They Live Among Us…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A Monthly Column

                                                                                                                                                                by Steve Russell



                                                                                                                  I’ve been writing this column for over two years now. I’ve learned a lot                                                                                                                   more about the amazing people that make up this park. The depth and                                                                                                                   breadth of life experiences and talents are astonishing to me.

                                                                                                                  I believe that all of us have fascinating life stories. How could we have                                                                                                                   lived this long without having had interesting experiences and lives? But                                                                                                                   in choosing who to feature in these stories I have to make hard decisions.                                                                                                                   There are many people I know who have compelling stories that I will                                                                                                                   never get around to interviewing.

                                                                                                                  Already there are people I have missed, stories of interesting people who                                                                                                                   have passed. I know I will miss others as well. There are several I have                                                                                                                   asked who do not wish to share their experiences, and I respect their                                                                                                                   wish for privacy.

                                                                                                                  These articles will never be anything more than a brief glimpse of the                                                                                                                   people involved. All of the people here are complex, dynamic, nuanced                                                                                                                   individuals with full lives, past and present.

                                                                                                                  Just a reminder, there are no photos available with the printed or                                                                                                                   emailed issues of the Grapevine. You can see all the photos associated                                                                                                                   with the articles, and all previous articles at the Pine Island Cove                                                                                                                   website. I try to post new articles on or about the 20th of the month.


                                                                                                                   Please continue to nominate your friends and neighbors, but I would                                                                                                                    strongly prefer you don’t nominate yourself. I very much appreciate the                                                                                                                    many kind comments I have received concerning the column. Thank                                                                                                                    you. Steve Russell,


                                                                                                                   “A man’s experiences of life are a book. There was never yet an                                                                                                                    uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest                                                                                                                    exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy.” --- Mark Twain








They Live Among Us...Gloria and Joe Hainey


We have living among us people of extraordinary talents. The articles that have appeared here over the past 38 months are an example of some of those people. Yet, we have barely scratched the surface. A fine example of that fact is Gloria and Joe Hainey. They are so entwined in the culture and fiber of Pine Island Cove that they have become literally part of the fabric of our lives here.


Joe and Gloria married in June of 1959. You don’t have to be a math whiz to realize that the couple has celebrated 60 years of wedded bliss, and they did so a few days ago on June 13.


Joe and Gloria.pdf  




They Live Among Us...Kurt Vreeland


Kurt Vreeland and his wife Jeni didn’t just accidentally stumble upon Pine Island Cove. Theirs was a methodical, almost scientific quest for the perfect place to spend a few warm months away from the very long and very cold Maine winters.


Kurt took a couple of months off from his medical practice two years ago, turning the practice over to his son. He and Jeni headed off to Florida, where they visited the panhandle, the east coast, and the west coast of the state. They believed they would know when they found the right place. As Kurt describes it, they discovered a pleasant little community, hidden away on a little island, very much Old Florida. It was simple, friendly, easy and safe, filled with good people. Somehow, perhaps not that surprisingly, their planning and persistence led them right to Pine Island Cove.


Kurt Vreeland.pdf  




They Live Among Us...Chuck Venturi


Do any of you know a 10-year-old bartender? That seems a silly question, I know. But don’t be too quick to answer, because you may indeed know one.


I would have preferred to try to keep you guessing on who this mystery bartender was, but that is hard to do when his name is prominently featured at the top of the article. That format makes guessing games problematic.


Chuck Venturi grew up on the south side of Milwaukee amidst lots of Germans, Polish, and Italians. His dad and mom ran a neighborhood bar and restaurant. Their house was attached to the bar. From time to time, when the hired help did not show up, or when his dad needed a nap, Chuck was called upon to help out. That is how a 10-year-old was drafted as a bartender.


Chuck Venturi.pdf  



They Live Among Us...Horst Strassburg


The events that shape our lives are determined, in part, by actions we have taken, deliberate actions, forks in the road of life, so to speak. Likewise, our lives can also be affected by fate, random events completely outside of our control. In moments of hubris it is easy to imagine that when we find ourselves in fortuitous circumstances, it is entirely due to our skill, intelligence, or some talent or other. Some of that may indeed be true. But to deny the factor that fate plays in our lives shows a lack of understanding of the human condition.


For instance, if you had been born in Germany in 1929, dark clouds building within your country would have cast a shadow on your future for at least the next 20 years, and perhaps much longer. Within the country, the conditions of your birth would have a dramatic impact on what would become of you. 


Horst Strassburg.pdf  



They Live Among Us...Doris Tempesta


Sometimes fathers hope for a son to help them with their work, or to participate in activities that daughters often do not. That’s only natural, but it plays into stereotypes that can be flat wrong. The wisest fathers realize that girls, with just a little motivation, and the opportunity, can do things every bit as well as boys. Those of us fortunate enough to have daughters have learned that often girls like doing the same sort of things as boys.


When I heard the story of a woman here in Pine Island Cove who built a deck all by herself in just a few days, I had to find out more. I stopped by to meet Doris Tempesta at 4972 Gulfgate. We had not met before. She and her husband, Steve, have not been here that long.


