In 2017 the Jacksonville area lost residents who helped shape its schools, government, spiritual lives, landscape, entertainment, transportation and health care.
They were naval aviators, television personalities, road builders, ministers, coaches, philanthropists, civic and business leaders, lawyers, teachers, professors, executives, physicians and musicians. One was even forced by the Japanese to help build the bridge on the River Kwai while another was a beloved elementary school music teacher who was the victim of a home invasion for the second time.
Here are some of the notable deaths during the past year:
Delavan Baldwin II, who was a week shy of his 90th birthday, died shortly after spending eight years writing an 845-page book about Jacksonville and how hearing “the audible voice of God” while walking his dog led him to immerse himself in evangelism efforts. In the business world, he had a successful banking career, was president of Security Federal Savings and Loan Association and later vice president for North Florida of Florida Federal Savings and Loan. On the spiritual side, he helped launch the charismatic movement among Jacksonville’s historically mainstream congregations. He led 15 Faith Alive retreats in various states and became the first administrator at St. John’s Cathedral, serving as head of properties, finance and ministry to the poor.
Capt. Frank Barnes, 62, traveled to 36 countries while serving in the Air Force, including Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. Later he was a contractor and civil servant for the Department of Defense. He and his wife also served as missionaries to Guadalajara, Mexico, with Fire from Heaven Ministries and reached 80,000 people in tent crusades. In 2007 they moved to Fernandina Beach to serve the Go to Nations missionary headquarters as global prayer directors.
Louis “Lou” Black, 74, owned and operated such businesses as Avondale Limousine Service, Antique and Unique Transportation, Park ‘N Fly and most successfully Avondale Travel Bureau, which he opened in 1974. When he sold it in 1989, it had become one of the nation’s 25 largest agencies with nearly 50 offices. Black, who was married to Judge Susan Harrell Black, visited over 100 countries, six continents and took more than 100 cruises. He also was a licensed real estate broker who owned and managed commercial real estate. His avocation was officiating more than 1,000 high school basketball and football games.
William “Bill” Brinton, 64, was an attorney who led successful campaigns to limit outdoor signs, create term limits for city offices and protect trees. In 1987 he co-founded Citizens Against Proliferation of Signs when the City Council did not implement recommendations from a Jacksonville Community Council study arguing for limits on outdoor advertising. He wrote an amendment and organized a petition drive to get it on the ballot, where it was approved by voters. Brinton became a national expert on sign regulation and the First Amendment. He used the same citizen amendment approach for the term limit and tree issues and also led a campaign to get the council to pass an anti-litter law.
Richard “Dick” Brown, 82, produced a groundbreaking public television call-in show, the early Jacksonville Jazz Festivals and the PBS telecasts of the Watergate hearings. He became one of Jacksonville’s leading wine authorities with a monthly column in The Florida Times-Union during the 1990s. He cut a distinguished figure on Channel 7’s membership drives with his stylish suits, natty bow ties, well-groomed moustache and neatly trimmed beard. In 1971 he went to Washington to become a producer at the National Public Affairs Center for Public Television. When PBS opted to carry the Senate Watergate Hearings during prime time, his job was to package them with analysis and news reporting. In 1976 he returned to WJCT as vice president for programming.
Rodney Brown, 71, had a successful 50-year career in the automotive industry, beginning and ending with Duval Motors. In the 1980s he was a key player in the success of Southside Ford and King’s Crown Ford. In 1996 he joined Paul Clark Ford and remained there for 10 years. An avid sports enthusiast, the Fernandina Beach resident excelled in football and softball and later managed the highly successful Warren Motors Softball Team.
John Benjamin “J.B.” Coxwell, 78, was one of eight children of a sharecropper whose family was too poor to buy him the toy trucks he loved. So he made his own out of Prince Albert tobacco cans and played with them in the dirt underneath his house. In his adult years, the little boy who quit school in the ninth grade owned a fleet of 300 trucks and one of the most successful road construction, earth-moving and disaster debris collection companies in the Southeast. He did a lot of roadwork for the state and won bids on numerous Better Jacksonville Plan projects. He built 30 to 40 youth baseball fields in Duval County at no cost, was one of the founders and supporters of Seamark Ranch and was a major University of North Florida donor whose name is on the school’s amphitheater.
Barnwell “Barney” Daley Jr., 83, founded Daley Outdoor Advertising in 1962 serving the Jacksonville area, Southeast Georgia and the Florida Keys until 1987. After its sale, he continued with other business opportunities, such as Christopher’s Beautiful Shoes, The Florida Bindery, Modern Graphics, ROTAG and Sewer Conservation. He was a commissioned officer in the Florida National Guard and later served as a company commander.
