Susan Cohen, owner of The Healing Solutions Center, and who is certified as a life coach, recovery coach, Reiki master, meditation teacher, master of wisdom and addiction professional, offers, “The most important thing I teach people new to meditation is that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. Meditation is different for everyone and it is imperative to find what works for you. Making the space that you are in comfortable and setting the scene is also important to make you feel relaxed.” Cohen adds that people often think that to meditate we need to stop our thoughts. “This is not true because we have 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day. It would be impossible to stop them completely. It is not about the thoughts per se, it is about what you do with them when they arise,” Cohen explains. “For most people, the key to meditation is to notice and then release our thoughts. You can release the thought on the out breath or by picturing it floating away. I start my students meditating for short periods of time and increase it little by little as they are comfortable. The important thing is that you practice regularly and do not give up.” Beck offers these thoughts about getting started. “There are some great apps that can be downloaded to start a mindfulness or meditation practice. For those who do better with in-person instruction, find a group class or session and attend with an open mind. Definitely find a space and teacher that you resonate with. Private meditation lessons or group meditation lessons are also an option to learn the basics.” As to whether meditation and mindfulness are the same thing, Beck says she would classify mindfulness as a type of meditation. “Mindfulness allows you to become aware of the present moment—to not just go through the motions, if you will,” she notes. “As you bring yourself into the moment, you become more focused and begin to quiet the mind—advancing your consciousness and concentration, which many contend is the goal of meditation. For some, mindfulness might be the easiest way to start a meditation practice: be mindful as you drink your morning cup of coffee, be mindful as you walk to your car, be mindful as you eat your lunch. There are many opportunities throughout the day to use mindfulness techniques. They definitely complement each other and always work toward the same goal: calming the always thinking, always doing mind.” Cohen attests to the fact that meditation and mindfulness are often used in a similar context and feels that confusion about the differences between the two are understandable. “Where mindfulness can be applied to any situation throughout the day, meditation is usually practiced for a specific amount of time,” Cohen states. “Mindfulness is being focused on what is happening in the moment. When you are Aug ust ‘20



actively mindful you are paying attention using your five senses and noticing things such as thoughts, feelings, behaviors, etc.” She says that meditation is an intentional practice, where you focus inward to increase calmness, concentration and emotional balance. “There are many forms of meditation. Some are used to develop a clear and focused mind, while others are used to develop altruistic states, such as lovingkindness, compassion or forgiveness,” she notes. “And there are others that focus on your body as a means to develop awareness, such as yoga or walking. Still others use sound such as chanting, intoning sacred words and using Tibetan or crystal singing bowls.” Cohen believes there are many benefits of mindfulness and meditation and says these include reducing stress, depression and anxiety; promoting emotional and physical wellness; enhancing selfawareness; improving memory and sleep; lengthening attention span; and helping in reducing addictive behaviors, controlling pain, lowering blood pressure, slowing the heart rate and giving a general sense of well-being.” Cohen says her own path to becoming involved in teaching others included “extreme challenges” in life. “I was born ill, had over 20 surgeries, suffered abuse and dealt with emotional issues,” she relates. “I’ve been searching for years for relief from anxiety, stress and depression. With the help of a life coach I was introduced to meditation, which helped me exponentially and changed my life. I made it my mission to help as many people as I can find the healing and peace I enjoy today.” Beck believes that meditation can help mitigate the stresses in life. “Stress takes a terrible toll on the body physically and mentally,” she remarks. “A daily meditation practice

reduces the effects of stress and offers a path to wellbeing and peace of mind. Depending on the type of meditation you practice, it can lead you into your best day, help you through a challenging afternoon, or complete your day and guide you into a peaceful sleep.” So, now that I have insight from these practitioners, it’s time for me to phase out the sounds of one neighbor’s rooster, another’s lawn mower and yet another’s race car engine as I work to become calmer and more centered. And now that I know I don’t have to do it sitting still, I think a walk around the block, listening intently to the sounds of birdsong and feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, may be just what the teachers ordered.