Doris Tempesta.pdf



They Live Among Us...The People of Pine Island Cove


It’s all about the people.


With eight years in Pine Island Cove, Sandee and I are relative newcomers. if you have been here for very long, you have learned that we are blessed with some extraordinarily nice people, and they are the glue that holds us together. We have our own little world right here in Pine Island Cove. We feel we are tied to these people like a pair of comfortable old shoes.


Here we have smart men, and smarter women, strong men and women who are sometimes stronger in many ways than their mates. These are people we know, people we can put names to. And some very nice people whose names we sometimes forget. We can see their faces, wise, strong, smiling faces, showing the years of experience that brought them here to this little backwater along the Gulf Coast of Florida. These are our neighbors and friends.


People of Pine Island Cove.pdf  



They Live Among Us...Irv and Ethel Tautkus


Imagine bicycling around the entire circumference of our planet. One of us here in Pine Island Cove has done the equivalent of that, riding over 25,000 miles. Irv Tautkus is on his third bike now and he just keeps pedaling and pedaling, sort of like the energizer bunny.


Irv brought his old 2 wheeler down here from Connecticut years ago. He put several thousand miles on it. Then, about 10 years ago, he acquired first three-wheeler. It had over 16,000 miles when he got rid of it in October, 2016. He has 7000 miles on his new three-wheeler. Typically, he does three miles on every outing, riding on every street in the Cove. Irv averages about six miles per hour on his circuits of the park. If there was a nice smooth road around the equator, circling the globe, those 25,000 miles would have taken him a full two years, riding for 40 hours every week, with no time off for vacations.


Irv and Ethel Tautkus.pdf



They Live Among Us...George Powell


George Powell grew up on a farm near Montrose, Michigan. If you have lived in Pine Island Cove very long you probably know at least one of the four Powell families here in the Cove, all part of the Powell clan. George and his wife Nancy raised four sons, Larry, Roger, Greg, and Darwin. Three of those four sons have homes right here in Pine Island Cove with George. Nancy, his wife of 68 years, and the love of George’s life died almost exactly three years ago, in November, 2015.


George Powell.pdf  



They Live Among Us...Egrets


I prefer to write about people. They are much more interesting than birds. But I have exhausted the list of people whom you believe I should write about. This column has been mostly a collaborative effort. With your help, I learn of the fantastic stories of incredible lives led by amazing people here in Pine Island Cove. Occasionally, I get to tell you about fabulous vacations our friends and neighbors have taken.


I firmly believe that there must be other stories out there. But, if not, there will be no article next month, and I will get a vacation.


Some of you may be interested in the birds that live among us. There are actually four different species of egrets that can be seen in the park itself, from time to time, or within a few hundred feet from our boundaries. Those four species are the Great Egret, the Snowy Egret, the Cattle Egret, and the Reddish Egret.





They Live Among Us...Harry Haskins


There lives among us a man who shouldn’t be living among us. By that, I mean he should be dead. He should be dead because he came so close to dying many, many times. Yet, Harry Haskins survived, because that is what he is, a survivor.


There is another aspect to Harry’s life that he doesn’t talk about. He really should. It has to do with courage. There are many types of courage, of course. You may be surprised at the bravery that Harry has shown, and continues to show every day.


Harry Haskins.pdf 



They Live Among Us...Norm and Deb Leblanc


We have, living among us, men and women with many skills and occupations, including farmers and ranchers. In that particular group is a couple who raise Christmas trees. Norm and Deb Leblanc have been growing Christmas trees for over 40 years up in wintery New Hampshire. They started with 6500 trees planted on property near their home. They have since moved to a larger piece of land that allows for a ten- acre Christmas tree farm behind the home that Norm and Deb built themselves.


The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals, both pagan and Christian, for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. Christians used it as a sign of everlasting life with God.


Norm and Deb Leblanc.pdf 



They Live Among Us...Billie and Scott Reynolds


Growing up in the suburbs I often thought how nice it would be to live on a farm. The closest we ever got was being able to spend a couple weeks on the farm of my Aunt Lou and Uncle Frank near Hudson, Michigan. It was always a fabulous adventure, getting to see cousins, exploring the vast rolling fields, the woods, the chicken coop, apple orchard, and building hay bale forts in the barn. As I grew a little older I began to think that living on a ranch would be even better. There would be horses to ride, cows to brand, and all the things that cowboys do.


There are some among us who might have gladly changed places with me. I’m guessing that walking in another’s shoes for a couple weeks or months might have convinced me that I didn’t have it so bad. The grass is always greener, except when it isn’t.


Billie Reynolds, and her husband Scott, both grew up in Montana. Billie was born in Butte, pretty much in the first third of 13 kids…ten sisters and two brothers. They lived on a ranch about 20 miles northwest of Butte. 


That ranch started out as a 160 acre homestead, founded by her great grandfather, Hans Peterson, in the 1880s’. It was the first farm in the Upper Deer Lodge Valley. Hans made a very good living growing cabbage and making sauerkraut for sale to the miners in the area.


