Inspiring Okeechobee: Be thankful every day

OKEECHOBEE — After asking the question, “Who in your life are you thankful for?” there was no shortage of replies.

The first person mentioned by Shoney Yates was Clyde Kaufman, who ran the old town pool. He influenced many of the youth in Okeechobee back in the 1960s. He was kind to the kids who needed a friend, according to Sandra Stanz. Linda Marsocci remembers Mr. Kaufman well and said she spent every weekend and summer at that pool. “He was a no-nonsense person, very in control. He acted tougher than he really was. He taught me how to swim. I was scared, but he pushed me until I learned,” she said. “He was an icon.”

Cap Reutebuch is thankful for his father, Jinks Reutebuch. He had an impact, not only in Cap’s life, but on the lives of others in the community. He was fire chief for a few years in the late ’70s. He worked at the fire department from 1971 to 1982 until he passed way in November. From 1967 to 1971 he was fire chief at the Buckhead Ridge Volunteer Fire Department and was always giving back to the community. He was also in the American Legion #64 from the mid-70s until he passed away — always trying to help someone in need. During the kids’ days at the Legions fair he would help with the handicapped and challenged kids. He sometimes would help with the Shriners at one time or another with crippled children. “I guess it rubbed off on me because I have been a volunteer fireman on both Okeechobee County Fire Rescue and the City Fire Department for a number of years as well as serving in the US Navy like dad did in WWII and volunteered for a couple of years on the Sheriff’s Department C.O.P. as well as volunteering for the Red Cross and the CAP (Civil Air Patrol) back in the early ’90s, all of this while holding down a full-time job. It gives you a feeling of doing good for the community,” he said.

Rose Marie McDonald mentioned Pearl Godwin and said she was a nurse in Okeechobee for many years who helped deliver babies and nursed all “us old-timers at one time or another.” Her husband, Olen, was the fire chief, said Terry Lanier, and they fed the one or two city jail prisoners for 50 cents, or maybe 75. The Godwins lived in what is now the city hall building, said Ms. McDonald. They only had a volunteer fire department back then, and that was the fire department. If the siren blew once, it was a house fire. If it blew twice, it was a grass fire.
Bernice Elders is thankful for Bea Briney who spent many hours volunteering her services to help the veterans.
Martie Thomas said, “Mrs. Mattie McCranie was the librarian at the high school. She was a friend to everyone and made me, a new student in ninth grade, feel totally welcome.”

Nancy Powell will always remember Lottie Raulerson as a wonderful teacher. She was her sixth grade reading teacher in 1964. Sandra Stebner said, “She really was a great lady. I remember the day she threw an eraser at me for talking in class. It didn’t hit me and I’m sure she could have if she had wanted to. Nowadays that would be considered child abuse. For me, it made me turn around and pay attention. It’s too bad times have changed so much!”

Epifanio Juarez remembers an eighth grade teacher, Zella Kirk, with fondness. “She brought me out of my shell with her encouragement, praise and advise. Mrs. Kirk created a desire in me to do my best and never disappoint her. I am forever grateful to this teacher. Because of her encouragement I graduated top in the 4% of my class, a member of the National Honor Society. My senior year, Mrs. Kirk became my guidance counselor, and I was called to the office to meet with her. She handed me an invitation to awards night. I attended and was awarded a four-year academic scholarship to Florida State University. I attended and graduated with a business degree. I enjoyed a 32-year career as a banker. This remarkable teacher changed my life forever. I am the son of migrant farmworkers, I couldn’t speak or understand English when I attended first grade. Mrs. Kirk is the wife of Okeechobee’s former mayor. I am certain she affected and positively changed many young lives.”

Lucy Hunt said she was thankful for Bruce and Mary Anne Swinford, and her suggestion was echoed by several people. The Swinfords have been feeding the needy in Okeechobee for almost 25 years. When it was mentioned that the Swinfords have been featured before, the reply was, “You can never write about the Swinfords too often.”
Brad Phares and Jack Nash were mentioned by several who said they are thankful for all their work with Wreaths Across America.

“I am thankful for my bosses at Marathon on Park Street. You couldn’t ask for better people to work for. They treat you like family and care about the community and people in it. This is the first job that I am happy to go to every day. It is a pleasure. I love my job, my bosses and my customers. Tina and Mithu are the best, and I am thankful for them,” said Hilary Ludwig.

“Leah Suarez of Our Village and Mindy (Melinda Creech) opened a Food Pantry. They are two woman that have done so much for Okeechobee,” said Cindy Mitchell.

Jeneane Rhuda said, “I know of three young men in this town that help the people that a lot of us forget about. I am grateful to call them my friends. One is Gregg Maynard, who tries to help our veterans in ways that our own government won’t. For that I am thankful because he pulled very hard for my dad, even went to a meeting in town that the congressman were at while I was sitting with my mom at a rehab facility in Vero, and I couldn’t be there. Unfortunately nothing was ever done, and my dad passed last November from Agent Orange (esophageal cancer). He even remodels veterans’ homes at his own expense or donations when available. I am also thankful for Bernard Marker and Vernon Harrison. Ever since the day I met them, many years ago, they have helped disabled and special needs children and adults. A lot of people just shun them off! They need love and attention, too! We NEED more of these guys in our community.”

Wade Hunt, who also has a soft spot for veterans and donates his time building ramps and decks and anything he feels will help them, was another who was mentioned by a thankful reader.

Charles Harvey and Pete Clemmons were both mentioned and both were commended for being men of their words who did wonderful things in our community. “If they told you something, you could believe it,” said Randy Ellerbee Sr.

Ray Cashwell reminded everyone to be thankful for the nurses at the hospital who are always friendly, smiling and helpful, people like Tracy Price, Gina Ward and Chris Elliot, to name just a few, he said.

Others mentioned without specific explanations as to why they were thankful for them were Charles McArthur, Sheriff John Collier, Dr. Fred Brown, Mary Lanier and Charles Chandler.

November is traditionally the time of year when we think more about what and who we are thankful for, but we can and should be more aware of those things all the time. A woman Saturday said her sister passed away three weeks ago unexpectedly. Her sister was younger than she was by several years. She told her family she wasn’t feeling well, and she was going to stay home from church and stay in bed. When they returned, she had suffered a massive heart attack and died. “You never know how much time you have left,” said this woman. “Tell the people around you that you love them. Don’t just walk out the door thinking you will see them again, because you might not. Don’t go to bed angry thinking you have all the time in the world to fix it. You might not.” They had no idea they would never see their sister again, she said. Make sure your family and friends know how you feel about them now, while you can. Be thankful every day.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment