My Friend Was A Hero

Louis “Skip”Brown was 73.

Skip Brown passed away last Tuesday.He was a friend of this city.

Skip touched a lot of hearts. He gave his all, always. Then he retired to a small town in Alabama.Skip served 20 years as a Delray Beach police officer, gaining local fame for his work with the K-9 unit and later as the  department’s volunteer coordinator back in the days when we had over 1,000 volunteers.Skip gained national recognition for some of his programs especially the Homefront Security group he put together after 9/11.He was a bronze star winner for heroism on the battlefields of Vietnam and he came back to Old School Square to accept the medal which was given 45 years after  he served. He chose me to pin it on him.It was an incredible honor and we did our best to create a special ceremony for him. It was a memorable day for a memorable man.It was the last time I saw him.We had dinner with Skip, his lovely wife Cheryl and former Chief Rick Overman and his wife at Boston’s on the Beach and said goodbye.When he left, he grabbed me, pulled me close and said there was no one else he wanted to put that medal on him and no other place he wanted to accept that long overdue honor than in Delray Beach, at Old School Square.This place touched him. And he really touched this place.P.S. Moments after I placed that medal on his chest he took it off and gave it to the children of a friend so that they could have a reminder of sacrifice and patriotism. The lucky kids were the son and a daughter of a retired firefighter and a local reporter. That was how tightnit this town was, there is a special bond between police and fire. Skip wanted retired Fire Chief Kerry Koen in the Crest Theater for the ceremony. Chief Koen was there sitting next to Chief Overman, a man Skip deeply admired.These are the ties that bind, for a lifetime or a season.

The Bronze Star ceremony at the Crest.

Skip and I had a complicated relationship. Skip was a complicated man.He was impacted by his experiences in Southeast Asia and by his experiences in Delray Beach which was a different town back in the 80s. Skip worked road patrol when Delray was wracked and wrecked by crack cocaine. He had stories and I listened.I was a newspaper reporter in those days and Skip and his wife Cheryl lived around the block from me with their birds and K-9 German shepherds.He had my daughter’s Brownie troop over to his house so they could meet the pets and he once brought Olk and Rambo to my backyard to show a group of neighborhood children the power and the discipline of a highly trained K-9.We used to meet at the end of Skip’s shift in my driveway where we would talk about life and Delray until the wee hours of the morning.We grew close. He referred to me as a brother. And I had great respect for his vision, commitment and dedication to this community and especially the senior citizens he recruited for his volunteer patrols.Many were World War II veterans, members of the Greatest Generation, and in Skip they found a kindred spirit who understood their service and who appreciated their passion to give back.CNN, documentarians, authors and academics came to Delray to take a closer look at the magic that was happening at our Police Department. President Bush greeted one of Skip’s volunteers at PBIA and Gov. Bush came to Old School Square after 9/11 to honor the work being done.When a volunteer got sick, Skip was there—many times at a hospice bed providing comfort and kindness.He was a gruff man. He was big and strong and tough as they get.  But he had a heart of gold. There was a gentleness beneath the surface that we saw and savored.

When he retired, Skip and Cheryl moved to Alabama and we stayed in touch periodically but we grew apart too. Proximity matters, and we were far away. And the bond that we shared—Delray Beach—had frayed. The town changed, the volunteer program wasn’t quite the same, the Greatest Generation began to leave us.Still, we experienced and shaped  a very special era. Every day I’m reminded of what we had and what we’ve lost.But Skip and I stayed friends, until one day we drifted apart for good.

But before we drifted, when I got sick with Covid, Skip reached out with prayers and support. When I made it through the dark days, he talked to me about PTSD and survivors guilt. He told me I was spared for a reason and he sent me articles to help.But we had our differences too. We had different views on guns and presidential candidates.Still, he called me a brother. And then our relationship stopped —abruptly.I do not know what happened. I am left to wonder. We just drifted apart. I’ve been bothered by our inexplicable estrangement. I think about it a lot.And now he’s gone. Just like that. And I have all these questions and no answers.But I do know this, I never stopped caring about my old friend, the man who taught me so much.Right now, I’m saddened by the loss of this special man. I will miss his guitar videos, his love of stray raccoons, his sense of mission and his sense of duty.I’m sharing this personal reminiscence because I blew it when it came to this man.I let our long period of silence persist and now he’s gone.Don’t let that happen to you.Life is a long and bumpy road and along that road we meet fellow travelers.Skip was with me for many miles before we went our separate ways. And now he’s gone. If only I had  one more night with my friend under the streetlights. We could have talked about what we learned. How it all turned out. What was next for us.That won’t happen now.Skip changed my life and the lives of many others.Don’t let those people go. One more lesson Skip Brown taught me. Rest in peace my brother.

Here’s a link to the WPTV Channel 5 News Story about the Bronze Star:


Farewell T.J.

Coach Jackson has been a valued mentor to scores of young athletes.

Last week, T.J. Jackson, the decorated football coach at Atlantic High School, announced that he would be leaving for a new opportunity which has yet to be announced.

When I saw the news, I was happy for T.J.

He’s a really good guy and a great football coach. It’s not surprising that his talents would take him away from Delray Beach.


Mr. Jackson was the Eagles’ head coach for eight seasons, compiling a record of 68-23. His 2017 team made it all the way to the Class 7A state championship. And this past season, the Eagles won the Class 7A Tri-County championship after going 5-1 in what was a shortened season because of the pandemic.


But T.J. is so much more than his impressive win/loss record.

He is a beloved local figure, an inspiring young leader who earned the love and respect of hundreds of young men that he has coached.

Lee Cohen, a great supporter of Atlantic High football and all-around good guy, had this to say about his friend when news of the resignation was announced.