Billie and Scott Reynolds.pdf  



They Live Among Us...Erik and Ingrid Hasselbach


Some of us in Pine Island Cove have had the experience and wonderful adventure of going off to summer camp. It may have been in the north woods of Michigan. It was probably on a lake, with plenty of canoeing and fishing. The food was usually pretty good. There were lots of activities and fun was had by all.


One of us here in Pine Island Cove was forced into a concentration camp at age nine. It was a Japanese concentration camp on the island of Java in what is now the country of Indonesia, during World War Two. Nobody had any fun at all.


Erik Hasselbach was born in Surabaya, Indonesia in 1933. His father was a doctor in the Dutch Navy and was stationed in the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia. His mother, older sister Pam, and younger brother Ben lived in a nice home, with servants to handle all the cooking and cleaning. Life was about to change for young Erik. The innocence of the nine year old was to come to a sudden end.


Erik and Ingrid Hasselbach.pdf  



They Live Among Us...American Alligators


Okay. So I’m pretty sure you don’t want to invite these neighbors over for dinner. And I know you don’t want them to have you for dinner. But we ought to know a little more about them, because they are a fact of life in Pine Island Cove, and they most definitely live among us. They’ve been here a lot longer than we have. As a species they’ve been around for millions of years and are likely to be around long after we are gone.


Alligators have a small reptilian brain, not suited to complex thinking. Human emotions are unknown to them. But their brain is very good at what it does. It has served them well for many millions of years. It is the brain of a survivor. 


They learn that upright creatures sometimes bring food and throw it to them, or leave it for them. When this happens they don’t think nice thoughts of the creatures, they merely start to associate people with food, and that is very dangerous for both the alligator and the people with whom the alligator may come in contact. 


American Alligators.pdf  



They Live Among Us...Lori and Wayne Smith


There are some people in the world who happen to like action and adventure. We have quite a few such people right here in Pine Island Cove. Wayne and Lori Smith like to explore the world, and they do it with panache, imagination, thoroughness, and intensity. Those of you who know Wayne and Lori know that they live their lives here in the Cove the same way.


After retiring, they planned on traveling. Their plan was, and is, to travel to some far away place every two years, and to explore that place with thoroughness and depth that cannot be accomplished in a mere two week trip.


This story is about their nine week trip to Australia and New Zealand. They left on Christmas Day, 2017 and returned on February 28, 2018. There is no way I can describe their entire trip for you in this short article. Instead, I will try to tell you about a few of the many highlights.


To see the rest of the article and photos, go to:


Lori and Wayne Smith.pdf 



They Live Among Us...Debbie Buehl


I have always admired people who can make things, create things with their hands. We have so many such talented people in Pine Island Cove. I know a person who can make beautiful things from leather. I know of a person who can create almost anything from metal or wood. There is a man here who makes both muzzleloader rifles and real airplanes. I know a woman who makes a cherry cheesecake to die for. We all know women and men here who make meals fit for a king. 


There is a man here who made a car by hand. There is another very talented man who makes beautiful bowls from exotic woods. I know of several women who paint with watercolors, oils, or acrylics, and create awe inspiring works of art. There is a very talented woman who creates masterpieces of stained glass. There are women here who write books, both fiction and non-fiction. 


There are many women who make quilts of incredible, intricate beauty. There is a man who has built hundreds of houses. There are women who make beautiful jewelry. I know a man who has made hundreds of swimming pools. The list is almost endless, and I know I am unintentionally leaving people out.


To see the rest of the article and photos, go to:


Debbie Buehl.pdf  



They Live Among Us...Gene Auge



“Selfless. (adjective)

Concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own; unselfish.”


If you had to describe a person with one word, that adjective, that definition, would most accurately describe Gene Auge.


Can there be a man more loved in Pine Island Cove than Gene Auge? I know there are certainly some that would be close, but finding one that is more giving and helpful would be difficult.


He has served as president of the Men’s Club here in Pine Island Cove. He also served as treasurer for two years on the Pine Island Cove Board of Directors. He helped out the social committee in his acting debut in the popular play, “Trailer Trash Tragedy,” put on at the clubhouse, by the Pine Island Cove Repertoire Group. It played to capacity crowds and received standing ovations during an unprecedented two-night run a couple years ago. Gene played Virgil.


To see the rest of the article and photos, go to:


Gene Auge.pdf  



They Live Among Us...Sheelagh Knapp


This is a story of love and loss, of search and discovery. It is the story of a woman’s long search for her past, and what she found at the end of that journey.


When one is young and in love, life can be very intense. In 1943 the entire world was at war. A dashing young British Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant, Trevor Evans, was sent to Canada to help train Canadians to fly for the RAF. Assigned to an air base on Prince Edward Island, he made friends with a Canadian named Dutch Holl-Holland.


Meanwhile, Dorothy Bradford was working in Detroit as a Red Cross blood-bank volunteer. Her friend, Dinny, asked her if she’d like to go out on a blind date with her, her husband Dutch, and a charming British RAF Spitfire pilot. Dorothy accepted, naturally, and set into motion a long series of events that continue to this day. 


