Friday, November 6, 2015

One-room school house in Duette hosts fall festival Saturday, Nov. 7

Donna King at Duette Elementary School. Herald file photo

DUETTE -- Donna King, the longtime principal of Duette Elementary, is back in the classroom of the one-teacher schoolhouse again this year, and loving it.

The public has an opportunity to learn why King loves the school and its students so much by attending the 2015 Duette Elementary Fall Festival noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7.

Planned at the school, which originally opened in 1930 at 40755 State Road 62, are tours, food (hamburgers, hot dogs, fried green tomatoes, nachos, and barbecue sandwiches), crafters, and folk singer JD Lewis.

There will also be an auction at 2 p.m. with tickets to Disney, Sea World, Dinosaur World, and more up for bid. Other bid items include bikes, restaurant gift certificates, and a fishing trip.

Duette Elementary is Florida's last one-room school.

This year, the school has an enrollment of 11, and  Keen says she is retiring after this year.

"I really am retiring but no one believes it," said the 67-year-old cancer survivor.

For more information call 941-721-6674.
Duette Elementary School. Herald file photo

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lakewood Ranch Community Fund awarding $76,500 grants to local nonprofits

Meals on Wheels Plus is one of the nonprofits that will benefit from the latest round of grant awards from the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund. Shown above is Lakewood Ranch volunteer Don O'Leary. Herald photo

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Lakewood Ranch Community Fund has selected 26 charitable or nonprofit organizations to share $76,500 in grants to be awarded from 4 to 5 p.m. Friday at Northern Trust Community Room, 6320 Venture Drive, Lakewood Ranch.

The John Clarke Humanitarian Award, normally awarded during the grant presentations, will instead be announced during a gala in March.

Grants range from $6,500 to the Stillpoint House of Prayer to help feed the needy to $500 to McNeal Elementary School for a fourth-grade claymation project.

The complete list:

Beyond the Spectrum - $3,500 to purchase technology items (tablets and walkie-talkies) to be used for education and communication purposes.

Childrens Guardian Fund - $2,500 to provide enrichment services for children in foster and State care.

Coexistence/Embracing Our Differences - $2,000 to provide school bus transportation to the Embracing our Differences exhibits.

Community Haven for Adults and Children with Disabilities - $2,500 to Selby Preschool support for therapy, training and counseling.

Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing - $3,500 for communications program at Beyond The Spectrum for Lakewood Ranch children.

Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County - $4,000 to to purchase "Raising a Reader" book-kits consisting of books, book bags, library bags, and parent DVD.

Easter Seals Southwest Florida - $5,000 for Project Rainbow program support providing respite care services.

Elks Feeding Empty Little Tummies - $2,000 to purchase food for the backpack program.

Family Network on Disabilities of Manatee/Sarasota - $3,500 to provide in-home respite care services.

Family Resources - $1,800 for shelter enhancements (new blinds) and therapeutic rewards for youth.

Feeding Empty Little Tummies - $2,000 to sponsor children with weekend meals for the 2015/2016 school year.

Foundation for Dreams - $5,000 to provide scholarships for children to attend Dream Oaks Summer, Spring Break and/or weekend camp programs.

Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida - $2,500 to support the "STEM Saturday" program in Lakewood Ranch.

Benjamin David Gullett Elementary School - $3,000 to support the "Power Hour" after school tutoring program.

Junior Achievement Sarasota/Manatee Chapter - $3,100 for Braden River Elementary School field trip to JA "BizTown".

Lakewood Ranch High School - $1,200 to purchase (4) Activeon DX Action Camcorders to be used in the Filmmaking/Media Literacy class.

Making Connections Counseling - $2,000 to support Mental Health Counseling (individual, family, couples, and group counseling).

Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary School - $500 to purchase materials needed to do a Claymation (Clay Animation) project in 4th grade.

Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee - $2,500 to purchase equipment for a media center at Daybreak Adult Day Center.

Miracle League of Manasota - $2,900 to purchase one adult changing table and two child changing tables for field restrooms.

Myakka City Foundation - $3,000 to purchase food for the food pantry.

Nature's Academy - $1,500 to support fifth grade students and teachers to participate in the Science Literacy Project.

Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART) - $3,000 to provide partial and full scholarships of 120 therapeutic riding sessions to children with special needs.

Stillpoint House of Prayer - $6,500 to support the Benevolent Fund (for purchase of food for the needy). Includes $1,500 grant from John & Lydia Kolbas Fund.

Visible Men Academy - $2,500 to support Literacy on the Lawn and Literacy Labs programs.

Manatee County Family YMCA - $5,000 to assist the Y DASH Program for students attending Haile, Nolan and Braden River middle schools.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What about P.J.'s? Teresa Giles says her Parrish sandwich shop can't grow without county service

Teresa Giles of P.J.'s Sandwich Shop.
Herald photo
In a recent Bradenton Herald story, Sia Mollanazar, Manatee County's deputy director of public works, talked about the timetable for bringing sewer to the village of Parrish.

The southern half of Parrish already has sewer, everything south of County Road 675.

And the northern half will be getting it too, all the way to Erie Road. Parrish has been around for well over a century, and most residents probably don't mind waiting another year or so to have the modern convenience that we take for granted.

It'll happen as soon as developers start those big new developments around Parrish.

But just a minute, said Teresa Giles, owner of P.J.'s sandwich shop, which has been serving its tasty sandwiches for more than 30 years.

"What about us?" said Giles. Her sandwich shop is located north of Erie Road.

"I would love to be able to increase my seating, but I can't expand without sewer," Giles said.

At lunch time, P. J.'s has a crush of business, with customers literally lining up out the door to order a sandwich.

"We're at a standstill. I feel like we are always behind the eight ball," Giles said.

Mollanazar has an answer for Giles.

Sewer will become available to P.J.'s, located at the corner of State Road 62 and U.S. 301 North, when Cone Ranch, is built, Mollanazar said.

Cone Ranch, which is located several miles east of P. J.'s on S.R. 62, will need to run a sewer line to Parrish before it can start moving residents into the new homes planned there.

The Herald previously reported that 1,100 homes are planned for Cone Ranch.

Also planned near Cone Ranch are 584 homes by Neal Land Ventures on the Dakin Homestead.

The force main from Cone Ranch will be installed right next to P.J.'s, Mollanazar said.

The developer of Cone Ranch will install the sewer line, but the county will also participate in the project, Mollanazar sid.

"The idea is for growth to pay for itself," he said.

For more on P.J.'s and Parrish sewer improvements, check these links:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Parrish's Amber Putnam becomes first woman to command Florida Veterans of Foreign Wars

Amber Putnam at VFW State Convention in Orlando.
It's a record year for women commanders at state headquarters of Veterans of Foreign Wars around the United States.

This year, seven women took the helm at state VFWs, the most ever.

Never had a woman commanded the Florida VFW, however, until Amber Putnam of Parrish was installed on Sunday, June 14, at the state convention in Orlando.

Putnam, an Air Force veteran, was installed as the 85th commander of the combat veterans non-profit organization with more than 70,000 members.

For the next year she will lead the members who work in their communities to foster patriotism, assist veterans and their families and act as strong advocates for legislation affecting veterans’ benefits.

Putnam served in the Air Force and Air Force Reserve from 1978 to 2013 in worldwide assignments to include support of Operation Noble Eagle in Kuwait.

Her goals for the Florida veterans group are to support and attract younger veterans as well as women and minorities and re-invigorate the organization’s mission of fostering patriotism and service in the community.

For those interested in more information about the VFW mission and membership, visit or call 352-622-5126.

For more information:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Palm-Aire Country Club womens golf tournament has a classic fairy tale edge, really!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, second place winners.
Ruth Bley of Palm-Aire Country Club told us about her community's annual Spring Fling Golf Tournament on March 17 and March 19.

The Spring Fling is Palm-Aire's biggest ladies event of the year. This year the theme was Once Upon a Time: Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes, chaired by Barbara Saabye.

 A committee of 12 transformed the clubhouse into a fairy tale and wonderland. The field included 116 players, all of whom, paraded around in creative costumes.


The Brothers Grimm flight -- Pam Webster, Judy Bickford, Donna Neale, and Jimmy Hayes.

The Mother Goose flight -- Linda Miller, Debbie Stehle, Patty Stehle and Sally Read.

Aesop's Fables flight --Sherri Patchen, Tracy Graham, Lola White, and Pauline Bennett.

Hans Christian Andersen flight -- Verna Reber, Anne Pistilli, Linda Kitz, and Sandy Plette.

Raffle proceeds were donated to The Campaign for Grade Level Reading which is an innovative national reading program committed to help children become better readers.

The two-day event included a costume parade, lunch followed by golf on Tuesday, then golf on Thursday morning with a grand finale of dinner and prize awards, and a bedtime fairy tale, scripted and read by Anne Millard on Thursday evening.

