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Links chapter salutes 17 'everyday heroes'

By MARY JANE PARK
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 11, 2002

Police officers, firefighters and postal workers have gained new respect in America during the past year, along with military and emergency medical personnel.

Members of the St. Petersburg Chapter of Links filled the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Vinoy Resort on Saturday in "A Salute to Our Everyday Heroes," an event that paid tribute to 17 men and women who perform those duties in St. Petersburg.

The event was a benefit for community programs at the James B. Sanderlin Family Center.

Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis, who gave the keynote speech, said one of the honorees had wondered whether the group would have been thus appreciated before the terrorist attacks a year ago.

For some time, he said, the Links had wanted to recognize "those whose humility and daily deeds" did not attract attention, "those who show up every day."

Those men and women, he said, "don't flee from danger but rather charge toward it."

Mayor Rick Baker and City Council Chairwoman Rene Flowers recognized U.S. Army Reserves Brig. Gen. Carrie Nero; Bayfront Medical Center trauma chief Dr. Ernst Vieux Jr.; fire and emergency workers Preston Floyd, John King, Jake Nyhart, Scott Rogers, Stan Singletary, Ed Utley, Catherine Washington and Richard Williams; police Officers Melanie Bevens, Michael Hawkins and Vonda Wynn; police emergency respondent Laticia Rogers; and postal workers Brenda Manragh, Dane Smith and Ruth Johnson Williams.

Postmaster Thomas W. Pawlowski unveiled an image of the "Heroes of 2001" semipostal stamp, which costs more than the regular first class letter rate; the additional money is a tax-deductible contribution that will be forwarded to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help families of emergency relief personnel killed or permanently disabled in connection with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Other dignitaries at the event were state Rep. Frank Peterman, Pinellas County Commissioner Kenneth Welch, City Council members Earnest Williams and Bill Foster, fire Chief Jim Callahan and Assistant Police Chief Luke Williams.

John Lamb and the 42nd Street Band presented background music and entertainment for the event, along with singer Sharon Scott.

Also present were Mozell Davis, Faith Van, Terri Scott, Paula Lamb, Alma Singletary, Drs. Mendee and Reggie Ligon, Barry McIntosh, Pearl Bryant, Kredelle Dendy, Kim Jackson, Susie Jackson, Kanika Jelks Tomalin, Cam Van Noord, Bob Devin Jones, Paul Duke, Sarah Chaves and Moses Holmes.

* * *

Mary Clowers, founder of what today is known as the American Cancer Society's minority development committee, was chairwoman with Mavis Wallis for Saturday night's gala at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.

As about 350 guests dined at tables covered in red. Clowers and Mildred Sawyer took time to tell me about their group, which began in 1975 to educate minorities -- blacks and Hispanics especially -- about cancer. Many in both populations feared and distrusted the white medical establishment and avoided care.

The cancer society "trained us to learn the material and research and to carry the message," Clowers said. The fundraiser, now in its 14th year, was organized because it was "time to give back, to be at the heart of this matter."

Ayakao Watkins used the Old Testament story of Esther to encourage those present to "make sure our voices are heard as a people." Minority groups in Florida are disproportionately affected and more likely to perish from cancer.

"It is criminal to have those statistics," she said. "What we don't know can kill us. ... We can't just sit and do nothing."

Education made a difference for 18-year-old Tiana Richardson, who was 14 when she discovered a lump in her breast. She has a family history of breast cancer, she said, and learned early about regular self-examinations. She had two lumpectomies and radiation therapy and today is a student at St. Petersburg College.

Among others with whom I visited during the dinner were Pearl McCall, Cassandra Montes, Mary Jones, Ida Matthews and Gina Kravitz.

* * *

The St. Petersburg Museum of History had a tropical feel Friday night at its second Island Festival. Metallic palm trees swayed in the main hall, and bright prints covered the dinner tables, where festively dressed patrons partook of goodies donated by Saffron's Caribbean Cuisine.

Sponsors were Betty Bussey, Sally Poynter, Edie Spies, Sharon Clayton's Clothes Plus and Ellen Bullers.

Mary Wyatt Allen, whose penchant for red, white and blue predates the current passion for patriotism, wore her signature colors. Also in the crowd were Connie Whitehead, Bruce Denson, Judy Stanton, Dottie Burke, Lois Bradshaw, Barbara Johnson, Bill and Marion Ballard, Helen and Dale DeWalt, Celma and Celmalita Mastry, Gordon Fitzpatrick, Susan Taylor, Bruce and Vera Espinola Beery, Joe Bullers, Harriet Strum, Niel Allen, Bill and Gigi Mills, Joe and Joanne Fleece and Tom and Betty Jean Miller.

* * *

I had to forgo the mojitos and the limbo contest at the history museum to get to the Z-Grapes Wine Tasting at the Salvador Dali Museum. The sold-out fundraiser featured 20 wines, abundant hors d'oeuvres and lively guests. The galleries were considerably cooler than the tasting room, but you couldn't take food and drink inside.

The crowd included Debbie Harris, Chris Allen, Kelly Pruitt, Jodie Bouse, Corey Lilburn, Gwyn Edwards, Ike Crimm, Donald Bacon, Dr. Gardiner Evertz, Debbie Gross and Cindy and Dave Law.

Chef John D'Agostino and Kurt Cuccaro of Mazzaro's Italian Market & Catering showed me a horse sculpted of provolone from a small producer in Sicily. The popular St. Petersburg market bears his mother's maiden name, Cuccaro said, which is also the name of a small beach in Sicily that has "two hotels, and maybe a restaurant."

"It makes Gulfport look like Manhattan South," he mused.

Looking ahead

Thursday

SCIENCE CENTER GUILD MEMBERSHIP TEA: For current, new members. 1 p.m., Science Center of Pinellas County, 7701 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg. 821-7557.

-- Mary Jane Park can be reached at (727) 893-8267; fax (727) 893-8675; e-mail park@sptimes.com; P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

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