To see the rest of the article and photos, go to:


Sheelagh Knapp.pdf




They Live Among Us...Paula and Mike Satmary


There are several people in this park who have built their own home. I believe there are even a few who have built more than one home. But I also believe there is only one man here who has built more than 700 homes. Mike and Paula Satmary live on Cobiac Drive. The home in which they live in here was not built by Mike. All of Mike’s homes were built in New England. Mike and Paula are snowbirds who spend their summers in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.


You could say that Paula and Mike are together today because Paula was a jaywalker. It was 1961. Paula was attending Bryant University in Providence, Rhode Island. As a young coed she had typical coed things on her mind as she stepped off the curb and almost became a hood ornament on Mike’s 1955 Austin Healy roadster as he screeched to a stop only feet from her. Not one to let opportunity pass him by, Mike asked the pretty young blonde out on a date. Mike had graduated from Bryant University earlier that year. They dated for three or four months before Mike got drafted.


To see the rest of the article and photos, go to:


Paula and Mike Satmary.pdf  





They Live Among Us...Jim and Joan Gilbert



It is 1977.


Apple Computer is incorporated.


Jimmy Carter is sworn in as the 39th president of the United States.


It snows in Miami for the first time in recorded history.


The movie Star Wars is released.


Elvis Presley, dies in his home in Graceland at age 42.


Bing Crosby and Joan Crawford also pass away.


The U.S. Government seems to be working OK. 


Congress is getting things done.


The national debt is 698 billion dollars (vs over 20 trillion today).


Around the country, Democrats and Republicans are still talking to one another.


All of us are 40 years younger. 


Only a handful of us has ever heard of Pine Island.


Jim and Joan Gilbert buy a home in what will later be known as Pine Island Cove.


To see the rest of the article and photos, go to:


Jim and Joan Gilbert.pdf  




They Live Among Us...Jim and Leslie Pollack


We all have our own stories about how we happened to end up in Pine Island Cove. Jim and Leslie Pollack discovered Pine Island because of a TV show. They were watching HGTV, a cable channel that shows nice places to live, home remodeling, etc. on the night they featured St. James City.


They had been thinking of places they could retire that would not be cold, like Chicago, where they were living at the time. They had never really thought about living in Florida. The show featured the quiet, laid back atmosphere of Pine Island, and the quirky bars and restaurants we enjoy here. They visited the island not long after that, saw a few homes with a realtor, and fell in love with a lovely home on Drum Drive, up against the towering Australian pines that whisper secrets when the wind blows.


As a young man, like many of us, Jim Pollack didn’t really know what he wanted to do in life. He was still finding his way. His parents sent him off to college at the University of Colorado, in Boulder. Those of you who have been to Boulder, Colorado will understand what sort of distractions young Mr. Pollack faced there. The Colorado Rockies thrust up out of the plains toward the sky right next to the little college town. They beckon young and old to come explore, hike, fish, ski, and enjoy the magnificent mountains.


To see the rest of the article and photos, go to:  


Jim and Leslie Pollack.pdf  



They Live Among Us...Hurricanes and Angels


Due to the substantial interruption of the past few weeks by Hurricane Irma, and all that happened before, during, and after her arrival, the usual “They Live Among Us” article will not appear this month. Instead, there will be some thoughts about the hurricane and some of those who stepped up to the plate afterward at Pine Island Cove.


On August 27, over the ocean near the small west African country of Sierra Leone, a low pressure area began to spiral counterclockwise. Superheated air moving west from the Sahara and the warm water of the South Atlantic provided the tremendous energy it needed. Satellites observed the birth of the tropical storm. Exactly two weeks later that storm would pay a visit to Florida.


As is custom, once the storm winds reached 38 mph it was given a name. It was christened Irma. This child of the tropics grew quickly. The storm seemed to be special, favored by the hot, humid conditions to develop into something extraordinarily large. As the trade winds near the equator pushed the building storm west, it literally became a howling monster.


To see the rest of the article and photo, go to:


Hurricanes and Angels.pdf  



They Live Among Us...Mary Jo and Jack Lanzen


Cruises are popular travel options for seniors, and the seniors of Pine Island Cove are no exception. I learned that Mary Jo and Jack Lanzen made a pair of back to back 12 day cruises of the eastern and western Mediterranean a few years ago. I dare say the things they saw and some of the things they learned would be of interest to all of us.


They made this trip in the spring of 2014. But the trip almost had a disastrous ending before it even began. Jack had the initial idea for the trip, and started the research back in the summer of 2013. He thought it would be nice to see some places in Europe they had never seen before. They were used to taking land tours but this would be a cruise, and because of the high cost of air fare they thought why not do two cruises back to back, and save some of the cost of roundtrip airfare. By the fall of 2013 the itinerary was finalized and they lined up a travel agent.


The first cruise was to be on the Norwegian cruise line, departing from Barcelona. After 12 days they would then change ships to the Celebrity cruise line in Venice. They had been on cruises before and enjoyed the excursions, the fabulous food, and not having to pack and repack suitcases at each stop.


To see the rest of the article and photos, go to:


Mary Jo and Jack Lanzen.pdf  




They Live Among Us...Barb Covitz and Fred Schoerner


When we are young, we work hard with the idea in the back of our mind that perhaps someday we will be able to enjoy the fruits of our labors, perhaps retire to Florida, and perhaps even travel. If life is kind, for most of us, that time is now.


