Notable area deaths in 2012
Editor’s note: The Sun finishes recapping its top stories of 2012 today.
The Rev. Samuel “Sam” Emerick, 96, of Port Charlotte, helped found Habitat for Humanity. He was instrumental in forming Habitat affiliates in Lee, Collier, Sarasota and Charlotte counties. A Charlotte Habitat center was named in his honor.
Arthur Roe, 92, of Arcadia, was a World War II veteran and CEO of the family-owned Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in Arcadia. He also managed the city golf course.
Don Platt, 91, of Englewood, was a descendent of the Englewood pioneering Biorseth family, who settled in Englewood in 1894. A community activist, he was a member of the Lemon Bay Historical Society.
Michael Angel Rojas, 18, of Port Charlotte, was a Lemon Bay High School student who was found dead in his bedroom by a family member.
Edward “Otto” Varner, 77, of Arcadia, was founder and CEO of Bermont Properties LLC and Varner Bros., and owner and operator of KFC restaurants throughout Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.
Carl L. Sullivan, 60, of Arcadia, was a well-known “true cowboy” in DeSoto County.
Harold J. “Hub” Hubbell, 94, of Arcadia, was a nationally known rodeo trick rider and trick shooter, and a strong supporter of the Arcadia rodeo.
Mary Amemiya, 88. With her husband Victor, was the founder of the DeSoto Arts and Humanities Council. Mary was in an internment camp in Wyoming for people of Japanese descent during World War II.
Jan Rae Newnam, 73, of Arcadia, was a popular teacher at DeSoto County High School.
Rue Berryman, 87, of North Port, was a city commissioner for eight years. He was an original member of the Impact Advisory Board, and served on the Economic Advisory Board, the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, and on The Salvation Army Advisory Board for 20 years. In 2007, he was named Citizen of the Year. He was a lifetime member of the Early Bird Kiwanis Club, and an inaugural member of the Gene Matthews Boys & Girls Club. Berryman was also a World War II veteran, serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Franz von Atzigen, 69, of Punta Gorda, owned the Swiss Chocolate+ shop and was an active supporter of the city’s business community. Prior to moving to Punta Gorda in 2001, he spent 40 years in the Swiss foreign service as a diplomat.
Michael Walton-Rabbitt, 25, of North Port, was an aspiring graphic designer who attended State College of Florida’s South Venice campus. After he was killed by a drunken driver on River Road, Walton-Rabbitt’s parents established a memorial scholarship in his name at SCF.
Dr. Philip Czyz, 69, of Port Charlotte, was a longtime eye doctor in Charlotte County. At one point prior to moving to Port Charlotte in 1973, he was a vision consultant for the Chicago White Sox.
Donna Summer, 63, of Englewood, was a five-time Grammy Award winner whose hits included “Last Dance,” “Hot Stuff” and “Love to Love You Baby.” She and her husband, Bruce Sudano, were living off North Manasota Key Road.
Tyler Laurence Morr, 12, a fifth-grader at Memorial Elementary School in Arcadia, died in a crash doing what he loved, driving a race car in the Kids Club race at Auburndale Speedway in Winter Haven, Fla.
Mike Noonan, 58, of North Port. A New York City paramedic for 19 years, Noonan emceed North Port’s annual Sept. 11 memorial service, announced each float at the city’s annual Poinsettia Parade, and helped raise funds for the local Knights of Columbus.
Jack Donkel, 85, of Englewood East, was best known as one of Winchester Road Warriors for his tireless advocacy in ensuring that the Winchester Boulevard extension was built.
Cherie A. Erickson, 65, of Arcadia, was an LPN who also performed with her husband Eric, well-known locally in DeSoto County as an Elvis impersonator.
Leon J. Coker, 91, was a cabinetmaker for Christ Building & Supply in Arcadia. During World War II, he was a rifle instructor because of his expert marksmanship, and he won several awards, including two Purple Hearts.
Pete Cornell, 64, of Gulf Cove, criss-crossed the U.S. on his bicycle and mentored many cyclists in the Coastal Cruisers Bicycle Club. He was completing a trek from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Key West, when he and his two riding companions were hit from behind by a tractor-trailer near Dawson, Ga. Cornell was pronounced dead at the scene. His son later completed Cornell’s trek.
Dr. Matthew Fineman, 72, of Punta Gorda, was a longtime local podiatrist, as well as an auxiliary and reserve law enforcement officer for the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Highway Patrol and the Punta Gorda Police Department.
Al Hashem, 87, of North Port, started Hashem’s Auto World 25 years ago, now run by his sons, and volunteered at the North Port Police Department for 28 years. He was a charter member of the Early Bird Kiwanis Club, and helped to form the North Port Noon Kiwanis. A World War II Army veteran, Hashem had retired as a detective in Boston before coming to Florida with his family.
Dr. Alejandro “Alex” Pizarro, 80, of Port Charlotte, was one of the area’s first oncologists. He was medical director of the Fred Farris Cancer Unit at what is now Peace River Regional Medical Center.
Sam Dreher, 39, of North Port, was a Charlotte County firefighter and paramedic for 18 years. He was shot and killed during an attempted robbery in Sarasota, allegedly by his estranged wife’s boyfriend. About 400 people attended his memorial service.
