Thoughts on Graduation


Nearly 30 years later, I can barely remember crossing the stage for my college diploma at SUNY Oswego.

Frankly, it’s a blur. (Which means I had a good time in college).

But I do remember graduation weekend. My parents made the long drive from Eastern Long Island to upstate NY and stayed overnight in my off campus apartment.

My late mom– three years younger than I am today– slept on a mattress on the floor in my room. All I had was a mattress, and I kept a towel under my door to keep the mice at bay.

It was a lovely place.

The wind off Lake Ontario would whip through the walls and my dad had to use a wrench to turn the shower on. Yes, we are talking rustic upstate charm. But I loved it.

Still, after a few winters on Lake Ontario (where winter is 8-10 months a year) I knew I would be heading somewhere warm.

California or Florida. One or the other. I was 21 years old.

This weekend, we are heading to Gainesville and Tampa to celebrate the college graduations of two of our children. Samantha earned a special education degree from the University of South Florida and Ben an accounting degree from the University of Florida.

They worked hard, were well prepared after graduating Atlantic High and really blossomed at college as students and as people. We couldn’t be prouder.

Both are passionate about their chosen paths; Ben for accounting and business and Sam for teaching and kids.

I was less certain.

Other than wanting out from under the snow, I wasn’t really focused on a career.

I loved to write and was interested in business but I was still waiting for some answers.

I thought I would write for a newspaper and one day I would try and own a weekly. I did not aspire to work for the New York Times but I was very interested in community journalism.

I had never heard of Delray Beach but after canvassing California in vain and a year working for newspapers in Binghamton, N.Y. I was ready to give Delray a whirl when I got called for an interview at the old Monday-Thursday papers headquartered on East Rogers Circle in Boca.

I remember driving to the area on A1A and marveling at the palm trees and the big oceanfront mansions. I left early from my friend’s parent’s condo in Lauderhill giving myself plenty of time to find the newspaper’s offices. I took the leisurely route across the Linton Boulevard Bridge and then north on U.S 1.  until I reached Atlantic Avenue.

It was June 1987 and Delray was a vastly different place. Not much happening in those days but I found the town appealing. There was Ken and Hazel’s, the Colony Hotel and The Phoenix. There was the Spanish River Inn (where the Marriott Residence Inn stands) and the Arcade Tap room.

Very nice, I thought; a tad sleepy but the skies were blue and I was out of upstate NY.

Finding myself with some time to kill, I went south to the old Boca mall on US 1 and I remember going inside and finding a bookstore.

Then it was time to find East Rogers Circle so off I went. I got lost. Really lost.

I drove up and down Congress Avenue and couldn’t find East Rogers Circle.

This was pre GPS days and when I stopped at a local gas station they had no idea where I was trying to go.

I went to a pay phone and called the paper asking for help. A kind woman gave me directions and I found the paper off of Clint Moore Road. I was late, nervous and embarrassed.

I was also sweating through my cheap suit in the hot summer weather. But I got the job and started a few weeks later as a general assignment reporter in Delray. That meant planning and zoning board meetings, city commission marathons, looking through police reports and trying to learn what a CRA was.

A day after I started we were herded into a meeting. The paper was sold. Whitney Communications had sold us to Worrell Enterprises.

Yes the same Worrell that would end up purchasing the Sundy House a number of years later.

At the time, I knew the Sundy House as the former home of Delray’s first mayor. When I got the Delray job, my editor gave me an old chamber guide and I spent my first night on the job reading about the city’s history.

I worked for Worrell Enterprises for 10 years and never met the company chairman Tom Worrell until I was on the city commission and he tapped me on the shoulder one night after a ribbon cutting at the House of Vintage on South Swinton. We went across the street to the Sundy House and had a glass of wine.

All of this is a long winded way of saying that life is very unpredictable in a magical way.

And that the places, jobs and people that play a role in your life often don’t show up until later chapters. Delray? Who knew. Newspapers. Business. Politics. Vague notions.

So as I watch the graduation ceremonies this weekend I will wonder where the road will take my children. They seem to be on a path. But life is roller coaster ride wonderful and also  has a way of throwing us some curveballs too.  I hope serendipity will be kind, but I’m confident they are prepared for the journey. And I hope I will be around long enough to see many more chapters.

