Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Raised in Islamorada


“I grew up in the Keys. I was raised in Islamorada. 

Looking back, I can see it now, there was always something different to do growing up down here. You don’t realize it when you’re a kid, but we got to do stuff like going to the beach on Christmas. That is cool to do. I have many great memories growing up on the water.

I was in college and really just spinning my wheels. I was going for engineering and was in a calculus class. I am good at math, but I was sitting in class thinking this really sucked and I wouldn’t want to do it for the next 25 years when the teacher said ‘you’re going to be doing this for the rest of your life’. I thought ‘Oh, great’. That was day one of trying to figure out what I really wanted to do; what I could do for the next 25 years and not get bored. I called my parents and told them I wanted to go to the police academy.

I have been with the Sherriff’s office for 4 years now. I remember thinking, on my first day as a 21 year old kid, ‘What did I get myself into? I was just in college and now I am arresting people 2 and 3 times my age!’ It was an eye opening experience! I was thrust into growing up, quickly.

As a police officer, there is one story I love to tell. It was Christmas morning and a guy called in that there were people breaking into his boat. It was 3 am. We arrived on scene and apprehended the thieves. The thieves had broken into about 4 other houses…on Christmas morning! It felt nice, it was like catching the Grinch on Christmas morning. That is one of my most rewarding adventures!

Our most recent adventure? My girlfriend and I went to the Great Smokey Mountains in North Carolina. We did a 3 day 2 night 30 mile backpack trip. It was a big learning experience, we had never done this before. The first day of our trip it was raining. Right before we got to our camp, after hiking 8 hours, there was a torrential downpour, lightening, the whole thing and the trails were flooded. Everything got wet; our cloths, our shoes. We still had a blast. We had a near bear experience. We were hiking in an area where the trail gets close to a campground. There was a family hiking toward us and they were hiking pretty quickly! The guy told us he was from Tennessee and he had never seen this before; there were 2 bears on the trail and they wouldn’t move, no matter what he did, they stood their ground. We were 22 miles in, we had to move forward. Luckily, as a cop, I am allowed to carry a gun and I had my gun with me. Every step we took we were looking behind every tree! We never did see those bears, but it was fun!

We went into the adventure thinking we were prepared but once you actually do it, we realized we knew very little. I think, what seemed to be a really hard trip being wet all the time and having wet shoes, any trip we do now will be a piece of cake! Our next trip is Wyoming, the Grand Tetons!”

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Anne Wallace - Islamorada RIP 9/21/15


Anne Wallace passed away at her home in Islamorada last night. She left us peacefully in her sleep. Our hearts go out to her daughter Marianna Wallace and her son Jack Wallace and all those that knew her and loved her. She has gone to join her love John Beckham, aka Johnny B.

The following story is from her friend Tamara Thoel:
"It is with a very very sad heavy heart that I have to let my friends know that Anne Wallace has unexpectedly passed away. I apologize for possibly telling you like this but it is impossible to contact all of you, for that I am sorry.
Anne was very loved by many and has touched too many hearts to begin to count and will be missed by many many people. I have known Anne for almost 25 years and we became fast friends and roommates, heck she was my sister, without the blood. We had many many fun and interesting adventures. Definitely, partners in crime. One thing that comes to memory and we just talked about was driving down alligator ally over 20 years ago, I was driving, twins were in back, and an alligator stopped in the middle of the road. I slammed on the brakes, looked at her and said, "I'm not getting out", she just laughed and laughed. That's how Anne was, very fun loving, kind hearted, loved life, and would do anything for you!
I loved Anne with all my heart but I know she's not hurting anymore as she is dancing with the Angels or sitting on Jesus' lap smiling down on us., waiting for us to show up when it is our time to go home! I love you, Anne, more than you know, I already miss your vibrant personality and quick laughter. Say "Hello" to all my friend's and my family, as I know they have already greeted you, give them a big big hug and kiss for me. I will see you whenever it is my time to go Heaven. Rest in Peace, my old and dearest friend."