Kamal Farah, 73, operated a small sandwich-style restaurant at several downtown locations for 40 years. His service as a cook in the Army had launched his lifelong love of the food industry. Farah opened his first downtown restaurant in 1973 on Forsyth Street and then moved to other locations becoming a well-known fixture.
Linda Anderson Foley, 75, taught social psychology, forensic science and psychology and law at the University of North Florida. She retired in 2008 after 34 years. Part of her research on race relations was cited in a decision by the Supreme Court. Foley, who had a doctorate in social psychology, served as president of the UNF Faculty Association, chairwoman of the Department of Psychology and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Colleagues awarded her the Outstanding Teaching and Distinguished Professor awards. After retirement she published three mystery novels and was working on a fourth.
Octavio “Tavi” Garces, 98, started the highly successful swimming and diving program at The Bolles School while also teaching Spanish to multiple generations of its students. In 1968 he became the athletic director and then the director of alumni affairs before retiring. He was born in Cuba and lettered in swimming and cheerleading at the University of Florida. After leaving Bolles he and wife Geraldine owned and operated Camp Tomahawk on San Ardo Drive for 25 years. The camp is now a public park owned by the city.
Devegowda Gopal, 77, was the son of a cow herder near Bangalore, India, who became a successful Jacksonville veterinarian, operating Gopal Animal Hospital on Normandy Boulevard for more than 30 years. A soccer star in India, he came to America in 1970 to attend graduate school at the University of Georgia on a scholarship. With a $5,000 bank loan, he and his wife, Geetha, opened their first animal hospital in Jacksonville. He opened and sold other practices but stayed at the Normandy locale, which was close enough to his Westside home that he would sometimes commute on his riding mower.
Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Grote, 88, spent 23 years as a naval fighter pilot beginning in 1948. He flew 62 combat missions in the F4U during the Korean War recording his 100th carrier landing on his final mission. Grote continued his naval career as an instructor at Pensacola Naval Air Station and transitioned to jet aircraft when reassigned to Jacksonville Naval Air Station in 1956. He accrued 3,800 hours flight time in more than 25 different aircraft. Grote started a second career with the city in which he rose to divisional manager of streets and drainage.
Warren Grymes Jr., 68, took Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida from the brink of bankruptcy to a multi-million-dollar organization that was one of the nation’s top affiliates. He took over the troubled nonprofit, which matches at-risk youths with adult mentors in eight area counties, in 2004 at a time when the national office was threatening to close it. When he retired last June, the number of students served annually had risen from 350 to almost 1,200. About 98 percent maintained or improved their school attendance, 94 percent their classroom behavior and 93 percent were promoted to the next grade. Through the years, he served on about 15 nonprofit boards. He also coached baseball for 25 years and the American Legion Post 283 baseball team to a state championship in 1993.
William H. Harrell Jr., 70, was the founder of the Jacksonville law firm of Harrell & Harrell and was easily recognized because of his firm’s extensive use of television and billboard ads bearing his image. But he was also known for his firm’s support of community causes such as Duval County’s guardian ad litem program and medical charities. He had been a sheriff’s deputy in Alachua County and worked his way through the University of Florida’s law school. With attorney Greg Johnson, he opened the firm Harrell & Johnson in 1996, becoming Harrell & Harrell when Johnson retired in 2005. His wife and three of his four children worked with him at the firm.
Hunter Harrison, 73, was president and chief executive officer of CSX Corp., the nation’s third-largest railroad and the largest in the east. Harrison took over the Jacksonville-based railroad in March 2017 in a highly publicized move. He was considered a legend in the industry, respected by many but also deemed controversial. He is credited with turning around three railroad companies over 50 years before coming aboard CSX. During his brief tenure before overcome by health problems, he removed hundreds of locomotives, tens of thousands of rail cars and laid off at least 2,300 people.
William “Ace” Ingram Jr., 93, spent three years building the Burma Railway as a prisoner of war after he was captured by the Japanese when the USS Houston sank in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. Ingram retired from the Navy in 1961. In later years he frequently told his tale of survival to veteran and active-duty military communities in Northeast Florida. Ingram survived his ship’s sinking by bobbing in the water for several days. The stretch of rail was built over the River Kwai linking Yangon, the then-capital of Burma, with Bangkok. Thousands of allied soldiers died during the construction. It became the basis for an epic war film in 1957, “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” starring William Holden and Alec Guinness. In civilian life, he was a brake man at Powell Chrysler-Plymouth and then Firestone Complete Auto Care.
