Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ralph Pratt, Key Largo

** THIS STORY IS FEATURED IN JULY'S ISSUE OF KEYS LIFE MAGAZINE. **


"I don't really talk about myself, because my intention is not to make a name for myself, but to help others.

I guess my most proud accomplishments have been in doing what others said I would never do. It was said to me when I was young by a very prominent person that I would never amount to anything, I would never be anything, and all of my friends wouldn’t amount to anything if they continued being my friends. When important people speak into your life and you believe what they say, it has an effect on you. And for the longest, what the person said almost made me give up; Since I wasn’t smart, and I had a very low comprehension level.

To be able to overcome the anger that I had held on to was an accomplishment in and of itself, because I was able to prove the person wrong. And there were others who called me dumb, stupid and blockhead. Hearing these negative words stunted my ability of learning for a long time, because I believed what they said.

My first accomplishment was graduating from high school. Although I didn't graduate or get a degree, I went to college!! Rather than just learn and get great test scores, I took the knowledge I gained from college and the Bible and applied it to life. I didn't learn a lot of these principles and good choices growing up; but I learned a lot of things to help me feed my anger. I never knew the Bible could be a life changing book. But that’s what it was for me.

I have accomplished more things that I ever thought I would, and some of those things have benefitted not only me, but others. God has taken me from a rebellious kid who would quit in the middle of the road to a man of determination and drive, who stopped listening to the voices from my childhood and started listening to God’s voice through His word.

It makes me proud to know that God had a plan and purpose for my life that has impacted the lives of others because He sees potential in all of us.

You couldn't give me a trophy, a plaque, or recognition for anything I have done, because it’s all because of Jesus Christ that has made a difference. He has given me passion and a heart to believe in people, despite what they are going through. It has caused me to take a different look at life than I used to. To me, that is a great achievement."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Captain Outrageous, Key West


Story courtesy of Mike Jiminez; Yup, I used to live in the Florida Keys.
Immediately spring to mind—and pop and counter culture iconography.
Captain Outrageous operated a failed-but-now-legendary Hamburger Joint on White Street called The Last Straw. It was in this location (now the well-loved Mo’s Creole Restaurant) that “Captain O” began his reign of fame: The food was terrible but the art was great.
Photograph: Rob O’Neal, Captain Outrageous, ran for mayor of Key West and he led a number of Fantasy Fest parades on a custom-bicycle adorned with the head of a calliope horse.
In the 90′s Captain opened an art gallery on Caroline Street and was preparing to open a museum based on his art and his history this year as well as a “virtual world” online he called Outrageous World.
Outrageously, Captain Outrageous suffered a simultaneous stroke and heart attack on the inside steps of his own art gallery on the late afternoon of February 9, 2007. While evac’ed to Miami he never regained consciousness. He passed from this plane of existence the next day.
Captain Outrageous was survived by Widow Lady Outrageous who passed his cremated ashes to his friends, associates, admirers and locals in tiny hand-painted salt shakers. Gratefully, while Captain Outrageous is missed, Lady Outrageous continues to paint, develop, and evolve the Outrageous style. The lasting presence and demand for Outrageous art on the island is tribute to the grandiose impact on Key West of Captain Outrageous.
In his own immortal words, “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave in a well-preserved body but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting: HOLY SHIT WHAT A RIDE!”

Friday, June 26, 2015

Samantha McCoy, Key Largo


"I took my first flight lesson as a birthday gift when I was 15 years old. I remember the flight like it was yesterday. We took off out of New Smyrna Beach airport and soared into the wild blue. I was nervous, but it was exhilarating. Each summer thereafter, I would take a lesson when I visited my dad. I was hooked and from then on my eyes were always towards the sky.
I attended school for a year at Georgia state university in Atlanta. After that year I transferred to a community college nearby. I was also working at a David's Bridal as a consultant. One day a customer came into the store with her fiancé who happened to be a pilot. I mentioned wanting to become a pilot as well. I told him about my summer lessons with my dad. He told me about a reputable flight school in Jacksonville. He even went so far to give them a call, then he gave me their number and wished me luck.
When I got home that night I told my mom about the pilot I met and what he told me. Within months I was packing for my move to Jacksonville to attend ATP flight school. I was nervous and excited to move away from home and start a new chapter in my life.
I spent 7 months in school and received 7 ratings including commercial singe-engine, commercial multi-engine, and became a certified flight instructor for single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument. I flew across the country from Jacksonville to Las Vegas in a small single engine Cessna. At 20 years old I accomplished more than I ever dreamed of. I had lived completely on my own for the first time and became a professional pilot. Against all odds I had conquered the greatest fear of my life up until that point. The ratio of women to men at the school was about 1 out of 10. Also, I was the youngest in my class.
I went on to fly for the next 6 years as a flight instructor and commercial pilot. I flew all around the country. I flew plane for Microsoft aerial imaging and skydiving operations. I racked up almost 1200 flying hours I was living my dream.
I am now a mommy of two and haven't flown as a career in the past 5 years. Being a mommy is now my greatest feat. I hope to show my children that dreams have no gender. They can be whoever they want to be and accomplish anything they set their minds to. I will one day grace the clouds again. But for now my heart is at home with my kids and my eyes are still always to the sky dreaming of that first flight."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Scott Engler, Key Largo