Monday, September 21, 2015

Jaik Smith


HOK - I met Jaik Smith last week in Islamorada. He was on day 41 of his trip. There are so many reasons that bring people to the Florida Keys!
“I had a personal goal to ride my bike across country, and decided to raise awareness and money for cancer at the same time. My company, InterWorkings, has sidelined with me and is raising money as well. They have stationary bikes at the office and the 176 employees who are all free to join. They are racing me! It will be interesting to see what happens. My company has been so supportive of me.
I started my trip in Seattle, WA, and my girlfriend will meet me in Key West on my last day and we will spend about 5 days there until we fly home to Chicago. You can read all about my travels at: Jaiksmith.com and make donations at tiny.cc/cancerdonations.
Riding cross country has been a dream of mine and am so grateful to have the opportunity and support to achieve it!”

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Corey Bryan, Upper Keys


“I'm Corey Bryan and have lived in the Keys (Upper Keys) for 29 years. I am Married to Peggy (for 33 years and have been together for 35) and we have one son named Spenser.
So.... I came to the keys to work for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office when Sheriff William Freeman was in office. I have a total of 32 years as a police officer as I worked in Summit County Colorado at the Sheriff’s Office there as a Corrections Officer. I am currently a Captain for Sheriff Rick Ramsay and I run the Islamorada (dist 6) Office with one of my best friends, Lt. David Carey.
The Sheriff's Office has been a very good place to work, with a lot of really good people. I have worked up through the ranks as a Patrol Deputy, Patrol Sgt, Detective Sgt, Investigative Lt, and Patrol Lt. Great people and friends Mark Kohl, Lee Ann Holroyd, Mike Sharp, Rick Ramsay, Larry O’Neill, Mark Coleman, Terry Smith, Mark Terrill Jason Madnick , Ralph Williams and most importantly my wife Peggy have been instrumental in my career.
Peggy and I met while in High School in Kremmling Colorado where we dated during my senior year. Peggy went onto college in Denver and we were married a year later. I can honestly say that I have had nothing but great times with her these last 33 years and consider her my best pal in the world! Peggy also works for the Sheriff's Office and is the Records Supervisor at the Roth building in Plantation Key.
We moved to Florida in 1986 and in 1988 we had our bouncing baby boy Spenser. Spenser was born at Baptist Hospital but has spent his entire life here in the keys. He is a Graduate of Coral Shores and then went onto get his Bachelors degree at Florida State (go NOLES) in criminal justice. Spenser also works for the Sheriff's Office in Marathon and is currently a Patrol Sgt. He is with his true love Lauren and little girl Kosta who Peggy and I love and adore to pieces.
Peggy and I love this community and all of the great people who make this such a unique place to live. I am a member of the Upper Keys Rotary, an ambassador for the Islamorada Chamber and active in numerous Islamorada events to support the community. We love to go jeepin with all our pals from Gerry Albertsons Back Country Jeepers, where we have a 1957 Willys CJ-5 and a 1950's Willy's Overland truck. I can't say enough good things about all the wonderful people that make up this wacky but wonderful community that we currently live.
Peggy and I also have a small business, Turkey Hollow Mercantile which we make handcrafted items like those of the late 1800's (lye soap, apple head dolls, bees wax candles, old time sling shots, walking sticks, hand ground coffee, corn grits and bird houses) Right now we are just travelling to different festivals where we dress like mountian folk of the Appalachian or Ozarks in the 1800's
This leads us to our next chapter of our life where we currently have approx 9.5 acres in north Florida where we had a cabin built (Turkey Hollow) that is basically set up to look like the 1800,s with antiques that Peggy, my mom and step mom picked out, and different pieces of small furniture that my dad and I built or re-furbished to look old but used as modern fixtures. The cabin is only heated by a fireplace and is extremely cozy. We are working on getting a garden set up after we retire, having honey bees and using our property as an agro tourism farm to sell our handcrafted items.
I told you that my friends and family mean a great deal to me and are the most important part of my life.... well the best part of this is that after we bought our property many of my friends stayed at the cabin, liked it so much that, the Yagels, Subics, Coffields, Smith's and my best pal Mark Kohl all bought property within a few miles of us and Mark's property is joined to mine.
What a great life, the best wife and no strife.”