Blackbirds, first place in the costume contest.

Red Riding Hoods.

First prize cart winner. Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lakewood Ranch woman chosen for Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellows program

Patti and Kenneth Katter.
Patti Katter of Lakewood Ranch has been chosen for the 2015  class of military and veteran caregivers chosen for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellows program.

The fellowship is a national program of military and veteran caregivers who have stepped forward to serve as advocates and spokespeople for the 5.5 million parents, spouses, children and other loved ones caring for America’s wounded, ill and injured warriors.

“Our Fellows are the heart and soul of our Foundation’s work,” said Dole in a press release Friday. “The wisdom of their personal experience is invaluable, and it helps guide the focus of our National Coalition. I am personally grateful that these hidden heroes would add to the selfless service they already provide as caregivers by volunteering to represent the millions of their peers in need of better support from our nation.”

For more about the fellowship, visit

For more about Patti Katter and her family's service, visit

Art Association of Palm-Aire members visit studios of Clyde Butcher and Bill Farnsworth

Big Cypress National Preserve by Clyde Butcher.
Members  of the Art Association of Palm-Aire annually plan and take  a bus trip as a fundraiser for a scholarship awarded to a local student of the Ringling College of Art and Design.

This year, 72 members  visited the studios of famed Florida photographer Clyde Butcher and painter Bill Farnsworth in Venice, reports Charleen Gorbet.

Butcher is known for his large-scale black-and-white images of natural Florida and is particularly passionate about saving the Everglades.

A collection of Butcher's photos were shown at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton in 2012.

 "We had a wonderful time seeing the artist in his Venice studio," Palm-Aire's Barb Gold said.  "He showed us his amazing cameras, and gave an explanation of the manual film processing techniques used to produce the immense black-and-white pictures seen throughout his studio. They show incredible highlights, subtle background and design in each hand-made print.”

Sharpness is the key to Butcher's nature portraits.

"That makes the viewer relate to my images in a way that is similar to the peace felt when being out in nature. I want my images to create a positive emotion in people, with the hope that they carry that emotion out into their lives to make the world a better place in which to live," Butcher said.

The Palm-Aire artists also got to  meet painter Bill Farnsworth, and one of the artists, Barb Saabye, won a drawing for one of his prints.

Farnsworth is a nationally known illustrator, portraitist and landscape painter,

"My goal with my work is to paint what I love and convey that honestly so the viewer can feel that as well," he said.
Barb Saabye and Bill Farnsworth.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Braden River Veterans of Foreign Wars Post celebrates World War II and Korean veterans

Braden River VFW recently saluted the service of its oldest wartime vets.
Twice a year Braden River  VFW Post 12055 celebrates the service of   World War II and Korean War veterans by taking them to lunch at a local restaurant.

 On Wednesday, Feb. 25, Post Commander Dave Daily and member Gil Ruderman, hosted five World War II and Korean War veterans at Marina Jacks on the waterfront in Sarasota.

"All of these veterans are getting along in years and we need to celebrate them and their service while we can.  I look forward to these bi-annual lunches as do all the veterans.  The VFW Post 12055 is honored to have these veterans as members,” Dailey said.

Veterans of Foreign Wars, Braden River Post 12055 meets  at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month at the American Red Cross building in Lakewood Ranch, 10311 Malachite Drive.

Information:  George Johnston at 941-753-0035.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Claire Strickland takes top individual honors in the 54rd Annual Manatee Land Judging Competition

Claire Strickland with award presenter Dan West.
Taking top honors in the 54th annual land judging competition sponsored by the Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District was senior 4-H student Claire Strickland. She won the I.H. Stewart Award with the highest individual overall score, reports Gail Cameron Somodi, soil conservation supervisor for Manatee County Government. The top award was sponsored by ECo Consultants.

The 4-H senior team composed of Claire Strickland, Jesse West, Samuel West, and Benjamin Hoffner won the Callon Keen, Sr. Award for the team with the highest score overall. The team also won the senior 4-H division.  In second place, was the team composed of Hannah Whitaker, Casey Wingate, Westin Maye, and Joshua Groover.

The intermediate 4-H team including Shelby Bryan, Janna Groover, Jo Hoffner, and Jay West, placed first in the 4-H intermediate division.  

Placing first in the FFA high school division was a team from Southeast High School, advised by Mike Buckley, with students Kenan Alemhoca, Isabel Cushing, Colt Travis, and Jasmine Villegas.