“Coach TJ understood the importance of not just having a winning team, but in creating a successful program.  Over the past 8 seasons, he led the Eagles to incredible success both on and off the field.  Following a challenging first season, the Eagles’ overall record was 66-16 over the next 7 years and included a trip to the state championship. He created a winning culture that included attention to education, discipline and respect.”

Delray’s current Chief of Police Javaro Sims and former Chief Jeff Goldman praised TJ for his mentoring skills and for his leadership in the community.

In scrolling through the congratulatory comments, my mind drifted back to when I first met TJ a number of years ago.

He was running a non-profit at the time called “Prep and Sports” which was teaching football skills and life skills to kids in our community. He was doing great work and was passionate about making a difference.

T.J. was quiet, almost painfully shy.

But as the saying goes, still waters run deep. T.J. knew kids, had his fingers on the pulse of the community and had a passion for football. That’s a great set of tools if you want to make positive change in the community.

T.J. and a partner brought scores of NFL players and prospects to Delray to train for the season or the NFL Combine, the annual showcase where aspiring players perform physical and mental tests in front of coaches and scouts. The players seemed to like Delray and I had a few lunches with players who expressed a strong desire to help kids find a positive path and they did.

T.J., former Delray Police Capt. Michael Coleman and former assistant community improvement director Jamael Stewart and a few others led that effort.

It’s the kind of activity that often goes undetected, but this is the type of work that builds a community by changing lives.

So let’s say it straight out: these guys change lives.

Michael and Jamael no longer work for the City of Delray. That’s a longer and sadder story for another day. But I sometimes fear that we are losing sight of the special efforts below the radar that make all the difference. If my instincts are correct and those efforts dry up we will be in trouble. Because if we care about the entirety of this community we need to care about the men and women who do this work.

And we should care. We either rise together or we will we fall.

It’s really that simple.

T.J. is a guy who helps people rise.

Losing him in this community is a big deal.

So was losing Jen Costello, a neighborhood planner who went above and beyond because of her passion for Delray—her hometown.

Back in the day, we had Officer Skip Brown organizing Haitian Roving Patrols and working with a wide cross section of the community. I don’t think anyone ever quite replaced Skip or Sgt. Adam Rosenthal who died 10 years ago last week while on the way to work in his police cruiser. Adam taught self-defense classes to women in our community and worked with kids interested in martial arts.

We also lost Officer Johnny Pun, who along with his partner Fred Glass, founded a charter school to teach kids marketable automotive repair skills. The Delray Police Department became the first department in the state to charter a school, an effort that the City Commission at the time was proud to support. Johnny died tragically in a motorcycle crash. He is deeply missed.

When these guys and gals move on, retire, pass away (or are shoved out) it leaves a void. You just don’t go to a job board and replace people like this. It’s not that easy.

Their success is borne of passion for a place and for the people who live there. When you find that, it’s gold.

When you lose it, well you lose a lot.

See you down the road T.J. We all know you’ll do great things at your next stop.

Many in Delray are sorry to see you go.


On The Path

The staff at Bethesda is truly remarkable.

When I entered the hospital with a positive Covid test and double pneumonia in July, I tried to think about how I could shed light on the virus and maybe help others by raising awareness.

I hoped that by sharing the good, the bad and the ugly of my experience I could —in a small way—serve my community.
I thought by sharing my specific experience, others might find something they could connect with.
My Facebook posts and now my blog were greeted with generous displays of love and caring. I’ve heard from many of you and your comments have given me strength and boosted my spirits. But more importantly, I’ve heard from several of you that my story made you stop and think about the virus and the safety of your loved ones.  For that and more, I thank you.
That’s the good.
The bad is the virus itself.
It’s dangerous.
It’s scary.
And it’s potentially lethal.
It’s important that we know that and respect that fact. It is not a flu and it is not a hoax.
It’s also not going away the day after the election.
I wish it would. But as we experience yet another surge in America and across a good swath of the world, it’s becoming apparent that we are up against a dangerous hydra that will alter our lives for the foreseeable future.
The ugly of this virus can be put into two buckets. The political aspect and the long lasting effects that some will experience.
The politics of this pandemic can be frustrating.
  I will probably be attacked for pointing out the seriousness of the virus because some believe that Covid is an overblown hoax. That’s OK, bring it.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion but not their own facts. I just don’t share those views. I trust in science. Not that science gets everything right, especially on its first pass, but eventually our best and brightest scientific minds figure things out.
The other bucket relates to the potential long haul of this disease.
For some, even when you recover, there are lingering issues to deal with.
When I decided to write about my experience I committed to telling the truth even if that truth is well…ugly.
So let me say that while I feel much, much better I’m still struggling.
My breathing is improving but still not quite back to normal. I remain very sore, my physical strength is returning but is vastly diminished and I suffer from horrible stabbing pains in my left leg and steady pain in my right arm.  I have daily headaches and have experienced Covid related hair loss.
All of that is bearable—even the leg. And it sure beats the alternative. I know I’m very fortunate.
But there’s an emotional aspect to this virus as well.
So here’s my confession—I’m a little off these days.
I get sad a few times a day.
It comes in waves triggered by stories I hear about people who have lost their lives during the pandemic or songs that just get to me. I get restless at night, have some trouble sleeping and feel anxious for no reason.
I’m really worried about my family and friends. I’m really worried about our community and the world itself.
I think about kids missing out on a normal social life and about senior citizens who are at risk and unable to enjoy their lives —cut off from grandchildren and others who enrich their lives.
I worry about small business owners and the unemployed and I think about the families of the more than one million people who have died worldwide in the pandemic.
I also worry about our medical workers, teachers, first responders and essential workers who fear for their health every time they leave for work.
I’ve been told that the flood of emotions I’m experiencing is to be expected.
Last week, I learned about a concept called “survivors guilt.”
Readers of this blog may remember the name Skip Brown.
Skip is a friend, a retired Delray police officer and a Vietnam veteran. I had the honor of pinning the Bronze Star he earned in combat to his chest a few years back. It was one of the great thrills of my life.
Skip has taught me a lot over the years and he explained the concept of survivors guilt, the idea that you feel pressure and question why you survived while others died.
We spoke on my way to a pulmonologist appointment I had last week. When I walked into the doctor’s office I was told of other patients who died and how lucky I was to have made it considering the violence of my pneumonia and the damage the virus did to my lungs.
Hearing the stories of those who didn’t make it, leveled me. It just leveled me.
It’s important that I share that because you may know someone who gets this virus and it’s important that we be there for them not just with medical care but with spiritual and emotional support as well.
I believe I was spared for a reason. I’m not sure why, but I’m searching for answers.
I’ve been wrestling with what to do with my second chance.
I’ve been told by people I love and respect that the answers will come and I believe they will.
I’m on a path and I have to trust.
So far, several people have come to my rescue. And I believe that there may be some divine intervention involved.
The call from Skip came at just the right time.
A call from Max Weinberg, yes that Max Weinberg, which inspired me and pointed me toward a book I need to read.
Two calls with friends who recommended psalms that are relevant to my experience.
A conversation at work about grace, healing, love and faith.
At the height of my illness, so many people sent messages of love and kindness.
I was overwhelmed; grateful for each and every message of hope. Thankful for every prayer.
I vowed then that I would share my story because I wanted to let people know not only about the virus, but about doctors and nurses, family and friends, prayer and hope, love and friendship.
I experienced the power of community in the midst of a period in our history where we are angry and estranged.
I feel compelled to tell you that love and community feels a lot better than anger and division.
I honestly don’t know what I will do with my second chance.
I’m going to trust in the path laid out for me.
So when the darkness washes over me, when the waves hit, I’m going to keep fighting. I’m going to keep working. I’m going to keep breathing—for as long as I can.