 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux, aka El Chacal


Look who trains in Key Largo!
Boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux, aka El Chacal
Super Bantam weight
15-0 with 10 knockouts.
2 time Gold Medal winner for Cuba.

He holds an amateur boxing record of 475 fights with 12 losses and is considered to be one of the greatest amateur fighters of all time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chase, 8 years old, Key Largo


“I was bored so I started making these lures. I made them with pvc pipes.

We went fishing Sunday and caught these Mahi with them! We had 3 lines with my lures on them and we had a double hookup! The third one was getting chased. I lost a bird though, (that is a lure that drags like a flying fish) but that’s ok, you learn from your mistakes, so I will make them better next time.”

Friday, September 11, 2015

Wood Campbell - Islamorada (9/11 Memories)


The most surreal weekend of my life.

I happened to be in New York 14 years ago on 9/11. We were producing a tv show for Michael Jackson at Madison Square Garden. It was the who's who of music and Hollywood stars, including Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Britney Spears, Whitney Houston and countless others.

We had pulled an all nighter loading out the show and I closed my truck doors at about 8am, sent my driver away and crossed the street to grab some food and beer (don't judge me, it was a long day.)

Being 4 miles away and indoors, I was totally unaware of what was taking place 45 minutes later, until a friend called to see if I was okay. I turned on the tv just in time to see the second plane hit and the mayhem that ensued. In a matter of hours, the city went from madness to martial law and we were forced to stay indoors.

Our hotel was emptied, other than 7 MJ roadies, so that the government 3 letter jacket agencies and medical teams moved in. My room happened to be on the top floor, so I could look out and see the busiest city in the world turn into a bad zombie movie. Martial law kicked in and we stayed indoors for 2 days.

Having the FBI and CIA at the hotel gave us the inside track on info, but there wasn't much to know at that point. The things that I will never forget are:

The smoke and smell of the burning buildings and contents for days.
The empty streets of a city that never stops.
The thousands of people standing around the site in complete silence, once we were allowed outside.
The countless volunteers that joined us at the Javits Center to offer our services for whatever we could.

Never forget? Not likely. This is far from over.

Karen Greenberg & Jaret Vogel - Prosperity Life Planning


On October 3, 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Prosperity Life Planning will be hosting an event at the beautiful Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada, “Benefits & Tax Planning For Families With Special Needs.”  Speaking about a cause dear to their heart, Karen Greenberg and Jaret Vogel will be there to help parents of special needs children or adults learn about tax deductions and other financial tools to help offset the costs associated with caring for someone with special needs.

Jaret told me that while visiting Amara Cay Resort with his family, he had a vision of seeing the beautiful conference room filled to capacity with people there to learn how to help families with special needs.  Please help us spread the word of this event and help Jaret fulfill his vision.

Karen Greenberg is the mother of a child with Autism, and has been a public speaker on special needs planning since 1993.  She is Director of Prosperity Life Planning, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to teaching families of disabled children and adults ways to provide for a financially comfortable quality of life, while preserving eligibility for governmental entitlements, such as Medicaid and SSI.  She has an MBA in taxation and is a Certified Financial Planner™.   

Jaret L. Vogel, husband of Karen Greenberg, has worked in financial services for 32 years.   In addition to developing the outreach of Prosperity Life Planning, he volunteers as Associate Director and Special Needs Advisor, and helps implement solutions for these families.  He is also a Certified Senior Advisor, and Director of the Special Needs Tax Credit Alliance, Inc.

FROM MYSTERY TO MISSION: ONE MOTHER’S JOURNEY

They say “It’s like waking up in Denmark, and you don’t speak the language.”

That’s how Karen Greenberg felt after learning her second child, Ricky, was on the Autism spectrum.  Ricky was born after a long, difficult labor, culminating in a C section.  He was immediately diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a swelling of the cranium due to fluid build-up in the brain, a condition which was corrected surgically within the first 12 hours after his birth.  Doctors told Karen and her husband, Jeff, to take a “wait and see” approach and be aware that this condition might result in learning disabilities and/or a development delay.