Placing second was the FFA high school team from Southeast High School, advised by Mike Buckley, with students Luis Solorzano, Jaimie Davis, Samantha Lockhart and McKayla

The FFA high school team from Braden River High School placed third, advised by Deb Barry with students Meagan Gigliotti, Christine King, and Emily Courson.

Buffalo Creek Middle School swept the middle school FFA division. Placing first at the middle school level was the team of John Greer, Caissy Chase, Savannah Cannon, and Camrie Henderson. The second place team, included students Zach Stolze, Faith Gilray, Jade Parrish, and Hannah Hattaway.  In third place, were Mara Behringer, Chloe Flourney, Alexis Orloski, and Sorryl Cannon. Steve Harber, advised all Buffalo Creek FFA students.

Medals were awarded to the high scoring individual at each of four fields.  This year, Claire Strickland was recognized for the highest score (perfect) at two of the four fields in the senior division.  Luis Solorzano and Jasmine Villegas, from Southeast also scored highest at the 3rd and 4th fields, respectively. Villegas had a perfect score at the 4th field.  Junior division winners, both from Buffalo Creek Middle School, were Fields 1, 2, and 3:  John Greer and Field 4: Camrie Henderson.

FFA teams from Haile and Nolan Middle Schools and Palmetto High School also competed. Participating as guests were Charlotte, Pinellas and Orange FFA students. In all, 83 students competed, resulting in one of the largest turnouts in recent years.

The winning FFA teams from Southeast High School, Buffalo Creek Middle School, and the intermediate and senior 4-H teams are eligible to compete in the state land judging competition to be held in late March hosted by the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The competition was held at Ed Chance Reserve-Gilley Creek Tract, a Southwest Florida Water Management District property, on one of the coldest days of the year. Students answered test questions concerning soil properties at four fields in such categories as slope, depth, texture, permeability, erosion and nutrients. One of the fields represented a potential homesite location, and students were questioned on how well the land could serve as a building site.

For more information visit

4-H intermediate team: Shelby Bryan, Janna Groover, Jo Hoffner and Jay West.

4-H Senior Team.

FFA team from Southeast High School.

Students examining one of the fields in the land judging competition.

Chief Judge Juan Vega explains the results of the competition to the students.

FFA team from Buffalo Creek Middle School team.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

East Manatee's Rosedale community steps up to support Homes for Our Troops

Lt. Col. Steven Skelton, who provided the initial information to the Rosedale  community about Homes for Our Troops, is shown with his father, John Skelton.
Rosedale residents have decided that they need to do more than just say "thank you for your service" to grievously wounded members of the military who sacrificed so much in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recently, Rosedale held a golf tournament  that raised $18,275 to help build a specially adapted, mortgage free home for Marine Sgt. Anthony McDaniel in Navarre, Fla., reports Kathi Skelton.

"We started the first year, 2013,  with about a three-week window and just put an informational display and donation box in the pro shop. After sending out an email to Rosedale residents, we raised $4,500," she said.

The second year, 2014, Rosedale added the golf tournament as well as information and donation box in the pro shop, and raised $11,500.

"This year we tried to promote the golf tournament outside of the Rosedale community as well as within and raised the $18,275," Skelton said.

"The Rosedale community is very supportive since they are now very familiar with Homes For Our Troops. We are already looking to next year. The event will be the last Saturday in January and we have identified a new recipient. Our plan is to continue what we have done in the past but try to increase our fundraising goal by trying to solicit larger corporate sponsors," she said.

Purple Heart recipient Larry Gill addressed players after the Rosedale tourney.

Design on Rosedale's first tee.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Photos from Cracker Trail Ride bring us about as close to the event as possible without being there

Cracker Trail riders forge a small stream, and horses pause to take a sip.
Horses and riders streamed out of Kibler Ranch, located about 15 miles east of Bradenton on Saturday, headed to Fort Pierce.

They won't arrive on Florida's east coast until Friday, Feb. 20, as they retrace the cattle drives of the 19th Century.

The event is, of course, the annual Cracker Trail Ride, which takes its name not from Saltines, but the bull whips cowboys used in the old days to drive cattle.

Here are photos sent by smart phone to the Bradenton Herald by trail boss Suzanne Park, and some of the other riders. All were sent from horse back. They give a sense of  the fun and adventure, as well as some of the natural Florida beauty along the trail.

Riders get a view of new crops being readied under plastic.

A portion of the Cracker Trail takes riders along state highways.

Cracker Trail Ride is a family friendly event.

Horse seems to be smiling for the camera.

Togetherness on the trail.

Riders are happy when they reach open country.

