When I think back about my early years in Naples, one of the people I admired and enjoyed the most was Bernie Yokel, who served the Conservancy so well for so many years.
He lived, for many years, in one of the Conservancy’s old houses along Shell Island Road on the south fringe of Rookery Bay.
Mosquitos were in abundance and so were the frequent intrusions of the local bear population. Bernie was never bothered by any living thing. He studied all forms of life and loved them all.
I would visit from time to time, knowing I would have to change my air filter soon thereafter. It mattered not. The knowledge I gained of the environment was more than enough reward.
I treasured the friendship of Bernie Yokel. I was honored to be his friend. He was a humble genius. Rookery Bay was, as he described it, ‘God’s soup’ … the complex nourishment for a variety of life seen and unseen within its borders and far beyond … into the deepest waters of the Gulf.
He was responsible for persuading developers how to do things in a better way and he was not “for sale at any price.” He was never interested in getting credit for what he did. He deserved a lot more credit than he got. Naples would look very different today but for his scientific guidance that was much needed when matters became contested.
He believed deeply in explaining the science behind every environmental assertion he made.
Bernie Yokel was a hero of the Southwest Florida environmental movement. Everyone owes him a debt of gratitude.