At 6 months, his parents sought a developmental evaluation, and at the advice of the Directions Center in Long Island, enrolled him in a county-sponsored pediatric infant stimulation program.  Ricky was assigned a special education teacher and some physical therapy sessions several times per week.  While his cognitive functioning was not significantly delayed, the local experts felt it was prudent to continually assess his development, and in-home services were offered without cost to the family.

Ricky exhibited fairly normal milestone progressions until age eighteen months, when he had his first febrile seizure.  The pediatrician explained that febrile seizures were not uncommon in small children, but referred Ricky to a pediatric neurologist for an evaluation.  The seizures continued periodically over the next year, sometimes accompanied by a fever, but sometimes with none, and Ricky was prescribed medications.  Eventually the seizures appeared under control.  He also developed strabismus, (crossed-eyes) which was eventually corrected surgically.

It seemed, despite the seizure disorder, Ricky appeared to make fairly normal progress until age two.  At that time, Ricky seemed cognitively intact or even advanced, knew the alphabet and numbers to 100, could identify pictures and had a very good receptive word knowledge.  He was also starting to form some words.  But gradually, over the succeeding 6 months, his spontaneous verbalization decreased, accompanied by less ability to focus and increasing distractibility.  “When did Ricky stop using words?” Ricky’s mom and dad would ask themselves.

Ricky also developed “delayed echolalia,” repeating over and over the same dialogues from favorite Sesame Street episodes or TV commercials.  Thus, the dreaded diagnosis of Autism was confirmed by the development psychiatrist.  Furthermore, the experts delivered other bad news.  “Ricky would probably never be able to support himself financially, and would need help and direction for the rest of his life.”  Karen recalls, “I can’t say that we were really surprised by the diagnosis, but the realization that Ricky would never be able to take care of his basic needs was particularly troubling.”

Karen and her husband Jeff, who was a developmental psychologist, felt it was important for one parent to be an “at-home presence,” so Karen established a home-based accounting and tax preparation business.

She had already earned her MBA in Taxation, and was trained as a Certified Financial Planner.  “With all my years of training and experience, I did not know how to plan for the future of a child who would need a lifetime of support.”  Karen recalls, “I had not encountered this situation in any of the hundreds of clients I worked with in my business.  There were lots of books in the library about children with Autism, and I read of them.  But there was not one book that could tell me how to prepare for his future.”

“I had a lot of trouble sleeping, and often lay awake for hours full of worry.  One night I had a troubling dream.  Ricky was sitting all alone, in a rocking chair, just rocking back and forth, and I recall waking up feeling so sad and full of despair.  The next day, I took a long walk by myself, still affected by this dream.  I think I spent most of that day crying.  And then I had “a strong awakening.”  I put on my “other hat” and examined the problem from a different standpoint.  It was not until I thought about the problem from the professional side, and not an emotional side, that I began to formulate a solution.”

Karen went to the law library and researched case law.  “I was looking for estate law court cases where a family member had a lifelong disability,” Karen recalls.  It was there she found a case dealing with this exact situation, which was actually the predecessor to the current Special Needs Trust, (which was not a federal law until 1993.)  She found an attorney who was able to draft a trust document, using language which appeared to be sustained under existing case law.  “The case dealt with a trust established in the will of the parent, but I wanted to form this trust now, and have the ability to use it as a savings account for my child’s future.”

“I asked the attorney to make this a “living trust.”  The attorney was surprised, as he had previously only drafted such trusts to be effective after the death of the parents, to receive an inheritance from the parent’s estate, but conceded that there was no reason why we could not do just that.”  She then contacted a friend who was an insurance agent, and bought an insurance policy, a “second-to-die” life insurance policy, covering her and Ricky’s dad, to be owned by the trust.  The agent was surprised also, as this type of product, which pays the death benefit after the second spouse’s passing, was usually purchased only to pay estate taxes after the death of the second spouse.