Water Cooler Wednesday: Remembering Mayor Weekes

Leon Weekes 1926-2014

Leon Weekes 1926-2014

Former Delray Beach Mayor and longtime South County civic and business leader Leon Weekes passed away Monday. He was 88 years old.

Most long time Delray Beach  and Boca Raton residents know the highlights:

  • Mayor
  • City Commissioner
  • Founder of Weekes & Callaway Insurance
  • Namesake of the Leon Weekes Environmental Preserve
  • Board member of countless organizations ranging from the Mae Volen Senior Center and local Boy Scouts District Council to the Drug Abuse Foundation, United Way and Economic Council of Palm Beach County.
  • Past President of the Delray Beach Chamber.

    I knew Mayor Weekes as a friend, fellow Mae Volen Board member and as someone who was very active in local and state issues, especially insurance always a hot button in Florida.

    We were also members of a small alumni circle of ex-Delray mayors and I had the privilege and pleasure of doing a “Mingle With the Mayors” night at the Crest Theatre 7 years ago, in which all the living former mayors gathered on stage in kind of an “Inside the Actor’s Studio” format as emcee Joe Gillie peppered us with questions. Mayor Weekes stole the show with his humor, stories and anecdotes about Delray in the, 50s, 60s, 70s and early 80s.

    One story was that Mr. Weekes was approached by three local business leaders Bruce Wenzel who owned Mercer Wenzel department store downtown, John Adams and longtime Chamber Director Ken Ellingsworth to run for office because they saw Leon’s leadership abilities, especially his skill at getting people to compromise. He served three terms on the City Commission, took a breather and ran for Mayor in 1978. He served two terms as mayor.

  • He served during a time of western expansion with new neighborhoods springing up west of the Interstate.
  • Those who ran for office in later years would always have Mr. Weekes’ name at the top of their list and many of us made the pilgrimage to his insurance office to seek his advice, counsel and endorsement.

    He was a regular fixture at the Chamber of Commerce, especially the state and local government affairs committee where he weighed in on the topics of the day and helped the chamber craft a legislative agenda.

    Mayor Weekes was also a fixture at The Green Owl for years and years, meeting daily  as part of a regular group that included community giants such as Mr. Ellingsworth (himself a former vice mayor), former City Commissioner Bob Costin, Charlie Gwynn, Ernie Simon, Lonnie Cook and many other civic leaders.

    During my tenure in office, I made sure to pop in occasionally, careful not to disturb the conversation, but wanting to show my face, wave and take the temperature on the issues of the day.

    More often than not, you were waved over and questioned, always good-naturedly on the topic du jour. It was a different time, a great time really. Delray felt very much like Mayberry in those days. But Mr. Weekes and many of his friends didn’t lament change, they liked some things, disliked others but seemed to understood the inevitability of change.

    Later, I had the chance to serve alongside Mr. Weekes, Mr. Simon and others on the board of their beloved Mae Volen Center.

    Mayor Weekes was passionate about making sure that senior citizens had activities, a hot meal, transportation and companionship. He was equally passionate about scouting and felt young men needed the skills and adventure that scouting provided. He got me and many others involved in a few projects along those lines as well.

    In recent years, Leon devoted himself to the care of his beloved wife. Close friends always remarked about how close the Weekes family was and how devoted they were to each other.

    I didn’t see much of Mr. Weekes in the past few years. Coincidentally, we were out to dinner with the Costin’s the night before he passed. And Bob and I spoke about Leon and his last visit to The Green Owl.

    Bob arranged to pick up both Mr. Weekes and Mr. Gwynn and they had a wonderful time visiting in a place that allowed them to laugh, share and converse for so many years.

    I’m sure Bob didn’t realize it would be the last time, or maybe he did.

    Regardless, life is a gift, time passes.

    Leon Weekes will long be remembered for his kind smile, his commitment to community and his love of family. He was a true gentleman and he will be missed. A whole lot.







Water Cooler Wednesday: Remember When

1984 Boca High Yearbook photo taken at Dirty Moe's.

1984 Boca High Yearbook photo taken at Dirty Moe’s.

Six months from today I will turn 50 years old.

Just writing that sentence feels surreal, actually turning 50 (the big 5-0) is something that I guess I have six months to get used to.