What A Good Officer Can Mean

Officer Skip Brown and Chief Rick Overman celebrate Rambo’s retirement. Rambo was a legendary K-9.

The Delray Newspaper broke a story last month that reminded me how much a dedicated police officer can mean to a community and to someone in need lucky enough to bump into the right cop at the right time.

In November of 1995, Officers Skip Brown, Dan Grose and Rosetta Newbold were on patrol when they responded to a call in a drug and crime riddled trailer park. In a rancid trailer that defied description they found two small children, ages 7 and 8, who were dirty, hungry and scared.

The two, a brother and sister, had roaches crawling on their faces and in their hair. When Skip carried the little girl to safety, she clung tightly to his neck. He promised her she would be OK. And he meant it.

Skip is that kind of guy.

I know that from personal experience which is why I cherish him and his wife Cheryl.

Skip took the boy and girl back to the Police Department and comforted them as best he could. The little girl would never forget his kindness.

Eventually state child welfare authorities intervened and the children ended up in foster care. Skip never forgot about the children and frequently wondered where they were and if they were Ok.

The little girl spent years searching for the kind hearted officer. But police officers can be hard to find and there are many Skip Brown’s in this world. (But none like our Skip Brown).

Then recently, she caught a break.

Regular readers of this blog will recall that about a year or so ago, Skip—now happily retired in Alabama— came home to receive a much deserved and long overdue Bronze Star for his heroic service in Vietnam.

He chose Old School Square as the venue to receive his medal and he chose me to pin the star on his chest. It was the biggest honor of my life. We are close friends and Skip has been an older brother to me—which means he can be tough on you but you also know that he’d jump in front of a train to save you from being run over. I would do the same for him.

The publicity around the Bronze Star ceremony prompted a story in an Alabama magazine and that led to a discovery….the little girl…saved in 1995 and now an adult… wrote to the magazine’s editor with a request.

Could she be put in touch with the man who showed her such a big heart all those years ago?
The editor reached out to Skip and a reunion via email and phone ensued. It’s a heartwarming story and our Associate editor Marisa Herman did a remarkable job writing about the saga.

Here’s the link:

Please read the story and share it. It’s a heartwarming saga in a world that needs to see more of these kind of stories.

But this column is about my friend and brother Skip.

By all accounts, we are an odd couple. I’m moderate/liberal, he’s conservative. I’m 5’9”, he’s well over 6 feet. I’m a New Yorker, he’s from Ohio. I’m young (wink)…he’s…OK we’ll stop there.

Yet our friendship has always worked.

Which shows you that surface differences really don’t matter. What matters is what’s in your heart and what you really care about. On that measure, we have just about everything in common.

Skip has a heart for people in distress and animals, especially dogs but also birds, cats and just about anything that crawls. I do too.

Skip cares about community. We bonded over our mutual love for Delray and our rock solid commitment to try and make this a better place for everyone, young, old, black, white, east, west you name it.

Skip made a big difference in his 20 years of service. He started as a cop in a vastly different Delray Beach—working the road, serving as a K-9 officer, staffing midnight shifts where gunfire and violent crime happened every night.

We spent many of those nights talking late into the wee hours on my driveway at the end of his shift about Delray, great dogs and life itself.

Over time, like the layers of an onion, he revealed much about himself and his experiences—the heartaches, what  combat is like, the stresses of being a police officer and the ability to make an impact in some instances while other times you are just helpless and watch as your heart breaks over some situation—whether it’s an elderly volunteer succumbing to cancer, the loss of my mother, the loss of Skip’s brother, the nastiness of politics and the plight of a little girl and her brother living in a squalid trailer.

