Sunday, June 17, 2018

Betty Lou Meeks Dies At 90

Betty Lou Meeks, age 90, of Oxford, FL passed away June 14, 2018 in Oxford.She was born Aug. 13, 1927 in Williamsville, DE, to the late Harvey Franklin and the late Elva Mae (Widgeon) Dennis. She was a former resident of Athens, GA, LaBelle, Bradenton and Inverness, FL.

Betty retired as a teacher from LaBelle High School in 1992 and was a charter member of Delta Kappa Gamma. She was a member of the United Methodist Church.

Survivors include her daughters: Betty Ann (Clyde) Aiken,The Villages, Barbara Jan (Mike) Gann, Inverness and Donna Sue (Don) Trask, Lakeland, brother: Robert Dennis; sister: Jacqueline Cleveland, grandchildren: Ted (Kristi) Aiken, Steve (Jean Lavoie) Aiken, Michael Gann; Allison (Billy) Guynn, Andy Howard and Amy Sherrill and great-grandchildren: Joshua, Caleb, Luke and Noah Aiken, Morgan, Clayton and Logan Guynn and Mason, Madi and Myla Gann

She was preceded in death by her husband: James E. Meeks, son: Eddie Meeks, brother: Charles Dennis and sisters: Judith James, Barbara Dennis and Vivian Dennis.

A memorial service will be held Sunday, July 8, 2018, 4:00 pm at Manatee United Methodist Church, Bradenton with Dr. Gene Maddox and Chaplain Seth Howard officiating.

Interment was in Fort Denaud Cemetery in LaBelle.

'Little Toot' The Giving Tugboat Arrives In LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. -- Little Toot the Giving Tugboat, a 1973 Crosby Tugboat returned to his home in LaBelle, Florida with Captain Christopher after four years of refitting and making ready for voyages around the waterways of the U.S.

The 26' tugboat is operated by Captain Christopher where it was purchased from it's LaBelle, Florida owner four years ago and sailed to Fort Myers for refurbishing. 

Captain Christopher, a writer, volunteers with the Freedom Waters Foundation, storytelling and giving marine related experiences to special needs families and veterans in South Florida. 

Little Toot, named after the best selling children's book was the first fiberglass recreational tugboat built by the Crosby Yacht Yard in Osterville, Massachusetts in 1972.

Little Toot, said the Captain, is the "Giving Tug who has come home for his 'grass rOOts tour' of Florida and share his stories while Captain Christopher writes The New Adventures of Little Toot."

Ortona lock Open After Maintenance Reparis

ORTONA, FL. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District has resumed normal operations at the Ortona Lock on the Okeechobee Waterway, following completion of maintenance and repairs.

Completion of the work allows the Corps to resume normal operations as of Sunday, June 17, locking vessels on demand between 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last lockage beginning at 4:30 p.m., seven days a week.

"We know that everyone who uses the Okeechobee Waterway has been anxious to have the lock back open and operational. We recognize these repairs have posed an inconvenience to boaters, both commercial and recreational," said Carol Bernstein, Jacksonville District Operations Division Chief. "Our thanks goes out to the boating community for their patience and understanding while we completed repairs to keep our infrastructure safe and our waterways open in the future. Planned maintenance minimizes the chance of costly emergency closures in the future, which typically take much longer to complete."

"This was the first lock closure along the Okeechobee Waterway in six years. We had to inspect and maintain our locks, and replace the gate seals," said Gary Russ, Chief of the South Florida Operations Office located in Clewiston. "Despite the long days and tough work, this was a great team effort. We waited for manatees to move to safety and electrical storms to pass, and worked long hours in the south Florida heat. Wayne Sullivan's team of skilled workers brought years of knowledge and experience and worked together as a team, each person depending on others to get the job done. It was a job well done."

