Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Another Florida Trip for the Record Books

I've been in South Florida for five days. Someone asked if I was here for business or pleasure. The answer is, neither. I had good friends of 25 years who were killed in a murder-suicide in Boca three or four weeks ago. I came this week for the memorial/wake/good-by party.

I've been through some pretty tough things in my life, but this get together was probably the toughest. I knew Scott and Shari before they were married. I watched their two kids grow up. Their daughter Kathleen lives next door to my friends who I usually stay with on my FL visits; so I've been able to stay in touch with her.

We had the opportunity to speak and I've included my comments at the bottom of this blog.

This was a trip to catch up with people I hadn't seen in a while. I kicked the week off with a lunch with my buddy Amy We ate at a Thai joint called Fah in Boca. I love the food at this place. It serves what is by far the best wonton soup I've ever had.

That night I had dinner with my buddy Les at Mario's. I had the baked spaghetti. Oh, man it was good.

Mmmmm....Carmel Cream Ale.
On Thursday I made my usual pilgrimage to the Due South brewery in Boynton Beach with my buddy Tim.

Tim is a private pilot and has been flying during my last two trips to FL. I sucked down three or four Carmel Cream Ales. This is some seriously good beer.

Beers and friends: It's what life is all about!

That evening I met up with a good friend who I hadn't seen in years. We worked at the Boca  News together 20 years ago. Mary is always up for a party and you just can't have too many friends like that. We spent about an hour and a half tipping back a few at Miller's Boca Ale House before she had some family obligation she had to run off to.

Later that night I hooked up with another Mary who I also worked with at The News. I see a lot of this Mary. She actually owns land in the Greenville area and is responsible for our little group of Floridians all moving there. I met her at a little Irish joint in Boca called The Wishing Well.

On Friday Amy and I went to our favorite Chinese restaurant. After lunch we tried out a place I walked into and right back out of on my last trip. I had never had a beer in the joint. It has an outdoor seating area with picnic tables that we sat at.

This is what a Delray Beach traffic jam looks like.

As we were sitting there we saw these two old ladies go tooling by in those little power scooter chairs. Some how we just found it hilarious. It was so Florida. We saw them again as we drove home. They had bags from Publix; from there to where we spotted them last was more than two miles.

My friends Margaret and DeeDee at the Hawn happy hour.
Friday happy hour was at the Hawns'. Several friends zeroed in on their home for drinks and munchies.

My friend Jackie who until Saturday I hadn't seen in over 10 years.
At the little memorial/wake/good-by party, I managed to see all sorts of people. Many of these people I see with some regularity; others I see rarely.

The party moved to The Brickyard: Connie, Mary and Michelle.
Under better circumstances, this would have been a blast. Something about everyone standing around crying that puts a damper on things.

My friends Michelle and Richard.
I was grateful for the open bar. A little fortification was just what the doctor ordered.

Today I am sitting by Amy's pool editing photos, blogging and -- surprise, surprise -- drinking beer. My flight tomorrow isn't until around 5 p.m. I'm going to try to change it to one of the many earlier flights between West Palm and Atlanta.

This will be my last trip to FL for a while. My friends here will just have to soldier on without me.

My remarks at the memorial/wake/good-by party:

There is no way to sugarcoat what brings us here today. It was tragedy.

We can agonize over it, talk about it and those of us who still pray can pray about it; but in the end all we are left with is grief, confusion and anger.

I wish there was some way to put a positive spin on it. I wish I could utter some platitude that would make all of us all feel a little better. But I've got nothing.

My name is Russ Heaps, and I am one of the many Boca Newsers here today. I know that sounds a bit like I'm addressing an AA meeting. Let me say here and now that I am ununapoligetic and unreformed Newser. Being a Newser was something like being a Marine: Once a Newser always a Newser. I can't describe what that's like to those who never lived it. It was simply the best years of my working life. The best comparison I can come up with is my college fraternity experience. Although I eventually left the News, the bonds of friendship created there survived and flourished in the intervening decades. Shari and Scott were part of that family.

I was friends with Shari and Scott for 25 years; there are a lot of people in this room who were friends with them a lot longer than that. We knew them as people you could always count on no matter the need: help, advice or just throwing a happy hour, they could always be counted on.

Hospitality and friendship were defined by any evening in their home. I was always surprised when looking around their house that there wasn't a framed, needlepoint sign that read: Let the good times roll. Because they always did.

Many of us knew them before they were a family. We shared in the joy of Shari being pregnant with Kathleen and then David. Like Dutch aunts and uncles, we watched these kids grow up. And it's really for them that we are here today.

Although we can't wipe away their grief, or even do anything to lessen it, we are here to show them that they aren't alone in it.

Because, like them, many of us suffered a double loss that day. In a heartbeat, two wonderful and cherished friends gone.

It has been difficult for me to think that whenever we get some of the old Boca News gang together in the future, they won't be there. But then I realized that they will be there in our shared memories and stories.

As they are here today.

To our best memories….


  1. Eloquent testimony Russ. It was one of those situations you can't just gloss over with lame homilies. I am still angry more than anything. I'll say no more, but I think you know what I mean.

  2. Thanks, Skip. Glad so many of the old gang could make it. I think everyone is at least a little angry.

  3. Russ, that was very nicely done.

    1. Hey, Mark

      Thanks. Wish you could have made it. Mary did a fantastic job with it. I think we gave them a pretty good send off -- all things considered.