When Jerrod Miller was shot, 14 years ago this month, Skip was there as we worked to try and keep our city from falling apart in the wake of tragedy.

These experiences bond you—as brothers. They forge you and make you stronger even though you are never quite the same and the scars accumulate.

We’ve been there for each other through the loss of loved ones, the loss of great dogs (Rambo, Olk, Magnum, Casey), moves, career changes, divorce, illness and all the changes that come with time.

He has always had my back and I love him for that and for always having the backs of everyone in his life.

On the side of most police cruisers in America is the saying “protect and serve.”
For the best officers, the ones who make a real and lasting difference, those words are more than a tagline they are a bedrock philosophy and a way of life.

Even when they retire, the best officers continue to protect and serve—their family, friends and neighborhoods. My friend is one of those special people and I just needed to share that with you.



The Love Of & For A Dog

My perfect line-up, Teddy, Randy and Sunny.

It’s hard to put into words just how much we love our pets.

People who love animals will get this. Frankly, I feel sorry for the rest.

Because the love of a good dog or cat, horse, bird or whatever you prefer is one of life’s great pleasures.

As for me, I love all animals but especially dogs. Always have, always will.

And while I love all breeds, I’m happiest when a golden retriever is in my life.

We got Teddy four years ago from a wonderful Boca-based non-profit called “Golden Retrievals.”
From day one, Teddy was the perfect gentleman—80 pounds of love covered in bountiful and beautiful golden fur which was soon everywhere. I mean everywhere.

Within moments of entering our lives, Teddy captured our hearts and I soon discovered that he had that knack with everyone who crossed his path.

He’s a heartbreaker—so good, so cute, so handsome, so sweet and so so loving.

I fell for Teddy completely. It’s a connection that I can’t really describe but all I can say is that whenever I look at him I just feel good. He’s a special dog.

So we were absolutely devastated when a few days after Christmas we learned that Teddy had bone cancer.

He had been limping for a few days and we thought/hoped it was old age (he’s 9), a pulled muscle, or maybe a sprain. Teddy’s an active dog and enjoys playing with my son’s golden puppy Riley and my neighbor’s dog Asher. Maybe in all that happy rough housing he strained something.

When we took him to our long time veterinarian, Dr. Jim Grubb knew exactly what it was. He’s seen a lot in his long practice: cancer.

Apparently, Golden’s and other large breeds are prone to bone cancers—the statistics are beyond disturbing. Google them if you must, when I did it made me queasy.

Anyway, on Dr. Grubb’s recommendation, we took Teddy to the Animal Cancer Care Clinic in Deerfield Beach and earlier this week Teddy had surgery to remove his ulna bone. Luckily, it’s a non-weight bearing bone so he will be able to walk. Removing the mass should make him much more comfortable and also prevent the risk of a painful fracture. As for a prognosis, we have to wait and see the results of his pathology before determining what the future holds.

For the past month, there has been a sadness in our home as we grappled with the news and continued to enjoy, love and cuddle with this wonderful dog who has changed our lives in so many ways.

I’ve been blessed with a bunch of truly great dogs—Tina, Rusty, Snowball, Magnum, Casey, Sophie and Teddy’s best friend Randy— a soon to be 16 year-old half blind Chihuahua mix that we adopted from the Animal Rescue Force at the Delray Affair many years ago.

I love them all and they love you back—unconditionally and completely.

As I’ve grown older I have grown even fonder of dogs because of who they are and how they live—in the moment, with appreciation, excited about the little things—a walk, a car ride, a beautiful day, a trip to the park.

Teddy is the epitome of this ethos.

He has the most endearing style.

Morning is his favorite time of the day.

He’s so excited to greet the dawn and he rolls on his back and kicks his feet into the air. When we get read for a walk, he barks when he sees his leash anxious to see who is outside so he may say hello. And when we take him on a car ride he leans his head on the back seat cushion, closes his eyes and enjoys the breeze in his hair. I’ve never seen a dog do that—its bliss defined. He is loving every single moment.

Yes, he’s a special dog.

They all are in their own way.

So when I look in his big, soulful brown eyes I’m reminded of the other great retrievers I have known—my winter lab Sunny, Casey who would go downtown with me and then try to get in every car as we walked the avenue, Rusty who snuck on my mother’s prized couch when she wasn’t looking and Magnum who used to sit outside with me at 1 a.m. for long talks into the night with my good friend Officer Skip Brown. He also ate a couch and a carpet, but those are stories for another day.

I’m hoping for more time with Teddy—quality time because we won’t let him suffer.

I feel we have more roads to explore on our rides and that he’s due more belly rubs and trips to Pet Supermarket where he enjoys looking and sniffing at each row of merchandise.

But if somehow it is not meant to be…I will still be thankful for every day I’ve had with this magnificent dog who overflows with love and has given us so much happiness.




The Ties That Bind

If you’re a local Vietnam Veteran you may want to check out the Boca based chapter of the VVA.

Earlier this week, I had the honor of speaking to the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1125 at Patch Reef Park in Boca Raton.

It was a humbling experience for me since I have great respect for veterans. The opportunity came about when members of the organization attended a Bronze Star award ceremony that recognized the heroism of Skip Brown, a friend, retired Delray police officer and Vietnam veteran who was gracious enough to accept the Bronze Star at Old School Square’s Crest Theatre recently.

The local chapter of the VVA has about 90 members and does some great work in the community raising money for good causes and working to provide services and information to Vietnam veterans in our community.

Our conversation was a memorable one. We all have much to learn if we listen to those who have served. My takeaways: many of the veterans are concerned that basic civics aren’t being taught to young people. They worry about low voter turnout, a fundamental lack of knowledge about history and a lack of understanding of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. They are also keen on reaching Vietnam Veterans so they can engage with them and if needed steer them to services. The organization is working on a website which should be ready by Veterans Day.