Ana P. Carrillo, 28, of Arcadia, died of breast cancer. She was the deputy clerk of courts in DeSoto County. In her memory, DeSoto Fire Rescue sold special breast cancer T-shirts to raise money for her surviving family.
Mark Vocelka, 50, of North Port, was the assistant pastor at New Hope Community Church. Grief-stricken after his wife Deanne, 45, died of cancer in May, he took his own life. Vocelka had helped to coordinate the church’s annual free Thanksgiving dinners for the community, which drew hundreds.
Dave Kukula, 57, of Rotonda West, was former Rotonda West Association director, a former part-owner of the Captain’s Club, a local Realtor at Key Agency and member of the Englewood Area Board of Realtors.
Rodney H. McCray, 63, of Arcadia, served two tours in Vietnam. He was well-known as the announcer at DeSoto County High School Bulldogs football games, and also was an accomplished musician who sang and performed at many local events.
Tom Minnich, 84, of Englewood, was co-founder of the Southwest County Homeowners Alliance, the Englewood Environmental Learning Center, the Lemon Bay League and the River Road Task Force. He served on the Sarasota County Neighborhood Grant Advisory Committee, and initiated the concept for the ethnobotany program at the Englewood Center for Sustainability.
Nancy Looney, 59, of Englewood, was married to Mike Looney and a descendent of Stuart Anderson, owner of Lemon Bay Fisheries, and Joseph Anderson, Sarasota County’s first elected county commissioner. Her father, Charles “Joe” Czerwinski, was a well-known builder.
James L. Wildt, 62, of Arcadia, was a DCHS history teacher for 37 years, and assistant principal at Memorial Elementary. He was a Pop Warner football coach, and coached football and golf at the high school in Arcadia. He was named the 2010 Teacher of the Year at DCHS.
Olivia Becker, 94, of Port Charlotte, was a community and church volunteer who started a pregnancy crisis careline. In 1998, Pope John Paul II awarded her the “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” award, the highest award that can be given to a lay person in the Catholic Church, for her 15 years of service promoting “respect-life issues” on both the state and local levels.
Stanley J. Kazwell Sr., 86, of Port Charlotte, was a real estate developer and entrepreneur. Among his ventures were Kazwell’s Fine Furniture in Punta Gorda, Kazwell Financial Services in Port Charlotte, and Furniture Mart in DeSoto County.
Dick Weatherly, 78, of Punta Gorda, was one of North Port’s first city commissioners. A real estate salesman who sold homes for $10 down and $10 a month in the General Development community, Weatherly served the city after it was incorporated in 1959. He opened Weatherly Insurance and Real Estate in 1968 in Punta Gorda, was president of the Charlotte County Board of Realtors in 1972, and in 1974 was elected Realtor of the Year.
The Rev. Joseph Edward Cannon Sr., 76, of Arcadia, was pastor and founder of Peace River Valley Christian Academy.
Roger G. Bass Sr., 70, of Arcadia, was a well-known local bluegrass musician in DeSoto County, and a member of the Tater Hill Band.
Mary Kathryn Maassen, 90, with her husband John, founded Maassen Oil Co. in Arcadia.
Nakisha Hill, 34, of Arcadia, was the interim assistant principal at Nocatee Elementary School in DeSoto County. A native of Arcadia, she also had worked as a speech therapist at West Elementary School and the DeSoto Early Childhood Center, and had been with the DeSoto County School District since 2001.
Bernard William “Bill” Senkel, 82, of Fairview, N.C., and Punta Gorda, was a former Punta Gorda city manager in the ’80s. He was a retired U.S Air Force lieutenant colonel who logged more than 500 combat flight hours as a navigator on B-52s during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, earning the Distinguished Service Cross. He also whimsically placed a kazoo in Punta Gorda’s 1987 time capsule, which was opened during the city’s recent 125th anniversary celebrations.
Jerone Campbell, 17, of Englewood, died during a routine tonsillectomy. Campbell was a Lemon Bay High School junior who was on the wrestling and football teams. Loranda “Randy” Spence
, 74, of El Jobean, was an advocate for the El Jobean community. A retired master sergeant in the Air Force, Spence led an effort to create a community park that now bears his name.
Michael “Deacon Mike” DiMeglio Sr., 97, of Port Charlotte, has been a deacon and was an active member with St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church and its Knights of Columbus council. Through those activities, Dimeglio, who stood just 5 feet, 3 inches tall, was a giant in the community. He moved to Charlotte County in 1977 after retiring as a chief warrant officer from the Army after 32 years of service, during which he served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Kendall Leech, 77, of South Gulf Cove, was the first Rotonda West Association manager, an active community leader and board member of several Rotonda and South Gulf Cove associations.
Grace E. Amodeo, 83, of Port Charlotte, was a passionate advocate for the Charlotte Harbor Community Redevelopment Agency, and frequently made her voice heard at Charlotte County Commission meetings. She also was a member of several county advisory boards and committees. Amodeo was a former president of the Women’s Press Association in Albany, N.Y.
Haline McCracken Carlton, 97, married F. DeVaughn Carlton, of a well-known DeSoto pioneer family. She was active in many local organizations, and her generosity was legendary.
William “Harlan” McCall, 74, of Arcadia, was active in sports at DeSoto County High School, and was going to play for the Cincinnati Reds until an injury sidelined him. He was president of Future Farmers of America, and later rose to vice president of loans at 1st Federal of Florida.