Don Jones, 75, credited his well-made Johnston & Murphy shoes with staving off hypothermia while his feet were in the icy Hudson River, and he was clinging to the wing of the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane. In January 2009 he was one of 155 passengers on the US Airways flight whose engines were disabled after striking a flock of geese and sending it into the 34-degree river minutes after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport. Jones was a medical executive who retired in May as CEO of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, commonly known as AACE, and the American College of Endocrinology. He spent the first 29 years of his career with the Florida Medical Association reaching the position of executive director and CEO. During his 20 years with AACE, Jones oversaw significant health care legislation and helped initiate and expand its scientific offerings.
Virginia Atter Keys, who was in her 90s, was Jacksonville’s first lady of television and the grande dame of Jacksonville radio. The Neptune Beach resident was hired by Channel 4 at the end of 1949 when TV was in its infancy and everything was live. Her rich singing voice made her in demand for singing engagements. She became known for the commercials she did with Dick Stratton, her on-air co-anchor for 20 years. About 1955 she began doing the “Midday” talk show that was most associated with her. She also had a nightly 15-minute singing show, hosted an innovative children’s show, “Here’s How,” a quiz show, “Honeymoon Holiday,” and other programs. She was later with Channel 12 and did an interview show on the radio before retiring in the 1980s.
Hy Kliman, 90, was a prominent figure in developing Florida’s international trade profile over a 50-year period. In 1973 he was invited by the Chinese government to visit the People’s Republic of China shortly after President Richard Nixon returned from his first visit to Beijing. Kliman established business relationships in Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Yugoslavia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Mexico, and traveled to several South American countries, as well as Africa. In 1988 Kliman was chosen by his peers as Florida International Man of the Year. Kliman was a founding member and past chairman of the Florida Council of International Development. When he was president of the Southeast/U.S. Japan Association, he and his wife dined with Japan’s emperor and empress.
Wally Lee, 69, was president and chief executive officer of the JAX Chamber for 23 years before retiring in 2012. Lee led the effort to develop what is now JAXUSA Partnership, a regional economic development organization that has helped create tens of thousands of jobs in Northeast Florida. He also helped develop the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center, advocated for a thriving downtown and championed civil rights. He emphasized programs for growth of homegrown small businesses in addition to recruiting larger ones. He was active in the chamber’s support for creation of the Downtown Investment Authority in 2012.
Deborah “Debbie” Camp Liles, 62, was a beloved elementary school music teacher who was killed during a robbery at her Panama Park home. Liles taught 20 years, much of that time at San Jose Elementary, where she secured grants to fund 20 violins for the school and staged annual Day of the Arts celebrations. She was a talented soprano who directed children’s choirs for more than three decades. Liles also had been similarly victimized in a high-profile case in the ’90s when her attacker was sentenced to life but then was being considered for release after just five months due to prison overcrowding. Husband Michael Liles is now CEO of the Justice Coalition.
Helen Ludwig, 95, was active in politics and volunteer work and was named the 2010 Jacksonville Volunteer of the Year. She was involved with the Council on Elder Affairs, Mayor’s Special Events Advisory Council, Citizens Planning Advisory Council, Mayors Commission on the Status of Women, Council on Aging, Jacksonville’s Ethics Commission, Jacksonville Code Enforcement Board, Duval County Election Advisory Panel and as a director of the Florida League of Cities. That’s not counting numerous boards.
James “Jim” McNeil Jr., 90, was an obstetrician/gynecologist who practiced medicine for 50 years and was instrumental in introducing use of the Pap smear in Northeast Florida to detect cervical cancer. At New York Hospital he studied under George Papanicolaou, the physician who invented the Pap smear, which is used worldwide. After retiring from private practice, McNeil served as a civilian in the Colposcopy Clinic at Jacksonville Naval Hospital for 18 years before his final retirement in 2008.
Glen Mitchell, 76, became an activist for families of slain children after his 14-year-old son was murdered in a 1993 robbery attempt at Terry Parker High School. He and his late wife Margaret formed the Jeff Mitchell Foundation for disadvantaged and troubled youths. He also helped plan Unity Plaza at Terry Parker and co-founded Compassionate Families to help people cope with the slaying of a loved one. Mitchell was a San Marco-based landscape architect from 1980 to 2011.