Practical Tips for Finding Your Way “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” –Buddha • Just begin. Create a practice that works for you, then slowly improve upon it. • Forget about rules. Just engage in contemplation or reflection and connect with your true self. • Hacks to help: • Sit up, close your eyes, inhale deeply and silently count to one; let that breath out and count two. Try to reach 10. If your mind wanders, start over. • Take a walk. No chatting, no cellphone. Just walk and absorb the beauty around you. • Pet an animal—intentionally. It will calm the animal and your mind and body. • Find a guided meditation. Let someone else help you get started. • Write. One page, any topic. Just get it out. • Say thank you. Say it aloud or silently. Gratitude is a powerful emotion. Feel it, and mean it. Online resources: • UCLA Mindfulness Research Center: Audio tracks help you practice on your own. www.uclahealth.org/marc/ • The Chopra Center for Wellbeing: Guided meditations and 21-day meditation experience. www.chopra.com • Search guided meditations on Spotify. • Search guided meditations on YouTube. • AudioDharma: Guided meditations. www.audiodharma.org

Delaying Dementia A diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most difficult for families to face. Researchers are studying high-tech treatments, but for now their best advice remains rooted in the hallmarks of healthy habits. By Lisa McGinnes


nfrared lights shone through the skull to impact the surface of the brain. Magnets strategically placed over the head so their polarity will stimulate the brain. While he admits they do sound a little like science fiction, Dr. Glenn Smith, chair of the University of Florida’s (UF) Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, says these are some of the techniques university researchers are currently studying that may help people living with dementia. “These are some of the really interesting and spaceagey things that are coming along right now,” he reveals. “It turns out there are a lot of ways that we can try and stimulate the cortex of the brain.”


Using the same basic principles that once led psychiatrists to the use of electroconvulsive therapy, which Smith calls “very effective at treating depression,” current UF studies in neuromodulation use “very small”

amounts and “far milder” deliveries of electric current through the skull to connect with neurons in the brain. “The brain communicates with chemicals, but those chemicals have electrical properties,” Smith explains. “These techniques are collectively called neuromodulation techniques. It means modulating brain cells or neurons.” He breaks it down like this: “Learning is a strengthening of some brain connections and a weakening of others. So the benefit of neuromodulation is it might be able to speed the process of strengthening those brain connections. By strengthening them we’re going to avoid the loss of brain connections.” This neuroprotection, he says, shows promise as a way to help older adults reduce memory decline. Smith stresses, however, that “we can’t advance science without the public’s help” in volunteering for research studies. “In particular, we need to do better at getting minority communities involved in research,” he states. Aug ust ‘20



“We know, for example, that African Americans and Hispanics are at least 1.5 to 2 times at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease if they reach age 65 and beyond. So we should be, and we are, undertaking special efforts to try and understand how dementia develops in these underrepresented communities.”

Good Health Habits

Since it’s not likely to show up until a person is over age 65, most people don’t worry much about cognitive decline until someone they know is suffering. But while researchers continue to search for ways to treat dementia, those universal health recommendations the medical community gives all of us are still some of the best ways we can protect our brains—at any age. It’s not rocket science, as they say, and Smith urges “it’s never too late to start.” “We should all be motivated to try to maintain cognitive health,” Smith declares. He explains in a way that’s easy for most people to understand: “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.” He says that the basic good health standards—watching our weight, exercising, eating a healthy diet and keeping blood pressure in check—don’t just lower our risk for heart attacks but might help us stave off memory problems as we get older. While recent Alzheimer’s studies have explored the role of aerobic exercise in combatting changes in the brain associated with dementia, Smith reminds patients that “aerobic exercise is anything that increases your heart rate and your respirations.” That includes yoga,

