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YMCA cheering section braces heat

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000

Lee Roy Selmon does not visibly perspire.

The former Tampa Bay Bucs defensive end -- and the only team member to be inducted into the National Football League Hall of Fame, as we were reminded by Dick Crippen, the ever-dapper master of ceremonies -- was the keynote speaker at the YMCA's annual breakfast, this year held in a tent on the site of the new facility in the Central Plaza area.

Most of us in the throng of 500 or so guests sat in the Thursday morning heat, fanning ourselves, shedding layers, mopping our brows. But Selmon, seated a foot or so away from me and dressed in coat and tie, seemed cool and unfazed, even when he rose to speak of his hardscrabble childhood, related a Bible story and told a very funny joke (more on that later).

The mood and the crowd, welcomed by president Doug Linder, were upbeat, with earth movers outside the tent beginning to reshape the land for the new building that ultimately will house two swimming pools, two gyms, racquetball and handball courts and lots of community programs.

The occasion was also a ceremonial groundbreaking, led by Dr. Jim and Heather Gills, the major donors whose names will grace the new building. Dr. Gills spoke of his commitment to helping young people through his support of the Y and the power of faith.

Familiar faces were spotted in the crowd, including Mayor David Fischer, YMCA board chairman Bill Stover and wife, Kathy, Robb Hough, City Council members Jay Lasita and Kathleen Ford, Louie Adcock, Joe Fleece, brothers Bill and John McQueen, Hampton Hines and his father Andy Hines, David Punzak, Dr. Kern Davis, Pete Wells, Pat Campbell, Steve and Anne Anderson, Terry Brett, Rutland Bussey, Jeff Howells, Bill Tapp, Mike Barger, Frances Neu, Skipp Fraser, Mary Booker, Malcolm King, Harvey Ford, Jim Fischer, Harry Piper, Mike Carroll, Lorin Bridge, Doug Ramsey, Marcus Greene, Kip Thornton, Bob Haiman, Pinellas County Commissioner Bob Stewart, Joel Giles, Mary Booker, Fay Baynard, Connie Kone, Phyllis Stover Williams and Eleanor Marr, also a major donor.

Bill Emerson sported a new goatee "because I lost a bet with Jane (his wife), but I'm not going to tell you what it was," he said.

Dr. Mendee Ligon hosted a table that included her mother, Rubye Bull, Mozell Davis (husband Vyrle sat at another table), Keturah Creal, Vicki Kirby, Michelle Beck and Monty Campbell.

Grady Pridgeon tells me that he is hastening the renovation of the downtown church he is converting into a loft, studio and offices "because my wife and I got our first sonogram of the baby and it's due sooner than we thought."

Rick Baker presented the first Chester James Award, in honor of the late pastor who was instrumental with Baker in founding the YMCA's Neighbor to Neighbor Program, which assists needy families during the holidays. Baker, James' widow, Bertha, and son Vincent presented the award to John Cannon, former CEO of the Y.

Kudos go to organizers of the event, especially Jim Henderson, Linda Melleney and Marty Normile. Despite a full agenda, long buffet line and late start, the program moved along at a brisk clip and everyone was fed a full breakfast, fully informed and let out just a bit after 9 a.m. as promised. But not before we were asked to join in the Village People's YMCA. With hand gestures.

And here is the joke told by Mr. Selmon (approximated by me): A burglar was rummaging around a dark house one night when he heard a voice saying, "Jesus is watching you." The burglar ignored the voice, but when he heard it again, he looked around until he found a parrot.

"Were you the one talking to me?" the burglar asked.

"Yes," said the parrot. "My name is Moses."

"What kind of people would name their parrot Moses?" asked the burglar.

"The same kind of people who would name their Rottweiler Jesus," said the parrot.

* * *

We were all supposed to come to the St. Anthony's Hospital Auxiliary membership coffee with stories of our exciting summers, according to president Greta Myers. Instead, many wound up recounting various surgeries ("Knee and hip replacements are very popular," said Edie Spies. "And cataracts," added Edie Lyster, who hosted the get-together in her Bayway Isles home. Mrs. Lyster padded around in flip-flops, camouflaged by a long skirt.

"I wore shoes and got a blister," she said.

She was not slowed, refilling the punch bowl and sandwich trays..

Mary Cross, who did travel, passed around photos of a trip to Italy she took with husband Murry to visit their daughter and son-in-law, Nancy and Lt. Col. Carl Lipsit, who is attached to the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

Also in the crowd were Sister Karen Burns, Betty Morin, Carol Phelps, Ruth Burns, Maritza Smith, Mozelle Ball, Nellie Bonitati, Helga Andrews, Virginia Smith, Pat Howells, Ruth Gray, Joan Van Middlesworth, Ann Foster and Joan Loader. Mrs. Loader is the volunteer manager and buyer for the hospital gift shop, the major ways and means for the auxiliary. Last year, she said, the shop netted about $100,000, and the group plans to expand the space into the lobby.

* * *

To the people who broke into my car parked in my driveway a few nights ago, on the unlikely chance that you read the newspaper, I have a few things to say. I, the victim, am in the odd position of feeling grateful to you, the victimizer. Your burglary was, in its way, elegant.

To get into my car, you used a clever gadget that popped the lock and did no damage.

You left a calling card of sorts so that I would know you had been there: The console, glove compartment and overhead storage were open and the door on the driver's side was ajar (but not so much that the car light would stay on, running down my battery). You laid out the car registration, proof of insurance and car repair receipts on the passenger seat, letting me know you had seen them. Finding nothing of value in the car, you could have been churlish and thrown those papers away. I am glad you did not inconvenience me by doing that. You also could have, in frustration or anger, smashed a window, slashed the upholstery, scratched the paint. You did none of those things.

You took my CDs, but there weren't many. (I was surprised, though, at your taste for Bill Evans, Nat King Cole and Miles Davis.)

You took all my quarters in the change dish, but left my nickels and dimes.

You did not steal my car.

You are clearly intelligent and seem to have some decent impulses. I can only hope you begin to act on them. And where is the parrot when you need him?

Looking ahead


A BAHAMA ADVENTURE: The St. Petersburg Museum of History fundraiser takes a Caribbean theme with steel drums, dinner by Saffron's and a limbo contest. 7 p.m. $50. 335 Second Ave. NE. 894-1052.

A MAGICAL EVENING: A fundraiser for the Florida Poodle Rescue organization at the Mirror Lake Lyceum features The Clovers and Triple Play. The poodle rescue is surprisingly (and sadly) active, with volunteers taking in hundreds of abused and abandoned dogs every year, placing many in good homes. 7 p.m. 737 Third Ave. N. $35. 822-6542 or 898-5114.

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