But one of the best parts of getting older is you gain perspective that can you only earn through actual experience.

I moved to Delray Beach in July of 1987, about a month before my 22nd birthday. I had taken a job as a reporter at the Boca-based “Monday-Thursday” papers, a large group of weekly newspapers that were owned—for the first week of my employment anyway—by the corporate parent of the International Herald Tribune. I thought that was pretty cool at the time. But a week or so later, we were called together in the newsroom for a meeting. Worrell Enterprises out of Virginia had bought us. Little did I know at the time that the owner of the chain, Tom Worrell, would end up playing a major role in a city I was covering as a cub reporter. I had zero clue I would ever be mayor (Mayor!) of Delray. And for the record, I never formally met Tom until I was mayor, even though I worked for him for nearly 10 years.

Such is the serendipity of life, which is why I actually don’t really mind getting older—I’m certain the adventures will continue.

Back in 1987, Boca and Delray  were very different places—from each other and from what they are today. But some things never change. Delray has always had a magnificent beach, even if the downtown was dormant at the time and the nickname of the city was “Dull Ray.”

Boca was home to IBM and while Big Blue is no longer the big player it was, the city is still home to many tech companies and feels way more “corporate” than Delray.

Back in those days, we’d go to Dirty Moe’s after our deadline to compare notes and share stories about local politicians and colorful characters we had interviewed.  That old bar with the cheap, cold beer and great wings was owned by former Mayor Emil Danciu of Boca.

You can still visit Dirty Moe’s on Facebook and buy vintage Moe’s t-shirts from the 80s through Etsy, but Tom Sawyer restaurant, is very much around and I still go once a week. It was the first place I ever visited in South Florida on my very first day of work. I was treated to lunch there that day by my new boss– a city editor named—Tom Sawyer. Nope, you can’t make it up.

The Monday-Thursday Papers are gone, sadly– because the hyper local coverage they provided was really a benefit to the community. We were the community “water cooler” and for a young reporter it was a great place to hone your chops. We would write 5-7 stories a week, plus news briefs and a police blotter. We also did man and woman on the street interviews, until some enterprising reporter started to go to a local “gentleman’s club” where he would ask the week’s question of the dancers. That didn’t set well, with Mr. Sawyer as you can imagine.

Boca looked a lot different back then. FAU was known as “Sleepy U”, and was mostly a commuter school. There was no stadium and no football.

Mizner Park wasn’t built yet, but there was a depressing mall where Mizner now sits.

Delray had a depressing mall of its own, on the corner of U.S.1 and Linton Boulevard. I remember shopping for last minute holiday gifts just before Christmas and being almost the only shopper in the place.

Atlantic Avenue was sleepy as well. You could have bowled on the avenue after 5 and not hit anything.

I did love The Green Owl (still do) and a place called Ken and Hazel’s, where Vic and Angelo’s  sits.

Rents on the avenue were as low at $5 a square foot. I just heard that the site for the recently closed Linda Bean’s went for over $130 a square foot. Times have sure changed.

West Atlantic Avenue was home to the Paradise Club and it wasn’t uncommon to see several hundred people hanging on the avenue on a Sunday night. I spent lots of nights riding with the local police. It was the height of the crack cocaine epidemic and Delray got hit real hard.

There was a rivalry between Boca and Delray back in the 80s and 90s. I don’t see it as much now, but maybe I’m missing it.

Legend has it that there was a sign in the Boca Planning Department that implored applicants to “Do It Our Way Or Do It In Delray.”

Not sure if that was actually true, but the people in Delray believed it and it spurred them to shore up the city’s standards. I used it myself two weeks ago when I spoke at Nova Southeastern U.

They were fun days. Being a reporter in Boca-Delray back in the mid 80s was an adventure. A truly great job where you met interesting people, wrote about fascinating topics and got paid next to nothing.  But hey…we were young and we were learning.

Still, I don’t find myself pining for the good, old days. I kind of like what happened in Delray and in Boca too. This is a fascinating place to live, with lots of opportunities and cool things to see and do.

I wish the old Monday Thursday papers would crank up again though. Or even the old Boca News, which I edited for a brief period before it was sold. But until such time, we’ll share some stories right here on

Thanks for reading… and when Dave throws me my party in six months drinks are on him. It’s the least he can do.