I know of a Pine Island Cove couple that recently returned from a marvelous, fascinating, almost month long trip to Great Britain. They spent time in England, Wales, and Scotland, seeing amazing things, wonderful things. Their trip was a true adventure, and one that many people here in the Cove could do as well.


Fred Schoerner and Barb Covitz first started planning for this trip last fall while still on another European trip. They took a Grand Circle River Cruise from Amsterdam, through Germany and Austria, ending in Vienna, where they extended their stay, ultimately sightseeing for a total of 3 weeks.


They have discovered that the planning of the trip is almost as much fun as the trip itself. They are not very enthusiastic about tours. They much prefer to design their own trip, seeing what they want when they want, with the freedom to adjust if they find a particular area too exceptional to leave. So with the planning of the trip, the execution of the trip, and the reliving the trip through photos and memories they get triple enjoyment from their adventure. And make no mistake, a trip such as this is an adventure.


To see the rest of the article and photos, go to:


Fred and Barb.pdf  




They Live Among Us...Donna and Jackie Stanaland


Perhaps idyllic childhoods only truly exist in our imagination. We tend to remember the good and forget the bad. It makes life easier to traverse. It can be easy to imagine that others had perfect childhoods, growing up under conditions we wish we had been able to enjoy. 


For instance, I have imagined that being able to grow up in South Florida back in the 1960’s would have been awesome. I find I very much enjoy the climate, the beauty, and the lifestyle of South Florida. I picture swinging on a tire swing out over the Caloosahatchee. I dream of finding ancient shark teeth in the Peace River. I imagine all the fishing I could have, and would have done. I would have liked hunting feral hogs in the palmetto flats. I think of the Everglades and all the other places I might have explored.


I know a Pine Island Cove couple that I wanted to feature for this article for that very reason. Jackie and Donna Stanaland both grew up in South Florida not far from here, and not far from each other. This is a little bit about them and their idyllic childhoods in South Florida.


Young Donna Sue Hendry, grew up in Ft. Myers, not far from the Caloosahatchee River, in a house with a big screened-in front porch. It was the most natural thing in the world to walk a block over to the fishing pier with some of her friends and siblings to go swimming or fishing with a cane pole, on hot summer days. Swimming in the river was just part of growing up back in the late fifties and early sixties. 



To see the rest of the article and photos, go to:


Donna and Jackie Stanaland.pdf




They Live Among Us... Dick Knapp


Dick and Sheelagh Knapp have been residents of Pine Island Cove since 2003. This story will be primarily about Dick, as Sheelagh has her own very compelling story which shall be the subject of another article in a few months. I hope you’ll find it will be worth the wait.


Dick Knapp has been sailing since he was eleven years old. He started racing in his early twenties. Since it takes years and years to become a decent sailboat racer, and Dick’s been at it for nearly 50 years now, he should be a pretty decent racer in a few more years. 


Men have been sailing for over 8000 years, perhaps much longer. Excavations in Mesopotamia confirm that fact. Men have sailed for many reasons, including exploration, commerce, fishing, war, and recreation. With three quarters of the globe covered in water we were meant to sail.


Some of the ships that leave port never return. The sea floors of the world are littered with sailing ships of all kinds. War and weather account for most of the ships on the bottom. Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes, is an inland sea, with average depth of 195 feet, and a maximum depth of 750 feet. This is where Dick loves to sail.


On a Saturday morning In July of 1978 you couldn’t have asked for a nicer day on Lake Huron. Dick was happy to have his son Jim, age 14, and his wife Sheelagh  as part of his crew of six for a race from Sarnia, Ontario up to Alpena, Michigan, about 150 miles. As the race began they popped their colorful spinnaker and with a strong southerly wind and a following sea they were off to the races, literally. Their boat was cutting through the waves, giving them an exhilarating ride. Even with the breeze they could feel the stifling heat around them and they could see the building cumulous clouds growing in front of them. In the far distance they saw a thin line of black stretching from one side of the lake to the other. That band grew steadily as the day wore on.


To see the rest of the article and photos, go to:


Dick Knapp.pdf  




They Live Among Us...Peter Bercik


Peter Bercik and his wife Peggy live on Drum Drive. He has had an amazing life, and most of his 86 years have been shared with Peggy. Peter was an Air Force pilot during the Korean War, and for many years afterwards he flew as an owner of several private planes.


Peter has thousands of hours of flight time, and it is all duly recorded in his log books, as required. But those printed numbers on yellowed pages do not begin to fully tell the story of Peter’s adventures in the air. We will try to bring some of those adventures in those many hours back to life. We will attempt, but fail, to make it as real to you as it was to Peter at the time. For most people, the word “exciting” is an adjective they don’t usually like to be associated with their flying. Pilots tend to remember the exciting times more vividly. As “Pappy” Boyington once said, “Flying is hours and hours of boredom sprinkled with a few seconds of sheer terror.”


