When I think back on my 35 years at the Naples Daily News, when it was a lot different than it is today, I focus on the positives, especially the people who I got to know and deal with in the community. While my first 10 years were spent at a desk, designing pages, writing headlines and meeting deadlines, the final 25 were spent meeting readers and newsmakers.
As editorial page editor and TV host –positions that no longer exist – sometimes I helped both groups, always I questioned and tried to understand them, and often I bothered them. Through it all, I was lucky to come into contact with so many people who had something in common. They made me smile, in their own ways.
The late Lydia Galton made me smile with her own infectious smile – except when fighting a civic injustice as a leader of the League of Women Voters or other community group.
Murray Hendel made me smile as a civic spark plug with a special knack for connecting people and money to get things done. Examples: beach renourishment (a beach boardwalk was named for him in Park Shore) and the Freedom Memorial on Golden Gate Parkway.
John Cardillo still makes me smile as a skilled lawyer, dedicated family man and Italian dining authority.
Nancy Lascheid, who founded the Neighborhood Health Center with her late husband, Bill, made me smile for being so good-natured despite working against tall odds – and succeeding.
Restaurateur Tony Ridgway makes me smile for being so good at his craft and so eager to share what he knows.
My mentor and former publisher at the Naples Daily News, Corbin Wyant, makes me smile for being a hale, well met fellow with a knack for music and practical jokes. He worked hard at growing the paper, fronting NDN marching and Dixieland bands and masterminding company-wide pranks. When we became a team he told me to put in an honest 80 hours of work per week – and everything would be fine.
The late Holland Salley made me smile for being such a bright, upbeat gentleman – a pioneer in the local interior design industry.
Don Hunter made me smile, even though I often had the opposite effect on him. Answering questions about crime upticks and personnel conduct were not the former sheriff ’s favorite pastimes.
His successor, Kevin Rambosk, makes me smile because he is such a class guy and steady cop. He leads by example.
Bill Barnett makes me smile for his relentless optimism and cheery outlook on life.
For several years my wife, Susan, and I served soup at Empty Bowls fundraisers at Cambier Park next to Bill and Chris Barnett.
I witnessed patron after patron come up to Barnett to thank him for his work as mayor.
Linda Penniman makes me smile as a former City Council member who carries on with pollution and local news coverage crusades.
Jackie Faffer makes me smile as the can-do CEO of the Naples Senior Center. She tackles programs that everybodyknows are needed but no one else knows how or wants to do.
Dudley Goodlette makes me smile with his boundless goodwill, energy and involvement– make that leadership – with every issue he touches.
FGCU Presidents Wilson Bradshaw, Roy McTarnaghan and Bill Merwin (I have not met Mike Martin, yet) made me smile for being the right leaders at the right times; each had a timely role. The new dean of FGCU’s Lutgert School of Business, Chris Westley, a Naples High grad, is cut from the same cloth.
Former NDN colleagues Harriet Heithaus and Brent Batten still make me smile as experts in the arts and tomfoolery, respectively.
Myra Daniels still makes me smile, because she is so good at everything she does and bold about her pitch making. She is not resting on her Naples Philharmonic laurels.
Mike Volpe made me smile as the Collier County commissioner, 1988-94, who wore bowties and relished needling developers.
Dwight Brock made me smile, most of the time, as a grand orator and Clerk of Courts.
Carl Loveday, my initial TV partner, made me smile as the hard-nosed reporter and talk show host on WNOG, the long gone beacon of local news.
Rich King, the ring leader of afternoon-evening fun on WNOG, made me smile as a guy who made talk radio look and sound easy – which it is not.
Fred Tarrant made me smile as a Naples City Council member in the 1990s who was blind but often saw issues more clearly than colleagues. The childhood boxer relished a good fight, and he was a master of non-stop one-liners to frame issues and bedevil his detractors.
Johnny Nocera provides a big ending. The former Naples City Council member’s forte was fracturing the English language ala Yogi Berra. But, as Nocera liked to say, you always knew what he meant.
My favorite Johnnyism came on his Saturday morning radio show dispensing car repair advice. The late convenience store empresario Del Ackerman (who also made me smile, a lot) phoned in one of his trademark live commercials for bait, soda and beer. Later, a listener called Nocera and complained about Ackerman selling beer to inebriated customers. Nocera rushed to the pitchman’s defense. “I can tell you,” Nocera insisted, “Del would never sell beer to anyone who is asphyxiated.”
Everybody at the Community Foundation of Collier County makes me smile.
So there. Are you smiling yet? Who did I miss? Let me know at email@example.com and we can follow up.