"I got 3 spikes in my hand, one in my middle finger, and one in my palm. My middle finger swelled up to the size of a cucumber, my whole hand swelled up and it hurt. So bad.
I was working at Keys Kritters and I was cleaning a little fish tank, like 1 foot by 2 feet when it happened. I was cleaning it with my hand and a sponge, and there was a lionfish in it. He was in one corner and my hand was in the other.
I moved out of the way to let some people to go by, and I moved my hand before I looked back into the cubicle. The lionfish had moved into the other corner and my hand was cleaning that way. All he did was move his spikes toward me and I pushed my hand right into them.
We went to the emergency room because as a kid I was I was allergic to bee stings. I didn't know how I would react. On the way I was either crying because it was so painful, or laughing or just mad at myself for not paying attention and letting it happen. Right after the sting I had put my hand in as hot of water as I could stand. Turns out that was the best thing I could have done and the only thing that would take away any of the pain. When I went to the emergency room they gave me 3 doses of morphine, the morphine did not touch the pain at all.
We put my hand in a pot of water as hot as I could stand again, because the heat would break down the poison. After 6 or 7 hours it stopped hurting. My hand stayed swelled up for about 2 days and my middle finger peeled about 4 times.
Talking with people afterwards, they say about the only thing that is as painful as that is kidney stones. I told my wife childbirth has nothing on me now!"

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Rhianna Goley, Islamorada


"My father named me after the Fleetwood Mac song, Rhiannon. It wasn't until they got me home that they realized there was an 'on' on the end, so my name is spelled a little differently!
I started diving when I was 13. My dad signed me up and I wasn't happy! We were living in Asheboro, NC and I was certified in a rock quarry. I went on my first trip to the Cayman's when I was 15 and went back about 3 years ago.
I was single and about to graduate from college. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I decided I was going to travel and dive. I started applying for jobs all over the world. It took me about a year and 3 months and I got a phone call from Amy Slate. She hired me over the phone.
I was here 2 weeks later. I had never been here before, I didn't know anyone. I drove down and it has been a good spiral ever since. From Amy's I went to Ocean Diver's, I waited tables at Cafe Largo and now I am part of the History of Diving Museum.
My parents are so supportive. This is the first big dream that I have had, so my parents told me to go for it. I actually had all of my paperwork done to go to Korea for a year to teach English.
2 years later, here I am. I am happy with my decisions and I am super excited to be a part of the History of Diving Museum and all we do with the community!"

Friday, June 12, 2015

~Jack Enslow~ Marine, Feeder of Feral Cats, Key Largo, Fl


HOK: "I just spoke with Jack on the phone. He was almost crying. He had received his back pay check from VA retirement. He also received his Notification Letter for the monthly monetary benefit he will receive for the rest of his life."
Jack: " I will finally be able to have a life. I will have enough money to have a life. I will have money for myself and money to get extra things for all the cats. It's so much more than the temporary Social Security thing you got me and the food stamps you got me.
I couldn't believe it when all of you got me this RV and the electric bike. But, I really can't believe this. I would've never been able to get all the paperwork done and go to all the appointments without you. I"m still trying to believe all this wonderful stuff has happened to me.
It's like with all this rain lately, I've been dry in this trailer. I can go places on my bike that I need to go. I have a bank account at Community Bank and the ladies are so nice to me.
All the people at Winn Dixie and Dillons have never forgotten about me or refused to help me.
I just really can't believe any of it. It's just the most wonderful thing.
Now, I know, I know, really know for the rest of my life I won't be homeless or hungry or cold or hot or alone.
It's almost all too much.... ( and his voice broke again).
HOK: "I couldn't even answer him for the football size lump in my throat. I just want to thank all of you again from Jack and our page for your donations to buy the trailer and the bike. It was only when Jack moved inside that he began to believe that he could live on the grid again. It was only then that he began to feel like a human being and to believe that he was entitled to benefits and only then he became willing to go through the nightmare of paperwork and appointments to make this day happen. Sometimes I got frustrated with him. Sometimes we yelled at each other. But, today, oh my, today.
This is a glorious day for Jack. We, all of you out there and us, we can't save the world, but, we can, together, change one life at a time. There is nothing wrong with that. There is everything right with that. Thank you from Jack and from us."