used in UF’s 10-day HABIT [Healthy Action to Benefit Independence and Thinking] program for persons with mild cognitive impairment, which has not progressed to Alzheimer’s or dementia, and their care partners— including those in wheelchairs. “The direct benefits of exercise and a healthy diet extend beyond just keeping your blood pressure low. We believe that both of those endeavors can have a positive effect directly on the brain,” Smith notes. That’s also what Ocala neurologist Dr. Jose Gaudier tells patients who ask about lowering their risk for developing dementia. “While there is nothing that eliminates the risk of developing dementia, there are several things that can help,” he states. “Other than adequate treatment of diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia, the best data on prevention is through exercise and weight reduction.”

Improve Your Memory Courtesy of Jose Gaudier, M.D.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

Stick to a schedule—eat, sleep, exercise and bathe at the same time every day. Consider a low carbohydrate diet and eat three meals a day. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, including berries. Exercise daily and walk briskly for 15-30 minutes three times a week. Get at least 15 minutes of sunlight daily. Quit smoking. Engage in activities, including specific daily household chores. Stay well hydrated—drink lots of water unless you have a medical condition that requires limiting fluids. Get involved in social and family activities. Contact old friends and make friendships with non-worriers. Plan something enjoyable every day. Learn new skills, games or recipes, or a new language. Play cards or board games once or twice a week. Listen to music (particularly classical music). Consider attending worship services.

• Alzheimer’s Association, www.alz.org • Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Education & Referral Center, www.alzheimers.gov • CDC Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging Program, www.cdc.gov/aging • National Institute on Aging, www.nia.nih.gov Dr. Glenn Smith



Photo by Bruce Ackerman

Online Resources:

The Art of Expertise Patricia Tomlinson, the Appleton Museum of Art Curator of Exhibitions, muses on how becoming a virtuoso in any field is a wondrous journey. Tomlinson, a former professional archaeologist, joined the museum in 2016 after serving as curatorial staff in the New World Department at the Denver Art Museum. By Patricia Tomlinson


hen I am asked what a curator does, one of the things I always say is: “A curator is the designated expert of a collection.” What does it mean to be a designated expert, however? In all honesty, being a curator is less of a job and more of a lifestyle. It is immersing yourself in a given genre; knowing the subject inside and out through years of research, thinking about your chosen subject endlessly, collaborating with other experts, and often becoming highly specialized. One of the most amusing curatorial job postings I’ve ever seen was from a very important and large museum that was looking for a “Curator of Mollusks.” Chuckling aside, there is something to be said for an expertise so detailed that you’ve basically seen it all. This is the person who is consulted on news broadcasts and noteworthy documentaries as the “voice” of their field—the person in the know. All this knowledge comes about because we like, I dare say even love, to learn. Most curators have graduate degrees, speak several languages and think it’s fun to geek out on topics like types of paint used through the centuries. Before you count us all out as completely boring, remember that uncovering truths and finding out

new information about the past is almost detective-like, and what’s not to love about that? Additionally, being an expert calls upon one to be aware of trends and new innovations in their field. Museums, for example, have changed drastically over time and, due to the new constraints created by COVID-19, curators worldwide have embraced digital technology to a degree they never have before. We have been conducting gallery tours, looking at art objects indepth and even conducting global symposia digitally. It’s been an exciting, but occasionally challenging, learning curve for many of us. Experts, no matter what genre, are important because without them we never would have gone to the moon, unearthed ancient civilizations or created lifesaving innovations such as penicillin. They are an integral part of the world and its wonder.

Visit www.appletonmuseum.org for more information and online offerings. Appleton Museum of Art, 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd., (352) 291-4455.

Aug ust ‘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.

“An Ocala icon and a time hop. We have all driven past this spot thousands of times. The Ocala Drive-In beckons to be captured in a photograph. One of only a few drive-in movie theaters in the United States that is still in operation, it’s like stepping back into the movie American Graffiti.”












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