Maintenance is necessary periodically to repair aging and damaged infrastructure, in addition to improving public and vessel safety. Repairs required the lock chamber to be dewatered for crews to perform inspections, replace gate seals and repair Manatee Protection System (MPS) components. During the closure, barges, floating cranes and divers worked in the lock entrance, required vessel operators in the area to use minimal speed and caution for safety.

The Corps of Engineers published a notice to navigation interests and coordinated with marinas, commercial and recreational vessels, and members of the public in advance of the closure of the Ortona Lock for maintenance June 4 through 16.

The Ortona Lock is located on the Caloosahatchee River, 15.5 miles west of the Moore Haven Lock on the west side of Lake Okeechobee, and 27.9 miles east of the W.P. Franklin Lock near Olga and Fort Myers. The Ortona Lock and Dam were constructed in 1937 for navigation and flood control purposes. The Ortona Lock is one of five locks located along the 152-mile Okeechobee Waterway, which allows safe passage of vessels from the Atlantic Ocean near Stuart to the Gulf of Mexico at Fort Myers.

Learn more about the Ortona Lock:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Priscilla Hapke Dies At 75

Priscilla Marie Hapke, age 75, of LaBelle, passed away June 12, 2018 in Fort Myers.
She was born Apr. 2, 1943 in Janesville, WI, to the late John and Hazel (Schmaling) Schultz.
Survivors include one son: Delbert Hapke
two daughters: Susan Gomez and Cathleen Cruz,
9 grandchildren 9 great grandchildren
She was predeceased by her husband Delbert Hapke.
Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle.

A Walk Across Florida - Key West At Last

Excerpt From A Walk Across Florida by Bob Kranich

I was way ahead of schedule, and the weather was perfect. I crossed the bridge over Boca Chica Channel and now was on Stock Island. This was the Key next to Key West where historically livestock were raised for the market on Key West. The highway here was busy. The last bridge over Cow Key Channel was a real milestone for me. I had counted a total of 40 bridges that I had crossed, including the 4 bridges I had to ride because they were too dangerous to walk. I was now on Key West. This last bridge connecting Stock Island and Key West was a divided highway with a sidewalk.

That is when I came upon a Navy man and his girlfriend taking a picture at the Key West city sign. I told them that I would take their picture with their camera if they would take mine. It was a deal!

Now there was lots of traffic. People waved out of their cars to me. The tourist rubber tire Conch Tour Train went by, and all of the tourists riding on it waved and hollered. I noticed a couple of motorcycle policemen watching me. A boy on a bicycle came up as U. S. Highway 1 ended and I turned onto North Roosevelt Boulevard. He talked to me about my trip as we walked along. He stayed with me until I crossed over North Roosevelt to First Street to look for my relative’s house which was on Fogarty.

A man walking on the sidewalk coming towards me said,  
 “From Homestead?”
 I say, “Even longer…from Georgia.” He looked stupefied….

I had just completed my walk across Florida...700+ miles in 5 1/2 weeks!

About the Author: After getting out of the Army Bob Kranich backpacked from the Georgia border to Key West in a 40 day adventure walk across Florida. His recently published book A Walk Across Florida is available from his website or


A Note from the author after two years of excerpts from his book A Walk Across Florida:

To Don and all of the fine readers of Don Browne’s Southwest Florida News,

It has been my pleasure and honor to send the 41 episodes to you from my book, A Walk Across Florida.

Please keep in mind that it is a 306 page paperback with 116 pages of watercolors, sketches, and maps. Most of the pages of photos have two photos on each of them. The 41 episodes  are about 41 of it’s pages. I hope that you have enjoyed reading it as much as I did doing the hiking ,writing and selecting the episodes.

I have just completed my sequel to A Walk across Florida,. It will be a 350 page paperback book. It will have the watercolors I made of Key West with true and fictional stories of those watercolors. The book is in editing and just as soon as I have it published, my good friend Don Browne will get a copy of it for his review. If he finds it suitable he may allow me to send you out episodes of it.

Take care, the best of luck, and God Bless you—all.

Bob Kranich