Karen recalled from her CFP training that this type of policy cost less than 2 separate policies.  She then created an investment account, also owned by the trust, which grew over ten years, to a point where the investment’s dividends were enough to pay the $2,000 insurance premium, all on a tax-free basis.  “For those first 10 years, I was determined to make monthly deposits to the trust account to cover the cost of the policy, and also add to the investment account.”

She designated her parents as the trustees of the trust, and her sister (and later her daughter) as successor trustees, who would look after the trust’s resources if Karen was unable to.  Karen had used her combined knowledge, research and experience, to create an endowment for Ricky’s benefit, which will eventually provide a significant annual cash-flow for Ricky’s lifetime of care, after she and his father pass away.  The trust also provides current income, if needed, to cover expenses and services not provided by New York’s Medicaid and SSI program.

After planning for Ricky’s future, she met other parents, who asked for her help to plan for their children.  She joined the Autism Society of Nassau/Suffolk counties, serving as their treasurer for several years.  She also created an educational nonprofit organization, Prosperity Life Planning (PLP) to educate and advocate through the planning process with area attorneys, benefit consultants, tax, investment, and insurance professionals.

Years later, Karen moved to Delray Beach, and with her 2nd husband, Jaret Vogel, reactivated PLP and set on a course to become a more visible organization.  In 2006, Prosperity Life Planning received a $25,000 grant from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.  They used half of the funds to develop their resources, website, brochures, etc., and the other half to create a legal aid service, which paid for legal services for 12 families from area attorneys, who discounted their fees 70%, in order to “give back to the community” without working pro bono.

Since that time, Karen and Jaret have addressed thousands of families across Florida, counseled hundreds in their Delray Beach home office, and been featured in the media as nationally recognized speakers on special needs planning.

As a result of their experience working with families, many with special needs kids approaching 18 years of age, they recognized that parents were no longer the guardians of their 18 year old kids, and to remain their legal guardians would require an attorney and court services.  In November, 2006, they attended a guardianship conference in Ft. Lauderdale, and during discussions, came up with the idea of a federal tax refund for the $5,000 cost of becoming legal guardian for an adult with disabilities.  This idea became the seed of a new project, which could help millions of parents across the country for generations to come; parents who already had untold expenses caring for a child who needs extra supports.

Over the past 5 years, the couple has made great progress.  They met with Congressmen in DC, collected hundreds of petitions, were featured in numerous TV and newspaper articles, and garnered the interest of former Congressman Robert Wexler and Congressman Ted Deutch.

In March 2011, House Resolution 878 was introduced in congress by Duetch.  The “Special Needs Tax Credit Bill” is now being discussed in Congress, with 5 additional Congressman signing up in support as co-sponsors.  The Bill has now been reintroduced in the current 114th Session of Congress as HR 1747.

So, from the birth of a little boy in Long Island, thousands of families have benefited from the experience of one mom, and hopefully millions of families will benefit if the Special Needs Tax Credit Bill is passed.

For more information on Prosperity Life Planning, visit their website:
www.prosperitylifeplanning.org.  Or call Karen Greenberg for a free, 2 hour consultation at 561-638-6945. 

To learn more about Special Needs Tax Credit and download a petition, visit:
www.specialneedstaxcredit.org, or call Jaret Vogel at 561-865-2921.
                                                                    



Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Jackie Harder, Marathon


Mom told me I could do anything, be anything I wanted. So when I said I wanted to be a cartographer, an astronomer, a psychiatrist, an archaeologist or the Great American Novelist, she encouraged me to check them out.
I finally decided on journalism, as the success rate for Great American Novelists seemed iffy. A month after graduating from high school in Minnesota, I was in Gainesville, ready to pursue a journalism degree at the University of Florida.
I had no place to live. No friends waiting for me. No job. What was I thinking? I didn’t know I could fail – so I didn’t.
At graduation, I was recruited to come to the Florida Keys (“What’s that?” I asked) to work at an ailing alternative weekly newspaper in Marathon. My first exposure to the Keys was in steamy July and the tangy scent of the warm sea was intoxicating. Today, 40 years later, the smell of summer seas takes me back to that day in 1975 when I first arrived.
About nine months later, I landed a job at The Keynoter in Marathon and spent the next 30 years with Knight-Ridder Newspapers (now McClatchy), the second largest media company in the country. During those years, I also worked as editor at the Upper Keys Reporter and The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Great times, for the most part, but after 25 years, I was ready for something different. So when the president’s job opened at the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce, I thought, “Why not?” And for the next seven years, I worked with all types of businesses, created new products and events, and grew the membership.
But a few months shy of my 60th birthday, I asked myself, “Is this what I want to do with the rest of my life?”
The answer was no.
Ten years earlier, I’d started my own business, Key Dynamics Coaching and Consulting, to help people take charge of – and change – their own lives. However, my day jobs always took priority and my business languished. One day, I thought, “If I’m going to work this hard, I’m going to work for myself.” So in 2012, I upped sticks to devote myself to Key Dynamics.
My proudest achievement in those early days: Building my first website from scratch. It took 60 hours, but I did it. That experience, among others, helped me decide what I didn’t want to do and helped me laser in on my real passion – helping women succeed.
Today, I specialize in working with mid-career and midlife business and professional women to help them (re)design their lives.
I’ve done it, a couple of times; they can, too. And I love helping them do it.
Jackie can be reached at 305/451-9295 or via email at jackie@key-dynamics.com.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Anne Osborne & Bill Stevens - Lower Matecumbe


ANNE:  

I’ve been living in the Keys for almost 15 years; I moved here in 2003.  I was coming down to visit a friend, and we were going out on the boat all the time.  I just fell in love with the water and wanted to live here.  Living in Atlanta, across from the state capitol, I didn’t see much water!  I had a great career in politics, but didn’t own a single pair of flip-flops…just suits and sling back pumps.  Now I wear flip-flops or sandals every day!  (Or maybe boots if it gets below 70 degrees!) I am so glad I moved here, and I have no regrets.  It has really opened a lot of doors for me.  I thought I would be working in government, but as it turned out I ended up working in education, and love it.  I’m proud of the job I do every day.

I love where I live right now; I live on Lower Matecumbe with my husband Bill.  We just got married a little over a year ago.  I was trying to get married before 50, so that worked out ok!  My dad still paid the dowry!  We had a wonderful sunrise wedding service on the beach here in Lower Mat.  It was heart swelling to have so many of our family and friends get up that early to join us for the occasion.

I love the community here, and really all of the Keys; how people come out for each other and support each other and are just one big happy family.  I enjoy spending time with friends, spending time on the water, and near the water… laughing, loving, eating… we’re foodies.  But, we’ve become healthy foodies, and have both lost a lot of weight.

I’m a teacher.  I just love working with children.  I love seeing their faces as they learn and when their brains are working.  I like the school where I’m working.  I’m at Stanley Switlick in Marathon now.  It’s a wonderful student body; the staff and administration are really great.  I worked for 9 years in Islamorada in the Montessori school system.  Now, I’m working for a much bigger school and it’s different.  There is more structure, I feel more sure of what I’m doing, more secure.  It’s really great.  I enjoy it.

Where do I see myself in 10 years?  Maybe living in the Keys part time, and looking at another place on the water in another part of Florida.  With some land, have some animals. Maybe do some substitute teaching.  I think I would like that.


BILL:  

I moved to the Florida Keys on a whim after graduating from college.  I went to St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, after graduation.  I had a job, but didn’t like living there.  So, I called my parents, said I can’t live here, too much crime, cost of living is too high...  So, I flew back into the states and hurricane Elena was going on, so consequently when I got to the Miami airport, I couldn’t fly out.  

I had come to the keys for years and years on diving vacations and things, so I came down, stayed at Gilberts, and picked the first dive shop in Key Largo, Spencer Slates Atlantis Dive Center.  I showed up there at 7 o’clock at night and nobody was there but the door was open.  So I walked in, looked at the phone and it had Captain Slate’s phone number on it, so I picked up the phone and called him.  I told him I had come to dive with him and that his place was open but no one was there.  He asked me to please lock the door behind me, and to come see him tomorrow! So the next day I went there.  He knew that I was a dive instructor and he offered me a job.  I worked there for almost a year.  After a period of time, I went back to Indiana grabbed all my stuff and moved down here.  The rest is history.