I thought I’d share my remarks with readers of Your Delray Boca in an effort to raise awareness for the group.


“I’d like thank my longtime friend Arthur Brown for the opportunity to be with you this evening…

I have to admit I struggled with what to say tonight and that would make those who know me laugh…because I’m a lot of things but speechless is not one my afflictions.

I struggled because shortly after Arthur told me about your group and asked me to visit, I happened to stumble across the movie “Coming Home”  which depicts the experience of Vietnam veterans coming home and struggling to adjust to life back in the states.

And I realized that I don’t have much to tell you, but you have much to tell me and all of us.

I was born in 1964 and while I registered for selective service in 1982, I grew up in an America that relied on volunteers and not the draft. And so my peers and I never had to contemplate going to war—others fought for us. While I have respect and gratitude for those who volunteer and those who go to war, I don’t know what it’s like and I never will. If you told me everything you knew about that experience, I would appreciate and grow from that knowledge, but I would still not fully grasp what you lived.

So what do I have to share with you?

Thankfulness and gratitude…for sure.

And yet, as I thought about tonight, I began to think in a larger context and what I concluded is that maybe this inability or unwillingness to understand each other’s experience and perspective is at the heart of what is ailing America these days.

We are here together at a very strange moment in our nation’s history.

We are a nation divided.

We are estranged from one another. That is probably a feeling that you recognize since many Vietnam veterans have shared that they were not exactly welcomed when they returned home. (Editor’s note: during the Question and Answer session following the talk, one veteran said he had to travel in civilian clothes because he was treated harshly while in uniform).

These days, we are talking and often times yelling past each other…we don’t hear and we don’t listen. We don’t seek to understand and we are lacking in thankfulness. We are lacking in gratitude. We are failing to recognize each other as people, as Americans.

Yet, despite our troubles…despite our divisions…despite our broken politics, our opioid addictions, our homeless issues, poverty, despair and violence—we do remain a land of abundance.

Despite racism, hatred, anti-Semitism, homophobia, trade wars, tariffs and political swamps—we remain a place of beauty—we regularly enjoy the blessings of this nation…opportunity, love, compassion, freedom and justice. However, imperfect, it does exist.

And so I thought that just like I could never understand your experience in the Vietnam era, it is possible for me to appreciate and respect it. And therefore it’s possible for all of us to appreciate and respect each other—in spite of our differences.

That’s a decision that all of us have the power to make.

We need to decide what binds us as a nation. What do we share as Americans…not as Republicans or Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives or other labels relating to race, religion, sexual preference or identity—but what binds us as people.

Maybe if we could see beyond the labels, maybe if we made an effort to listen, to be respectful and gracious… maybe just maybe we can find our way back to a place of reconciliation.

Abraham Lincoln called on us to summon our better angels. He also understood that a house divided cannot stand.

I see Lincoln as a model leader because he sought to unite not divide. Division is not leadership, its demagoguery. We lack leaders, we don’t lack demagogues.

That does not mean we cannot hold strong beliefs or advocate for deeply held convictions that conflict with each other. But it does mean, that we should strive for a better way to disagree. Because I know for sure that what we are doing today isn’t working. It’s not making America great again, it’s not instilling hope or affecting change, it is ripping us apart.

Maybe, we ought to step back…lay down our arms, shut off cable TV and social media for a few minutes and consider what’s at stake.  We just might think differently.

Maybe if we paused…we might change our perspective.

So what is at stake?

What is at risk?

I would argue that America itself is at risk.

For all of its imperfections, for all of its problems, this is an amazing country. A nation that has led the world, a beacon for all other nations.

How can we risk that?

How dare we risk that?

Your sacrifice…the sacrifice of others who fought for our country deserves better than what we are seeing these days.

The great leaders and American citizens and service members  who gave us liberty, freedom and the right to pursue happiness—deserve better than what our leaders and our pundits are giving us.

We, the people, deserve better.

I want to conclude with a few suggestions and then I’m anxious to hear your thoughts….

What do we do until we figure this out? What do we do to come together as a nation?

I would suggest we begin to think and act locally…volunteer, mentor a young person, find a worthy charity and give our time and talents…build a community. There are so many worthy causes to dive into in Delray and Boca.

Anne Frank said: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
How true and how amazing….that in the midst of the Holocaust Anne Frank was able to express hope. And her sentiments are spot on.


I’m anxious to hear your thoughts, but I just think we need to focus on what binds us, not what divides us. And that we need more uniters in leadership positions at all levels of our society.

The stakes are high…they couldn’t be higher and we are certainly at an inflection point. A house divided cannot stand…we need to heed the lessons of history if we are to have a future.

But we have the power to change things….to improve as Anne Frank said, our little slice of the world.




A Fitting Tribute, a Bronze Star & The Arts

Random Thoughts on a Monday…

A Moving Tribute to a memorable officer

It was gratifying to see an overflow crowd at Officer Christine Braswell’s Memorial Service Sunday at Atlantic High School.

Officers from all over the area, Delray police retirees, residents and our own bravest and finest were there for a moving tribute to an Officer who touched many lives.

From Explorers who respected her as a drill instructor to SWAT team members who were in awe of her skills, Officer Braswell’s influence was palpable and lasting.

She connected with everyone. From homeless people who considered her a friend to business leaders who put out all the stops to honor her after her tragic passing April 9 at the too young age of 40.

Chief Jeff Goldman did a great job of leading the memorial and capturing Christine’s spirit and dedication to her job. It was also touching to hear from Christine’s father– a former officer– who recounted his daughter’s toughness and resolve to be a police officer despite his concerns over the physical and mental toll of the job.

