No Florida panther Website worth its salt is complete without a "Thank You" to the legendary late Frank Weed and his wonderful wife Ellen. These two folks were responsible for a vast majority
of Florida wildlife footage and background material for Television and Motion Pictures in the 50s and 60s and even the 70s. They provided panthers, and a host of small animals and reptiles to anyone that needed them for filming or still photography. Their home south of Immokalee was a holdover, a sort of time warp throwback to the old Florida days of heat, humidity, and no A/C. It was wonderful.
These two gracious and warm folks welcomed me and my family into their home way back in the early 90's when I was just starting out learning the history and the politics of the panther in Florida, and proceeded to share a tremendous wealth of knowledge and insight, way beyond anything I could have asked for or expected. We met his beloved Morris, one of the most photographed panthers ever,
and many of his raccoon and otter friends... I shall never forget that afternoon, and I shall not soon forget these two very fine people. Thank you, Frank and Ellen, from myself, and my family, but also from the countless others you have helped and your contributions to the recovery of panthers in Florida that continue to assist us long after your passing.. God Bless You.
~ Bill Samuels
I suppose there may be others that have done as much work on behalf of the recovery of the panther in Florida than Dave Maehr, but it is a very, very short list. His early efforts to boost public awareness of the impending genetic demise of the existing population of panther is immeasurable. Many panther enthusiasts first knowledge of these animals came from a Dave Maehr interview somewhere, or a Dave Maehr paper, or Dave Maehr comments to a local TV reporter....somewhere he was talking about what was going on in south Florida. Some controversy followed him later, as it does with anyone that cares about their subject, and he was no different. But be assured, the last time I saw Dave was in Morgantown, West Virginia of all places, where we both attended and spoke at an Eastern Cougar Conference. He was very involved, already, with game camera detection techniques,helping the West Virginia cougar people, and his work with the University of Kentucky had already commenced as I recall. But he still had that affection for panthers, and black bears, in the woods and swamps of Florida.
His death in an airplane crash deeply moved many, many people down here, and elsewhere, and he is missed to this day. God Bless his wife and family as they carry on.
~ Bill Samuels
SARASOTA, FLORIDA, WILDLIFE ARTIST
When Linda Thompson started drawing and became
focused to her task, everyone that knew her began
to eagerly await the results of her efforts. Whether it
was dolphins, or sea turtles, or manatees, or some
wonderfully detailed sea life painting, or one of her
legendary Acrylic pencil works of a Florida panther,
or some other Florida animal or reptile, people just
couldn't wait. And she never disappointed. She
was a truly gifted wildlife artist...one of those that can
capture not just the animal, but the spirit of the
moment, the rare ability to take the viewer to that
spot, at that time, and at that moment.
More than that, Linda was a friend of the Gulf Coast, and a friend to many of the youth in the community. Her love of show rabbits was no secret, and she helped countless children understand all the ins and outs of raising show rabbits. She was a terrific teacher.
When Linda died in 2010, at the way too early age of 57, the loss was devastating. Her battle with breast cancer, and her courage during that battle, made it even worse. She was an inspiration in so many ways, and an irreplaceable loss.
The Florida Panther Project was fortunate to have one of Linda's most memorable works, "The Family Tree", a beautiful three-piece tribute to a panther family, donated to them by Linda herself. She even made the frame up, and penciled in one of her trademarks in the matte. It was Number 7 or only 250 of these made. We will treasure it always.
UPDATE!! These paintings are on loan and on display at the Sarasota County Taxpayer's Office on Ringling Blvd. in Sarasota!!
~ Bill Samuels
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Sarasota County Parks and Recreation
When Pati talked, people listened. Because they knew they would hear something from a true servant's heart. Without fail, any person reminiscing about Patti will agree, she had the most humble, gentle "what can I do for you?" attitude of anyone they may know. Always generous with her time, her skills, her abilities, Pati was a shining example of what a person can become when they give of themselves without thought of repayment, or compensation. She offered the kids at Colonial Oaks Park her services, and she was the best friend they ever had . . . and they may have never thanked her or offered kindness back. It didn't matter, Pati just wanted the best for them, no matter what.
When Pati died suddenly and without warning, in 2013, the shock waves were universal, and profound. Many friends wept, and many, many more were just plain heartbroken. She had that kind of impact.
May God always bless Pati with her Kentucky Walker, and her adoring friends already gone ahead. May God be with her family always.
Mr. Bob Johnson (1935-2015)
former State Senator from Sarasota, Florida
If you are very lucky, you may get a chance
to work alongside a person like Bob Johnson
at some point in your life. Born into very poor
circumstances in Ohio in 1935, Mr. Johnson
lost both parents fairly early in his life, and
worked hard to improve himself, and his work
ethic paid off for him.
He went to Florida State University, with $100
in his pocket, and a desire to be somebody to
make a difference in the lives of those around
him. And that is exactly what he did.
Graduating with a Law Degree, he settled down in Sarasota, married his sweetheart, and became a successful Attorney in a growing and booming Sarasota. And he began to have opportunities to fulfill his life's desire to help
people. He served on numerous Board's and charities, and was elected State Senator. His work on behalf of young people, and the arts, and especially his beloved Myakka River ... became legendary. Over the past twenty to thirty years,
he built a reputation for being a tireless advocate for those causes that he championed.
Always a gentleman, his passing leaves a great void in the fabric of Sarasota.
May God Bless his family and friends.