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The cavernous Coliseum -- St. Petersburg's favorite destination for galas through the decades -- was transformed into a tropical paradise Saturday night for the 72nd annual All Children's Hospital Charity Ball.
For several hours, the 640 guests left their cares (and heavy hearts after the loss of the space shuttle) behind and enjoyed the bounty of "Island Treasures."
It was knowing that the evening was going to benefit the medical needs of children that kept the guests going.
All Children's chaplain Dave Gerber asked for a moment of silent prayer for the "national treasures" who were lost that day. "It was the first time there was total silence in the history of the ball," noted Lucie Campbell, who organized three of the recent balls.
In 1994, Campbell came up with the idea of the evening branch taking over sponsorship of the event.
Since then, Vickii Block, who was the first co-chairwoman, has continued to create wonderous themes and decorations. When this year's chairwoman, Janis Albritton, and her committee decided on the "Island Treasures" theme, they once again called on Block and her crew at Spellbound Inc. to work their magic. (Block's company produces 80 to 100 themed productions annually.)
And work it they did. A pirate ship spanned the stage area of the Coliseum. Fish nets filled with brightly colored balls and lights added a festive glow to the evening. There were pirates everywhere. Actors dressed as sea rogues roamed the ballroom. Magician Christopher Oz and his performing cockatiel, Bella, entertained the crowd with their antics and Bella's amazing vocabulary of 125 words.
Tables were decorated with cloths of bright turquoise, coral, lime and purple. The event sponsors' tables were covered in vibrantly colored floral prints. The tables for Merrill Lynch, the grand sponsor, were centered with massive ship masts. Linda Marcelli, Merrill Lynch's first vice president and managing director in the Tampa Bay area, greeted Jane and Bill Emerson, Angela and Greg Wilsey, Eva Rudolph, Hadley Heindel, Linda and Charles Osterholt, Tim Walsh, and Lane and Jeff Ritch. Emerson was among the ballgoers who agreed to have a tattoo. Friends did a double-take when they looked at the ghastly scar on his head.
A 4-foot golden palm tree was the conversation piece, and centerpiece, at the Tech Data table. Tech Data's Steve Raymund (who is also chairman of the hospital's board of trustees) and his wife, Sonia, visited with Progress Energy's Bill Habermeyer, who attended the fundraiser with his wife, Sally. At the Tech Data table: Mary Ellen and Jeff Howell, Deb and Dave Vetter, and Teresa and Joe Trepani.
Enjoying the island atmosphere were Jan and David Herzik, Diane Bailey and Jeff McClanathan, Ann and Dave Rogers, Sarah and Dr. Larry Williams, Kathy and Greg Matthews, Christine and Mike Conway, Sylvia and Bill Lane, Carol Sue and Ralph Stevens, Mary Lynn and Ed Smead, Ginny and Dennis Sexton, Jackie and Michael Spears, Betty Jean and Tom Miller, Betty and Bob Willis, Mary and Louie Adcock, Joanne and Joe Fleece, Janet Raymond, Carmen and Dr. Bill Moore, Frank Blandford, Barbara and Fred McCoy, Doreen and Phil McLeod, Kathleen and Harvey Ford, Susie and Neil Savage, Emily and Larry Fasan, Susan and J.V. Blackburn, Beth and Bill Knowles, Cathy Swanson, Cory Coghlin, Jan Knowlton, Rob Shingler, Trudy Ramsay, Pat Schirad, Pam Montanari, Brenda Clark, Diane Barber, Marty Mohn, Judy and Troy Holland, Debra Hempel, Tom Stovall, Melissa and Darryl LeClair, Celeste and Mark Stroud, Peggy and Dr. Rick Martinez, Linda and Ken Fullerton, Susan and Bill Eickhoff, Alicia and John Bryan, and Michelle and Angelo Cappelli.
Mary Ellen Cease wore a vintage Hawaiian wedding gown she had from "years back" when she and husband Stephen lived on the other coast. He got into the island mode by sporting a wild and colorful cummerbund and bow tie.
St. Petersburg Yacht Club commodore Jay Fleece and fiancee Deborah French loved the tropical setting as they have decided to be married in St. John on March 3. "We wanted a special date, so we picked 3-3-03," Fleece said.
Celma Mastry, elegant in pewter satin, showed Cary Bond Thomas her highly prized black pearl bracelet. Two years ago at the Charity Ball, Mastry lost the bracelet, which was recovered and returned by the Coliseum staff.
Martha Thorn, who grew up in St. Petersburg and was on the staff of the Canterbury School while her husband, Tommy, attended Stetson Law School, caught up with Joel Momberg, executive vice president of All Children's Hospital Foundation. Momberg's first job in St. Petersburg was as a teacher at Canterbury. The Thorns, who now live in Clearwater, hosted a table, which included Patty and Larry Morgan, Mary Kay and Joel Parker, Pat and John Ryan and Gwen and Gordon Johnson. Among those at Momberg's table was his wife, Debbie, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft and her husband, Steve Greenbaum, Phyllis and Malcolm King and Jean and Gary Carnes, the hospital's president and chief executive officer.
Nicest guy of the night award had to go to Buccaneers center Jeff Christy, who attended the gala with wife Kris. As each person stopped to "thank" the Super Bowl champ, he graciously accepted their pats and praise.
Before the evening was over, Sue Hands, who will lead the 73rd annual Charity Ball, was making plans for next year's party.
-- Mary Evertz, a longtime Times staff writer, came out of retirement to cover this event because On the Town columnist Mary Jane Park was out of town.