Delray Citizens for Delray Police once again rose to the occasion coordinating volunteers and donations to make this difficult time just a little easier.

I thought I’d share a portion of a prayer from a memorial card handed out at the service.

“Lord I ask for courage

Courage to face and

Conquer my own fears…

Courage to take me

Where others will not go…

I ask for strength

Strength of body

To protect others…

I ask for dedication

Dedication to my job

to do it well.

Dedication to my community

To Keep it safe.”

Christine did all of those things for us and others. She will not be forgotten. May she rest in peace.

Bronze Star Ceremony You’re Invited
Tomorrow is a special day in Delray.
Retired Delray Beach Police Officer Skip Brown and his lovely wife Cheryl, a former PD volunteer, will be at the Crest Theatre at Old School Square at 4 pm to receive a Bronze Star for heroism. The medal ceremony, open and free to the public, comes 45 years after Skip’s heroic service in Vietnam.
It’s a fascinating story. I won’t ruin it for you right now because I’m hoping your can come and see a rare ceremony.
Skip is a special guy. This is a special occasion. Hope to see you at the Crest.

Sons & Daughters Farm and Winery
We visited Sons & Daughters on Saturday west of Lake Worth and it was terrific.
Sons & Daughters is a 17 acre organic farm where you can drink homegrown wine and kombucha, tour the farm and interact with an array of animals from donkeys and pigs to chickens and roosters.
It’s worth a visit. Friday night’s feature music, food trucks and a fire pit. It’s a cool place.
And…I couldn’t help but think this is what the ag reserve could have been.
Working farms with retail attached, Agri-tourism amenities, healthy and unique places to hang out.
Alas, it wasn’t to be.
I’m a believer in Eastward Ho..let your downtowns be downtowns tight, compact and walkable but out west..well let’s say it could have been done differently.

Wood and Fire
We gave this cool new place a whirl over the weekend and it was really good.
Delray’s own Castle Construction did the build out and it’s wonderful.
A nice interior, large bar, a wood fired oven, outdoor dining options and a nice menu with reasonable prices.
We had the veggie panini (guess who had that one) and a Margherita pizza with charred zucchini and meatballs.
There’s a good craft beer menu too.
It’s nice to see west Delray add some great gathering spots. The restaurant is on West Atlantic just west of Military Trail.
Check it out.

Speaking of craft beer
We visited Saltwater Brewery recently and chatted briefly with Chris Gove one of the young entrepreneurs behind the growing brand.
I’ve known Chris’ dad Leigh for years. And so it’s really great to see his son have his father’s creative energy and vision.
Saltwater is now distributed all the way to Jacksonville. It just feels like a breakout brand in a crowded space.
Not only is the beer terrific (try the Passion Pit) but the branding is spot on. The brewery is also oozing cool and very popular.
We ran into former Planning Director Paul Dorling and it was nice to catch up with him as well.
Delray needs more than one district that performs so it’s nice to see the nooks and crannies filling up with activity and cool uses.

Kudos to Old School Square
The new summer booklet of classes at Old School Square is out and once again it’s really well done.
The School of Creative Arts is a great asset to Delray and if you have any interest in art, writing or photography you should check it out.
I’m a big admirer of the arts and artists but have zero talent.
I might, however check out the Thursday night readings where writers share their work.

See, I have this idea for a novel about a dashing middle aged blogger who strikes it rich…it’s clearly fiction.


Magic Awaits When You Connect & Commit

When you connect you progress–it’s just that simple.

It’s the little things that make you fall in love.
Saturday we headed downtown for the CRA’s annual Easter Bonnet Pet Parade which never fails to deliver.
It’s a small event: simple, fun, charming and benefits a great cause–Dezzy’s Second Chance Rescue.
Norman Rockwell would have loved it.
It’s these types of gatherings that build community and make you fall for a place. And it’s these types of opportunities that we must seize, savor and support.
Peter Kageyama wrote a book about the intangibles called “For the Love of Cities.” I’ve seen Peter speak a few times and he never fails to deliver.
He talks about the importance of creating events, experiences and places that foster affection for your city.
In my book, “Adventures in Local Politics” I write that love is an important component of community building and leadership.
When people fall in love they commit. And when they commit they invest–their time, money, talent, creativity and passion.
And the rest takes care of itself.
Once people commit to a community, problems can be solved, challenges can be met and tragedies become easier to deal with.
Consequently, the good news is sweeter because there is a community of people to celebrate with.
These are not difficult or complex concepts but building community isn’t easy.
In case you haven’t noticed (and I bet you have) our society is divided these days. And Delray is not immune from those fault lines.
All the more reason why it’s important to come together when we can.
Recently, we’ve had a few opportunities. The Delray Affair, The Pet Parade, Impact 100, the upcoming Police Banquet sponsored by Delray Citizens for Delray Police and more.
There are many ways to connect. But only if we look. And I hope you do. Because it makes all the difference.
You’re needed and you’ll benefit by getting involved too.
Not a bad deal.
The best leaders connect. The best citizens too.
Here’s a free event that I hope you’ll think about coming to see.
On April 25 at 4 pm Old School Square’s Crest Theatre will host the awarding of a Bronze Star to retired Delray Beach Police Officer Skip Brown.
Skip spent 20 years as an officer in Delray and a great deal of that time was spent building community. He managed the Police Department’s volunteer program and specialized in reaching hard to reach segments of our city.
He was all about making a connection.
If you want a dose come to the Crest a week from Tuesday. The event is free–bring the kids. It’s a teachable moment and a chance to honor valor and bravery.
Meanwhile, find ways to get connected. It makes all the difference.