Trail boss Suzanne Park.

Riders meet old friends and meet new ones.

Riders take over the road shoulder.

It is possible to kick back on horseback.

Open country.

Mule-drawn covered wagon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chester LeGrange was one of a kind, and he'll be missed by all who knew him

Chester LeGrange, left, with Skip Glasson at Terra Siesta in December.
JAMES A. JONES JR./Bradenton Herald
We met William A. "Chester" LeGrange, 99, while working on a neighborhood feature in December. He lived in Terra Siesta, one of the 55-plus communities along U.S. 301 North in Ellenton.

You knew right away that Chester was something special. He was beloved by his neighbors for his kindness and his concern for others, and his  sprightly sense of humor.

The day we met him, he was with Skip Glasson in a golf cart, and had just picked up a statue of a gnome that he was going to repaint for a neighbor.

Unfortunately, Chester, the oldest resident of Terra Siesta, fell and broke his hip some weeks later. But he lived to see the Bradenton Herald story, and was happy with it, we're told.

You know that the folks in Terra Siesta, and his family members are missing him terribly.

"In the 1950s and 1960s, we lived on 16th Street in Samoset. Each year he would put up a Christmas display that was a block long, He cut every piece out of lumber. The display was animated, and set to music," said his daughter, Norma Kennedy, who is now a civic leader in Parrish.

"People came from miles around to see the display. The ones who knew my family would stop by for coffee and the fruitcake that my mother baked," Kennedy said. "Christmas was always his thing, and when he was older, he would just decorate his golf cart."

In his younger days, Chester's home was on what is now Skyway Memorial Gardens, where was laid to rest.

Charles Lee Howell, property manager at Terra Siesta, says that Chester was the "happiest guy in the place."

Chester looked after his neighbors, and they looked after him, too.

"He was a heck of a carpenter, and there wasn't anything that he couldn't do," Howell said. "I always liked to drop in to see Chester. Some times I would see him napping in his golf cart."

When Dave Warner bought in Terra Siesta 15 years ago, Chester was his neighbor.

"He was pleasant and charming; just a very good neighbor," Warner said.

"Chester was a very active volunteer in the community, and over the years his activities changed as he got older, He used to lead all the golf cart parades. Chester was going great guns until the day he went down," Warner said.

Chester passed away Jan. 10, 2015.

He was born in Princeton, Ind., on Oct. 22, 1915. On December 23, 1936, He married Ruth Saunders LeGrange in 1936.

He was a carpenter at Miller's Trailers and Rasmussen Construction until retirement.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his honor to Emmanuel Baptist Church, 8305 US 301, Parrish, FL 34219.

In case you missed that Terra Siesta feature, you can read it here, and learn a little more about Chester and his neighbors:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Parrish residents come together to clean up their historic cemetery

Parrish residents gathered to tend the graves at Parrish's historic cemetery on Saturday.

An awesome day.

That's what Iris McClain calls Saturday, Jan. 17, when 65 black and white residents of Parrish got together to clean up the historic Parrish Cemetery.

"It was a community thing," said Floyd Dozier, who has many relatives buried there. "I think it was a good idea."

The cemetery, which opened in 1876 with the burial of an infant, Rose Lee Turner, belongs to all residents of Parrish, and is historically important to  Manatee County.

Major William Iredell Turner, a Seminole War and Civil War veteran, was a Parrish pioneer and Bradenton's first postmaster, when it was still called Braidentown.

Also interred there are World War I and World War II veterans.

Originally, blacks and whites were buried in separate parts of the cemetery.

But, that was many years ago.

"We took that fence down a long time ago," McClain said.

"What a wonderful day we all had on Saturday. It turned out to be a beautiful day with at least 65 people showing up to help make this old historical cemetery look beautiful again," she said.

"We all got to see people that we have not seen in awhile. When stopping long enough to rest a few minutes, we would visit a little and then get back to work," McClain said.

Prime movers in rallying the community to cleanup the cemetery were longtime pillars Vivian Boice and JoAnn Rogers.

"Our cemetery was just going down, down," Rogers said of her decision to personally recruit neighbors to come to the cleanup.

"We are all God's children. I asked the Lord to let me live a bit longer until we got the cemetery cleaned up," said Rogers, 86.

In addition to locals, some volunteers came from outside the county to tend to relative's graves.

McClain spent her day weeding around the graves of infants and children so that their names and other poignant information could be read.

"We plan to have another work day when the old leaves fall and the new leaves come in," she said. That should be some time in the spring.