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Enly Alonso



"It started off when I went to Cuba in 2011.
I met someone there and thought he would just be a date. We ended up hitting it off really good. I went back the following summer to visit again. Then we just decided we really liked each other. That was in 2012.
I asked him if he would like to come and live with me in the United States. He said yes, he would like to; it was always his dream to go to the U. S. and work, and be able to live a life worth living.
In 2013 I started all the paperwork for a fiancé visa. It was expensive, but as a U.S. citizen I have the right to petition for a fiancé visa for someone in a different country. We knew that if he was approved for this visa we would have to get married within 90 days. We had no problem with this; we liked each other so much and were in so much love. We had already been dating for 2 1/2 years!
It was very difficult when we found out he was denied. We found out in November 2014, after so much time waiting for the big day. He was denied because the U.S. Embassy was convinced we were already married.
That was kinda funny, because it was not true. We were not married.
We thought, with all the positive changes between the U.S. and Cuba, it would be an easy yes. Things aren't always like that.
I try to visit him every month or so. I save my money, my parents are very supportive, and I have people who will buy my plane ticket or help with money toward my tickets if I take things to their family and loved ones in Cuba. Somehow, it works out. The government has opened e-mails in Cuba now, so I bought him a phone and we can communicate that way, which is so much better. Before I would have to buy calling cards, which is really expensive.
During my trip this last March, we got married. Now I can put in for the spouse visa and try again this way.
My husband is a very poor man. He lives in a house with no refrigerator, no TV. Cuba is still a third world country and many people forget that. It is hard being here with a good life and knowing how he lives. It is also hard being the woman and having so much more, being able to do so much more.
So it will be another year and loads of money more but he's worth it. If there's something I learned is there are very few good people out in the world and when you find someone great, distance isn't going to be what is going to keep us apart."

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ted


Ted's New Ride~ After being the "wheels" for anyone who needed to go anywhere in the Keys for all those years.
HOK: I went to check on Ted now that he has his new "ride" from a Humans Angel, Kevin. When we posted the story about Ted's car dying, the outpouring was amazing.
'Kevin" said his caregiver was looking over his shoulder and saw the story about Ted's car dying and told him that Ted used to take her child to school every day and her to work back in the days of the famous "Key Largo Transit", run by Ted.
He said right then, well, he can have my van, I need a new one and that was that.
Ted: "I never took people where they needed to go expecting anything like this. They didn't always have money to pay me and I was driving up and down this road everyday anyway. So, I took them.
I just can't believe it. It's the nicest vehicle I have ever owned. I can't believe Kevin just gave it to me."

Friday, June 5, 2015

Brian Buckner, Key Largo


"I started living down here about 4 years ago, working at Turkey Point. I travel for work but try to stay down here as much as I can.
I am most proud of how well I am doing for 28 years old. I have been all over the country, take time off when I want. I pride myself on my work.
My biggest challenge is staying down here as much as possible."

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Rich Lemmon


"I was an interpreter for Bosnian refugees here in the U.S. during the Bosnian War. I have worked with a lot of kids and helped them acclimate into the U.S.
I learned to speak Serbo-Croatian as an exchange student back when the area was communist. It was my junior year in high school. I arranged the whole thing without my parents knowing about it, I never thought they would say yes. I wrote an essay to get a scholarship to go, I took independent classes after school for Russian as a base language to see if I could do it, and I had a teacher who had a friend in the State Dept. and my teacher directed me to a pilot program for this. They took 2 kids from every state. I applied and got it. The guy with the program went with me to my parents to talk to them about it and tell them what I had done. By now they couldn't say 'No'!
I was also a therapeutic foster parent and social worker before I came to the Keys. I worked with a lot of kids.
I am most proud of being a therapeutic foster parent. The kids still call me and let me know how they are doing and how they are improving. Then I give them some advice and they keep going.
Before all of that, I was a diver. Why did I stop all I was doing? I missed the water; it is as simple as that."