The Korean War was making the news when Peter Bercik was in college. He had joined the Air Force ROTC at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. While learning how to march along the banks of the Monongahela River with other ROTC cadets, his mind was many thousands of miles away, in the skies over the Korean peninsula. He was picturing himself in a F-86 jet fighter moving into position to shoot down a MIG-15 high over the bleak, snow covered mountains far below. Peter wanted to fly and this was the best way he knew.


After graduation and beginning active duty with the Air Force, Peter remembered returning from his first solo flight in a J-3 Cub. He returned exhausted. His fingers were frozen to the cross bars with a death grip, knuckles white as snow. On his first landing he actually closed his eyes just before he touched down, but still made a good landing. He kept them open after that. His dreams of flying were coming true.


To see the rest of the article and the photos, go to:


Peter Bercik.pdf    



They Live Among Us...Lionel "Hap" Metivier


On December 16, 1944, in the final months of WWII, the Germans launched a tremendous counteroffensive against the Allies in the Ardennes Forest region of Belgium and France, in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. For the United States it was the bloodiest battle in Europe during WWII. The Germans threw more than 400,000 troops, over 4200 artillery pieces and over 1200 tanks against our troops. That action would very soon have a life changing effect on Lionel “Hap” Metivier.


Eighteen year old Hap had just completed basic training at Camp Blanding, near Jacksonville, Florida. His unit had been trained and outfitted for battle against the Japanese in the South Pacific. They were expecting to be shipped out after Christmas. Everything had now changed.


General George S. Patton’s Third Army was being mauled in the cold, dark forest of the Ardennes. Hitler believed this last ditch effort could stop the invading Americans in their march toward Germany. More troops were desperately needed to keep the Germans from overrunning our positions and pushing us back into the sea. Heavy, snow laden clouds were keeping Allied aircraft from supporting the troops.


To see the rest of the article and the photos, go to:


Lionel "Hap" Metivier.pdf  







They Live Among Us...William "Mack" Luten


In early 1942, if you were a teenager on the Florida coast, walking the beach with your date was a popular activity. Young William “Mack” Luten, his date, and another couple were doing just that on Flagler Beach, north of Daytona one evening.


Mack and his friends were as innocent and carefree as 16 year- olds can be. But in far away lands a maelstrom was beginning to suck in men, material and entire countries. World War II had begun, and the United States had just entered the war. It took an event in a place called Pearl Harbor, half way around the world from Flagler Beach to draw United States into that rapidly building whirlpool of World War II.


But the war was much closer than Mack or his friends ever thought that evening. To their shock, they found a body, a dead man in a rubber wet suit laying in the surf, washing in and out in the waves. The girls ran screaming and the boys were not far behind. The Sheriff told them later that it was a German sailor from one of the submarines that had started patrolling the east coast looking for easy shipping targets.


To see the rest of the article and the photos, go to:


Mack Luten.pdf 




They Live Among Us...Chuck and Carol Ervin


In October of 2016 Chuck and Carol Ervin moved to Pine Island Cove, to a home on Drum Drive. They are the kind of people that anybody would like. After talking to them for just a few minutes I felt I had known them forever. While they are new here I venture to say they will soon be known to many of you and will be an important part of the fabric of this community.


Chuck and Carol first met in the 4th grade. However, it wasn’t until the 7th grade that they really noticed each other. And they have been an item ever since. Something else happened to Chuck in the 4th grade that would also have a very big influence in his life.


He developed an urge to learn music. His parents were very poor, but hearing of his interest, they had saved up enough to buy a used soprano saxophone, which looked like a fat clarinet. His parents sacrificed even more to give him private music lessons, and drove 60 miles round trip each week to get him to those lessons. His mother made him toe the line. Only after practicing for an hour a day could he go out and play.


By the time he was in 7th grade, he was beginning to notice Carol in an entirely new way. It is about then that boys usually begin to understand there is something quite special and very exciting about girls. Their relationship would continue to develop throughout the years, and does so to today.


To see the rest of the article and the photos, go to:


Chuck and Carol Ervin.pdf  





They Live Among Us...Monique Frize


Being an old Navy man, I love a good sea story. You’ll recall we’ve had another such story in this column. Now, imagine the epic movie Titanic, but without the iceberg. Imagine the romance of that movie but without Kate Winslet or Leonardo DiCaprio. Imagine champagne and caviar on the North Atlantic. This story has it all, love on the high seas, a trail-blazing heroine, and an ultimatum! But I’m getting ahead of myself.


To see the rest of the article and see the photos, go to:


Monique Frize...They Live Among Us.pdf  





They Live Among Us...Richard Kent


As you all certainly know, we have a tremendous variety and a great diversity among the people who make up Pine Island Cove. During our working lives, most of us have also had very diverse jobs. For example, did you know that we have a tobacco grower living among us? And did you know that our own tobacco grower does not live in North Carolina, or Kentucky, or anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line, but in Connecticut? Richard Kent has spent his entire life on a Connecticut tobacco farm, and all but a few of those years have been spent growing tobacco, primarily for use in making cigars. The type of tobacco he grows actually is used to wrap the outer portion of the cigar.