I had a family and raised my child here.  But, I found the true love of my life in the second go round. I have my child, a new wife and a new life.  We got married on July 11, 2014.

In 2013, Anne had gone to Charleston.  She was upset at me because I was supposed to pick her up at the airport, but I couldn’t because I was in the emergency room of the hospital!  

Seriously, I was watching the first game of the NBA playoffs; I woke up in the middle of the night after kind of passing out in my chair and started throwing up blood.  I went to Mariners hospital. 40 days or so later I woke up.  And, I realized that a lot of things had changed since I had gone to bed!  I came out of the coma around July 11, and I exceeded their expectations for living, exceeded their expectations for the rehab.  I got back home, and through friends and people around me, I made it through.  I could not have not done it without all of them.  Anne was there the whole time.  She slept on the floor on an air mattress.  She never left my side unless she had to.  Fortunately, being a teacher, she was off during the summer so she could dedicate her time unselfishly to me.  Everything has worked out.  You get a lot better appreciation for the small things and large things in life when you go through something like that.


ANNE:

When I got back from Charleston, I had all these primary source documents to teach with, to teach American history, which was the purpose of my trip.  I put them on a chair when I got home and that was where they stayed until school started.  My stuff, you know.  I just dropped everything and went to be with him.  And I rewashed the same clothes, the same set of clothes, over and over.  I only came home every 4 days.  I would just take that same set of clothes back and forth.  

But it worked out great, as he said.  He exceeded all their expectations. They thought he would be on dialysis, a stomach port and feeding tube...


BILL:

Yeah, that was when I knew she was the woman for me.  I was kind of in and out of consciousness, but one of the doctors was talking to her saying I would have to get to Miami 3 times a week for dialysis, would probably never eat solid food again.  I had a tracheotomy, a feeding tube, a catheter here, a hose up there..!  At that time we were going to have to refit the house.  I couldn’t live upstairs, was going to have a hospital bed in a room downstairs, would have a handicap ramp installed and all that.  And I was thinking to myself, that’s not good!  But, then I heard her say, “I’m in.”  I remember her learning how to put the food in the feeding tube. And at that time I determined that this woman, who for the relatively short period of time we had been together, was willing to give up her life for that… I can’t let her go.

It put everything in perspective.  I’ve been beaten up playing sports in high school, been through different injuries, but with something like this, you’re in someone else’s control, just a bystander, a witness to what they do.  I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that between the expertise of the doctors and the love of my friends and my love ones was the only thing that kept me alive.  I think I would have just rolled over and died if I had to go through that by myself.  I was ready to give up but knew I couldn’t, there were too many people I would have to explain to.  I couldn’t let them down.

But, going through something like that really helps put things in perspective.  It changes your priorities.  My life has a whole new meaning now.  I don’t worry about the small stuff.  I get up every morning and go swim.  I don’t get wrapped up in stuff anymore.  


ANNE:

It really changes your perspective on family and work and what’s important.  Make sure your priorities are in place and that you’re living happily and honestly with others around you.


BILL:

Where do I see myself in 10 years?  I see my wife and I purchasing another piece of property somewhere either in Florida or Georgia.  I wouldn’t mind something different for half the year.  I want to have dog and have room for it to run, maybe have a horse. But, still in the Keys at least part time.  

There are people who work the whole year to afford to do for one week what we do every day. My life is better than most people’s vacations.  It’s not a bad place to be from.  I’ve been overseas, traveled all over, but here we’re still under the American flag.  It’s the same scenery as the Bahamas or anywhere in the Caribbean here.  But, you can still jump in your car and drive away. Don’t have to rely on airlines. Most people here are tourists.  My daughter was born here, but I don’t know many people who were.  Most everybody here comes from somewhere else. But they come here for a reason, as I did too.  And I have a hard time leaving.  Because where are you gonna go?  Where are you going to go that’s better than this?