Fifteen Years Gone: 9/11’s Local Perspective

Proudly worn by volunteers

Proudly worn by volunteers

Sept. 11, 2001 was the shock.
Sept, 12, 2001 was the start of the realization that our lives, our country and our world would be forever different. Over the coming weeks, 15 years ago, we would discover just how different our world would be.
Anthrax came to Boca Raton when a man died opening a letter.
We discovered that at least seven and possibly nine of the 19 terrorists were living in Delray Beach. Another three were living in Boynton.
They were at our library. They lived in the Hamlet, went to a local gym, were seen poolside at Laver’s and filled a prescription for cipro at Huber’s Drugs. One of our officers, Tom Quinlan, responded to a call about a dog bite and later learned that the bite victim was ringleader Mohammed Atta.
I worked in a building a few yards from the AMI headquarters in Boca at the time of the anthrax scare which came a week after the attacks. Bob Stevens, who worked for the National Enquirer, was the first victim of anthrax when he opened a letter containing deadly spores.
It was a surreal scene. Nobody wanted open their mail.
At the time, our Fire Chief Kerry Koen had encouraged city commissioners to ride on fire trucks and hand out treats to children on Halloween. The year before the event was a smashing success. Children throughout  Delray Beach were excited to see the big red engines.
But in 2001, the event was a little different and as soon as it got dark, the department started getting calls from people who thought the sugar that spilled from lanterns holding candy was anthrax and the same engines that elicited cheers and laughter were now called to investigate whether there was a deadly toxin in our city.
But Delray Beach was a strong community back then. You don’t really know that until you’re tested.

A few months prior, the city had won a second all America city award becoming the first city in Florida to do so.
At that time, the civic fabric was strong and there was unity. And Delray had a knack for turning challenges into opportunities. The City had confidence. There was just a feeling that whatever was thrown our way, collectively we would figure it out.

Dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 was a huge challenge. But we had a great mayor at the time, David Schmidt. He was an attorney, soft spoken, polite and professional. But he was also resolute, very smart and exhibited strength in a way that was calming. I sat next to him on the dais and I liked him. But watching him closely– seeing how he handled different situations –turned me into an admirer. David handled adversity with dignity and strength. We were blessed to have him as our mayor during that trying time.
As a community we gathered at Old School Square and at the Community Center to pray and to mourn and to just be together with our neighbors. We sent some personnel to ground zero including Russ Accardi a high ranking member of our fire department.
It was in these difficult moments that we found strength in each other. And that is community. It’s heart. It’s love. It’s caring and I think –because we are Americans –it’s also about taking action–doing something to make things better.
And so Skip Brown, a police officer, and himself a wounded Vietnam veteran, formed the nation’s first Homefront Security volunteer program.
At the time, we had well over 1,000 active volunteers at our police department. Many more at our Fire Department too. From this pool of dedicated citizens, largely retirees, Skip formed a special unit and tasked them with patrolling our public assets: water plant, sewer plant, city hall, library, parks, Old School Square Etc.
They wore sharp uniforms that included a beret. They looked amazing. Many –maybe most –were veterans, many were World War II veterans–well into their 70s but very much representative of the “greatest generation.”
They really were different.

Selfless. Tough but kind. Service oriented. Resilient. Wired to give back, to serve and protect, as our Police and firefighters are.
We took great comfort in seeing these men and women around town. They were trained to report suspicious items and their presence lifted our spirits when we needed them lifted.
I lost a childhood friend on Sept. 11. His name was Michael Boyle and he was a firefighter, like his dad. He was off that day campaigning with his best friend for a city council candidate. But when they heard the call, they heeded it and rushed to the scene to be with their brothers and sisters. Mike was never seen again. He was 37 years old.
Last year, my wife and I went to the new 9/11 museum. Since opening in 2014, 7 million have visited. More than 28 million people have visited the memorial in downtown Manhattan. We found Michael’s name along a reflecting pond. One of 343 firefighters lost that day.
This weekend as we marked the 15th anniversary of the attack, I read a bunch of articles and saw a great documentary on Flight 93 on PBS. In two of the stories I read, one about Marisa Di Nardo, the other about Welles Crowther, a 24 year old who lost his life going back up the stairs to bring others back to safety there were parts of the story that noted that both had premonitions, Marisa about her death and Welles that he would be part of “something big.” And I wondered if my childhood friend Michael experienced something similar. I’m not sure we will ever know. Or if it really matters, or maybe it matters a lot. Maybe we are supposed to listen to that inner voice or feelings.
There’s a sculpture inside our main fire station on West Atlantic that honors the 343 firefighters lost that day. It was dedicated in the wake of the tragic day. Last week, on Facebook, my friend Skip now retired in Alabama, posted pictures of his Homefront volunteers. Some are gone now. But I remember them and so do others. They comforted a community that needed to be comforted. President Bush, Governor Bush, Mayor Guiliani  and others acknowledged their work with visits and words of praise. Media from all over the world covered their service. And that’s all great stuff. But the larger message is one of community. One of love, service, commitment and courage; about rising to the occasion when the rain comes.
We find ways to cope, both individually and as a community when tragedy strikes. We find solace in family, friends, religion, country and community. And that’s what I’m reflecting on this 15th anniversary.

Remembering A Special Friend

Former Chief Overman, the late, great Officer Johnny Pun and Skip Brown.

Former Chief Overman, the late, great Officer Johnny Pun and Skip Brown.

“The most beautiful people I have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness and a deep, loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” Elizabeth Kubler Ross.

That has to be one of my very favorite quotes.

If you consider those you love and admire, the beautiful people in your life, you will find that quote to be true. As much as we wish nothing but wine and roses for our loved ones, the reality is in every life there will be challenges and heartbreaks.