Some 120 years ago, Richard’s great grandfather started the family tobacco farm. His grandfather, and then his father followed. Richard worked with his father and took over when he retired. Now Richard’s son, Jimmy, is taking over from his dad, making the 5th generation of tobacco farmers on the land.


To see the rest of the article and see the photos, go to:


They Live Among Us...Richard Kent.pdf  






They Live Among Us...John Rushing


Most of us were not stars in high school or college. Most of us did not have the athletic prowess to be sought by over 500 colleges across the entire nation, all attempting to lure us to their campuses with scholarships and other enticements. But there is one person who lives among us who did experience that degree of fame and adulation.


As I have been attempting to illustrate with this column, we have both very talented and very unique individuals here in Pine Island Cove. I am guessing that most of you did not know we have somebody among us here who meets the description above. John Rushing, also known as Big John, was a basketball star who set all sorts of records back in the late sixties and early seventies while he was in high school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and in college in Ada, Oklahoma.


Born in Jackson, Mississippi, the eldest of eight children, his family moved to Milwaukee when he was only 6 months old. By the time he was in his teens he had started to show signs of being a very tall young man He was already 6’ 3” by the time he started playing basketball at Roosevelt Junior High School.


Because of where John lived in the city he was expected to attend West Division High. However, John’s gym teacher took him aside one day and asked him if he might like to attend Lincoln High School which was way across town. His teacher told him if he wanted to be known in basketball, that is where he ought to go. He told him he might even be able to get a scholarship to go to college. John really laughed at that. Nobody in his family had ever been to college and he knew things like that just didn’t happen. But John was wrong.



To see the rest of the article and see the photos, go to:


They Live Among Us...John Rushing.pdf  




They Live Among Us...Gary Thomas


Gary Thomas is a prime example of someone with wide interests and the talent to do almost anything well.


Gary and his wife Cinthy live on the cul-de-sac at the far north end of Cobiac when they are in Pine Island Cove. When they are not here, which is a lot of the time, they are either at their home in Colorado, about 13 miles northeast of Ft. Collins, or at their other island home on Cayman Brac in the Caribbean.


Their exposure to Cayman Brac actually began as an accident. In 1989 at a travel auction, he and Cinthy purchased a vacation trip to the Virgin Islands. However, a recent hurricane had devastated St. Croix so they were given an alternative destination of Cayman Brac. They found that they liked the place and decided to buy some land and build a home. They had the shell of a house built and they did all the finish work, including plumbing, floors, cabinets and windows.


It was there they met a close friend and another Pine Island Cove resident, Karen Fraser. Karen was the subject of one of our first “They Live Among Us” articles. In 1997 they built a second house, right on the water. 


To read the rest of the article and see the photos go to:


Gary Thomas.pdf  



They Live Among Us...Beverly Brewer


We all come to Pine Island Cove from different directions, by different means, and for different reasons. Sometimes we happen on our little community by accident, and sometimes it is friends who share the secret with us.


Beverly and Terry Brewer are here because of Randy Wayne White. Mr. White is a local author of some renown who writes primarily fiction. The peculiarities of Pine Island and the area, the unique fishery of Pine Island Sound, and a quirky cast of characters are found throughout the 20 or so books he has penned. A friend recommended Mr. White’s books to Beverly a few years back. Most who read their first Randy Wayne White book are very quickly hooked and are proud to say they have read each and every book he has written. Beverly is no exception. But she was careful to read all of his books in the order they were written.


Yearning for a warmer, sunnier climate than that found on their home turf of Mulberry, Indiana, Beverly found Randy Wayne White’s descriptions of Pine Island to be delightful. Terry was and is a dedicated fly fisherman. Beverly thought he would certainly enjoy the fine fishing that Pine Island afforded. Terry was already receptive to the idea because he had read about Pine Island in a fly-fishing magazine. It was decided. They would visit Pine Island and three years ago they did just that, renting in Bokeelia.


To read the rest of the article and see the photo, go to:


Beverly Brewer.pdf  





They Live Among Us...Hank and Jan Pennington


The snowbirds from Pine Island Cove migrate great distances to enjoy our little piece of heaven. One of the newest snowbirds couples here are Hank and Jan Pennington, who just purchased a home at 5016 Gulfgate. They will be coming down here from Chiniak, Alaska, a distance of 3966 miles, as the crow flies.

Chiniak is on Kodiak Island, which is the second largest island in the United States, over 100 miles long. There are only some 14,000 people on the entire island. And as you might expect there are lots of animals, including deer, elk, bison, mountain goats, caribou, and of course, big brown bears. Lots and lots of the giant cousins of the grizzly, who grow up to 1500 pounds on a rich diet of salmon. The female grizzly can reach a more dainty 800 pounds. Both male and female are equipped with formidable teeth and claws of over 4 inches long. They can be cranky. Mothers with cubs can be violently aggressive and protective.

As you might expect, people like Hank and Jan Pennington who enjoy fishing the mountain streams and rivers, and hunting the spruce forests of Kodiak might have had some accidental encounters with Alaskan Brown Bears. Oh, yes they have. Yes, indeed!

One spring day, Hank and Jan were fishing for salmon on one of the beautiful streams that flow down from the mountains to the sea. Hank was out of sight of Jan and engaged in thoughts of landing a big King salmon.