Gerald “Gerry” Nichols, 81, was a leader in the railroad industry who began his storied career with the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in 1960. He rose through the ranks and after L&N and Seaboard Coast Line merged, he moved to Jacksonville in 1979 to oversee the transition. He was on the 1980 team that created the CSX Corp. headquartered in Richmond, Va. He again rose through the ranks until retiring in December 1998 as vice chairman and chief operating officer of CSX.
Lt. Cmdr. Gerald “Bud” Parham, 94, enlisted in the Navy in August 1941 and was a radio cryptographer to Adm. Bull Halsey’s staff. He was a member of the team that identified the encoded Japanese message leading to the elimination of Japanese military strategist Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto. Post war he studied the effects of thermonuclear weapons at Bikini and Eniwetok atolls. In Jacksonville he served in Hurricane Hunter Squadron VW-4, flying missions to determine the strength of Atlantic hurricanes before the advent of weather satellites. After retiring from the Navy in 1967, he was an engineer in the aerospace industry and with Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph.
Jack “Que” Quaritius, 94, was a long-time insurance executive, civic leader and a Jacksonville University trustee for 18 years. Quaritius began his career with Peninsular Life Insurance Co. as an agent in 1951 and rose to become president and chief executive officer in 1974. Not only did he make his mark in the business world, but he became known for his prolific civic endeavors. Quaritius served as president of the United Way of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the JU board of trustees and the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, among other board memberships.
Harry Roddenberry Jr., 92, built hundreds of homes, plus apartments and auto dealerships, and served as president of the Northeast Florida Builders Association. He was a founding member of Jacksonville Friends of the Library and had perfect attendance at the Rotary Club of West Jacksonville for 38 years. He served as captain and pilot in the Air Force for eight years. For four years he taught ROTC at North Carolina State University. After moving to Jacksonville in 1954, he worked in the insurance industry and changed careers to become a homebuilder.
Francis “Dutch” Scholtz, 95, was a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Scholtz served as a radio operator for the Army Air Corps 46th Fighter Squadron. He had played a concert with his dance band the night before the attack and originally thought the early morning bombing was a drill. Wanting to boost troop morale after the United States entered the war, he purchased a used piano for $50. The piano traveled with him through several duty stations in the Pacific, where he became known for playing lively dance music. Scholtz continued playing when he was discharged in 1945 but also served as director of education in several Catholic dioceses.
Bettye Sessions, 83, taught 16 years in the Duval County school system and was professor of humanities at the then Florida Community College at Jacksonville from 1972 to 1990. She was a community news writer for the Jacksonville Journal for five years. She self-published four books of poetry, biographies and histories. She was a community activist in the African-American community, led historical tours of its landmarks, was a charter member of the Jacksonville Federation of Teachers and a member of the Ritz Theatre planning committee and numerous organizations.
John Southwood, 83, served as a circuit and county court judge. He became active in city affairs after joining the Jacksonville Jaycees where he was on the board and chairman of Toys for Tots. He served as local and Southeastern president of the National Cystic Fibrosis Research Foundation and as a charter member of the Arlington Shrine Club. He was the chief assistant public defender under Lou Frost from 1969 to 1975. In 1974 he was elected as a Duval County Court judge. In 1984 he was appointed to the Circuit Court and retired in 1996.
John “Wimpy’” Sutton, 90, was a lifeguard, science teacher at Fletcher High School for 30 years, state champion swimming coach, school board member and charter boat captain. He received a certificate of merit from the Red Cross for rescuing six men and two women from drowning at Jacksonville Beach in 1947. Sutton was the architect of the Fletcher swimming program, coaching the Senators to two Class A state titles, 20 straight conference championships and 169 consecutive dual meet wins. Fletcher’s pool is named after him. Sutton also coached future Olympic gold medalist Ken Walsh. Sutton was inducted into the Jacksonville Sports Hall of Fame in 1977. Aside from swimming, he served a term on the Duval County School Board and co-founded the First Christian Church of the Beaches.
Banner Thomas, 63, was the original bass player of the Jacksonville-based rock band Molly Hatchet in 1974 and played on the band’s first four studio albums. The St. Johns County resident was with the band from 1974 to 1981. He later was a founding member of Big Engine, another Jacksonville-based band.
Robert Tulko, 70, had such a friendly charm and on-air enthusiasm when talking about cooking on WTLV TV-12 and WJXX TV-25 that he was known to residents as Chef Robert. He also served as the corporate chef for Winn-Dixie and was a goodwill ambassador for the company for 12 years. He worked in kitchens in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean and cooked aboard aircraft carriers and submarines. He also supplied edible Christmas ornaments for President Bill and Hillary Clinton’s personal Christmas tree.