Those who manage to find their way out of the depths and look out for others are special indeed.

I know more than a few of these people and they have been a blessing to me and my family and a gift to our community.

About two weeks ago, one of the prime examples of the quote above reached out to me with a wonderful message of friendship. Skip Brown is a retired Delray Beach Police Officer who is living in Alabama these days with his lovely wife, Cheryl.

Skip was challenged by Cheryl to reach out to important people in his life and let them know how much they have meant to his life. The contents of that conversation are private and personal, but I wanted to share the concept of reaching out to five key people in your life while you still can and while they are still around. And I wanted to share some thoughts about Skip and his generation of police officers who meant so much to Delray Beach.

First, what a powerful idea it is to think about the key people in your life and how and why they made such an impact.

To share those feelings with those cherished people is a powerful act; it enriches both the messenger and the recipient. I got Skip’s call during a particularly stressful week, the funny part is I know longer remember what I was so stressed about, which is a lesson in itself. This too shall pass, they say; and most of the time that’s right. But Skip’s phone call instantly lifted my spirits and his “gift” (and that’s what it was) has stayed with me and will stay with me.

It’s nice to know you matter to people you care about. It’s nice to know that your friendship has made a difference in a great man’s life.

I met Skip when I was a kid in my early 20s. He was a big, very big and burly cop and I was a very young and naïve reporter. Skip was gruff, but always fair and honest and I appreciated his willingness to take some time and teach me about Delray and about life.

He had a world of experience when I met him. Years on road patrol and time in the jungles of Vietnam. I came from suburban Long Island from a very stable household and had seen very little, he had driven a truck before becoming a police officer and seen an awful lot, emphasis on awful.

On the surface we didn’t have much in common. But I was fascinated by Delray and Skip was a big part of an effort to make the city safer. The people who were involved at that time were in the midst of building something very special.

When I met him, Skip was a K-9 officer. He had a huge German Shepherd named Rambo who was a local legend. Later, he would have a wonderful K-9 named Olk, who died too soon, in front of Skip one day before work. Skip loved his dogs and his birds and my new puppy Magnum, a goofy golden retriever who reminded him of the dog on the Bush’s Baked Beans commercial.

I lived around the block from Skip and we spent time at each other’s homes—well driveways mostly– talking into the wee hours of the night about everything Delray.

Skip and several other K-9 officers at the time, including Phil Dorfman, Will McCollum and Geoff Williams, did a lot of community outreach in those days taking the dogs to schools and events. Those kind of efforts along with D.A.R.E. programs and community policing did much to change the perception of the Delray Beach Police Department.

I’ve said often and will continue to emphasize that Delray’s revitalization was made possible by the Delray Beach Police Department. Skip and many other officers are the unsung heroes of Delray and their efforts were tireless, authentic and in-depth.

Skip was at the forefront of many of these efforts, leaving K-9 and becoming the department’s Volunteer Coordinator which at the time had well over 1,000 volunteers –an astounding number for a city our size. The program won international recognition with news stories on CNN and other national outlets, chapters in scholarly books and even a visit from President Bush, Governor Bush and Rudy Guiliani after 9-11. Former Massachusetts Governor and 1988 Democratic Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, who used to spend winters in Delray, became a huge fan of the department, riding along with officers and gathering information for courses he taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

I can go on. But the most important takeaways are the relationships that were built as a result of these efforts. They made the whole difference: instead of being fearful of police, people in troubled neighborhoods opened up about their problems and worked with officers to solve issues. On a personal level, I saw a lot of friendships develop. Skip was particularly good at this. Many of his volunteers were senior citizens, members of the “greatest generation” who fought in World War II. Skip respected them and they returned his loyalty with service and devotion to the department and the city. When they got sick, he was there by their side. He spent many a sleepless night in a hospital or hospice and always tended to family members in their time of need and beyond.

The department also reached out to the Haitian community, starting Citizens Police Academies for Creole speaking residents in a successful effort to break down barriers. Skip taught at the academy and recruited volunteers forming a nationally recognized Haitian Roving Patrol, which was part of an All America City effort.

The volunteer program served as the department’s eyes and ears and the volunteers were committed to the department and the city giving hours of their time to training and patrols.

The chief at the time, Rick Overman, was the architect and quite simply a transformational leader. But while Overman was a master strategist, his greatest strength was recognizing and empowering talented employees and letting them soar. Skip was one of those guys. And he soared. So did the city.

The officers I met during that era, the late 80s, were a very interesting group of characters. Some were larger than life personalities. There was talent at just about every position; magnificent detectives, experts on community policing, brave undercover officers, tough as nails Tact Team officers, a stellar K-9 unit and officers who specialized in what is called problem oriented policing; using a variety of resources to get at the root of issues.

But Chief Overman knew he could not tackle the city’s challenges on his own. His department and his officers needed the community and he became a magnet for involvement. Skip and many others were extensions of that philosophy—they challenged residents to get involved and to take ownership of their streets, neighborhood and city. What resulted was a partnership, relationships and trust.

Skip was a builder of those ideals. Every day he sought to partner, promote and build relationships.

They were special times and Skip was made for the job.

I’m pleased to see another product of that era, Chief Jeff Goldman, take a new generation of officers and have them focus on community and relationships. It works. It truly does.

With headlines all across America questioning the relationship between police and communities, it’s comforting to know that we have the right philosophy in place. Yes, it costs money to attract and retain talent, but it will cost you a whole lot more if you fail to build a department that protects and serves with integrity and distinction.

I hope you’ll “do like Skip” and call those special people in your life. It’s all about paying it forward. And I hope we invest in the men and women who protect and serve us. If we don’t, we risk it all.