When he heard the gravel crunch behind him he naturally assumed it was Jan coming to join him. But alas, no. When he turned, expecting to see Jan, he instead saw a giant brown bear standing ten feet away, looking hard at him. He really, really wanted it to be his dear, sweet Jan instead, but it was not. The bear looked at Hank. Hank looked at the bear. Hank was thinking what a poor weapon his fly rod would make. The bear was thinking…who knows what he was thinking…is it time for lunch? Is he going to be as tasty as a salmon or just kind of tough and stringy? We will never know for sure. But we can guess, because the bear settled the matter by turning and walking away. After a moment of reflection and intense relief, Hank did the same, on shaky knees.


To read the rest of the article and to see the photos, go to:


Hank Jan Pennington.pdf  





They Live Among Us...  Frank Furia


Twenty-year old Seaman First Class Frank Furia was about 90 feet above the sea on the morning of December 18, 1944. His ship, the newly commissioned USS Monterey, CVL-26, an Independence class aircraft carrier was plowing through the biggest seas he had ever seen. Frank was at his watch station, at the top of the mast, where he was looking for Japanese planes and ships. His carrier was part of Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s “Big Blue” Third Fleet, chasing the fleeing Japanese Combined Fleet east of the Philippines.

He did not know it yet, but he was about to be witness to history, the power of one of the very strongest tropical Typhoons ever recorded, and the unbelievable devastation it was to visit upon Halsey’s 170 ship fleet.

The USS Monterey was not one of today’s super carriers, but was built on the frame of a light cruiser, only 622 feet in length. It carried 34 aircraft.

That morning, to his profound shock, Frank saw the USS Spence, a 376 foot long first line destroyer already fully capsized, bottom up, drifting past on the port quarter as giant waves and screaming wind and rain tried to blow him off his perch. The Spence was crewed by 276 men, and all but 24 of those men rode their ship to the bottom shortly after Frank saw them passing that morning. And the Spence would not be the last ship to disappear beneath the waves that day.

Frank doesn’t remember being scared then, but he does remember being scared later as the storm got even worse, with mountainous waves reported at 70 feet roaring by and crashing over the flight deck of the Monterey. It became so bad he was pulled from his perch as the waves threatened to wash away anyone and anything above decks. But there was a great deal more trouble in store for the USS Monterey.


To read the rest of the article and to see the photos, go to:


Frank Furia.pdf  



They Live Among Us...  Karen Fraser

In my interview with Karen, I was reminded that it is virtually impossible to give much more than a few bullet points when trying to convey the depth and breadth of a full life, rich with experiences. This column was never intended to be a biography, of course. It can hardly even be an outline of someones life. I have had to leave out far, far too much. But that leaves it to you to become better acquainted with these people and learn the details for yourself..

Karen Fraser grew up in Chicago. She was graduated from Northwestern University with majors in Psychology and Sociology. She also earned a teaching certificate from Loyola University. Later, she worked as a social worker for Cook County and as a Director of Social services for a group of three hospitals in the area.

Ever since she was a young girl her goal was to live on an island. As you will see, she has clearly succeeded in her life’s goal. She started by taking vacations on various islands. She has been all over the Bahamas. She has visited St. Kitts, St. Croix, the Cayman Islands, Saba, Easter Island, Bora Bora, Tahiti, Aitutaki Island, and Jamaica. She has visited several of the Galapagos Islands. She has visited Oahu, Kauai, and the big island of Hawaii, in the Hawaiian Islands. Not in the island category, she has also visited Syria, Lebanon, Jordan several European countries.

Eventually she met, fell in love, and married a man in Jamaica. He practiced medicine for the government of Jamaica, as head of surgery for Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay. She and her husband were asked to host many parties given by the government of Jamaica for dignitaries, visitors, and guests. The parties, which would include up to about 100 people, were held at their home. In addition, while in Jamaica she taught school, and ran an animal shelter.

Jump ahead a few years. They moved to Grand Cayman briefly, but soon found themselves in Cayman Brac, another of the Cayman Islands about 90 miles northeast of Grand Cayman. The island is somewhat smaller than Pine Island, but shaped much the same. Here she and her husband once again worked at a government hospital.


Click to see article with photos...

Karen Fraser fpdf.pdf  



They Live Among Us...Homer Dangler


On Cobiac Drive lives a quiet man who for much of his life has been quietly making handmade Kentucky flintlock rifles. These are not ordinary guns. These are hand fitted, hand carved and inlayed, engraved masterpieces of curly maple, iron, and brass that are highly valued among the small cadre of enthusiasts that appreciate the skills required to make a beautiful old style muzzle loading rifle. They are more works of art than weapons, but they function exceptionally well as weapons.

These are rifles that were born on the frontier of 250 years ago. These are rifles that Daniel Boone would have been proud to carry along the banks of the Monongahela, through the coulees of Eastern Kentucky, and down through the Cumberland Gap. The Kentucky Rifle helped blaze the trail through the frontier of a wild, new country, and is part of our history.


Click to see the article with photos:  

Homer Dangler.pdf  







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