James “Jim” Tullis, 75, was an insurance agent who served 12 years on the City Council where he became known for his involvement in zoning issues. Tullis fought for comprehensive rezoning and against extension of the runway at Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport. Tullis served on the council from 1985 until 1999, opening every campaign with an ice cream social. He also served as council president. In 1999 he filled the state House seat when then Rep. Jim King ran for the state Senate. Tullis worked to revitalize the Arlington area, served on the Renew Arlington Advisory Board and once chaired the Jacksonville Waterways Commission. In 1978 he joined the insurance agency started by his father.
Alec Patrick “Pat” Vaughan, 66, loved to minister, whether he was preaching a sermon or teaching kids the cello, bass, ukulele or recorder. It shone through when he was offering after-school classes on his own time, buying a homeless man a pair of shoes or performing with his wife and her school choirs at the White House, Disney World and Biltmore House. Even while gravely ill with cancer, Vaughan finished the school year at Atlantic Beach Elementary School and was named Teacher of the Year for 2016. Vaughan taught music for eight years in Duval County schools, pastored at Blair Road Baptist Church for four years, was on staff at North Jacksonville Baptist Church for 11 years and pastored at East 44th Street Baptist Church for 12 years.
Jerry Walsh, 75, was a dashing race-car driver and racing-parts businessman who was diagnosed last year with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He had established Racer Walsh Co., which sells racing parts for Fords, and the Decal Shop, which makes heat-resistant decals for race cars. Walsh had volunteered for an ALS study at the Mayo Clinic and donated his body to Mayo for studies of the disease.
Rodney “R.J.” J. Washington Sr., 54, founded Titus Harvest Dome Spectrum Church in 1985 with a handful of followers and grew it into a congregation of more than 8,000 people. The ministry traded in its apartment setting for a storefront and then built the massive Harvest Dome on Atlantic Boulevard in 2002. Washington found a wider audience in 1991 by broadcasting his ministry on Channel 47. It reached millions more when it was televised on popular cable networks such as BET. The impact of Washington’s ministry was evident as celebrities took to social media to acknowledge his passing. “We lost a good man & a dear friend!” NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders wrote on Twitter.
Robert L. Wears, 70, a professor in the department of emergency medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine - Jacksonville, was one of the country’s leading experts in patient safety. His research focused on human factors and included the study of team dynamics during emergency department shift changes. Wears also studied the impact of information technology on safety and quality in health-care organizations. He published at least 150 articles in medical journals and wrote about 20 book chapters detailing his work.
William Weathersbee, 88, was a football coach and long-time dean of boys at Raines High School. He was an educator in the Duval County school system for 31 years and owner of a landmark seafood restaurant and bar in American Beach for 23 years. To Terry LeCount, a former Gators quarterback and NFL wide receiver, he was Dean Weathersbee, the highly respected “sergeant at arms” who walked the hallways at Raines ensuring that order was maintained. Weathersbee began his career teaching physical education at Isaiah Blocker Junior High School and later Northwestern Junior-Senior High School. He joined the faculty of Raines when it opened in 1965.
Gerson Yesson, 88, debuted at age 17 with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra and went on to play on numerous nationwide television programs. He was also a piano soloist with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and Jacksonville Symphony. He produced nine piano solo albums for the National Federation of Music and numerous piano composition recordings. He was founding chairman of the music department at Jacksonville University in 1959 and founding chairman of the music department and professor of music at the University of North Florida from 1971 to 1998. He served on at least 20 different committees at UNF such as its Council of the Arts, which he founded and coordinated.
Donald Zell, 88, was a stockbroker and major supporter of Florida State College at Jacksonville whose Urban Resource Center was named after him. He and a partner also donated land for the North Campus. Zell served on the school’s board of trustees and on its foundation. He was a big supporter of college scholarships as he attended Georgia Tech on a Navy (now ROTC) scholarship. He was a marshal in the first Greater Jacksonville Open, now The Players Championship, and served in various roles for 52 years.
George Zellner Jr., 92, took the helm of George A. Zellner Insurance, founded by his father in 1921, and helped guide it to prominence as the 10th-largest insurance agency in Northeast Florida. When president of the Independent Insurance Association of Jacksonville, his achievements earned him Insurance Man of the Year. He also was a fighter pilot attached to the Western Training Command.
Sandy Strickland: (904) 359-4128