Sunday, October 17, 2021

Best of Boca 2021: COVID & In Memoriam

Written by James Biagiotti, Marie Speed, John Thomason & our merry band of pundits and pranksters

It’s been a year like no other, but our town and our region kept ticking along, making new strides in local development, innovative ideas and the promise of a bright future. Here’s a roundup of the people, places and possibilities that defined 2020-2021—and point to great days ahead.

AWARDS FOR COVID CREATIVITY: WHO DID WHAT WELL IN THE FACE OF CRISIS

  • Old School Square initiates pod seating.
  • Oceans 234 makes a pivot early on after restaurants are ordered closed, becoming a togo market for food, produce and household staples, and the elusive paper goods.
  • SA made face shields.
  • Mecca Farms started delivering boxed produce directly to the consumer.
  • Rodney Mayo launched a charity to feed laid-off hospitality workers and people in need.
  • Schools got breakfast and lunches to kids who needed them.

FEVER DREAMS: POST-COVID RUMINATIONS

Things We Will Miss About COVID

✓ Sweatpants for work.

✓ A tank of gas that lasts three weeks.

✓ No events, luncheons, black-tie dinners or Monday staff meetings.

✓ Social distancing. We loved it.

✓ No bar tabs.

Trends we hope will continue

✓ Grocery delivery.

✓ To-go cocktails.

✓ Curbside delivery. For everything.

✓ Checking in on old friends; Zoom reunions

✓ Working from home some days.

✓ Outdoor dining.

Things we hope never come back

✓ High heels.

✓ The elbow bump.

✓ Neckties.

✓ Virtual concerts.

✓ Close talkers.

COVID CASUALTIES

  • Strikes
  • Mai-Kai
  • Ann Taylor
  • Zinburger
  • Sweets From Heaven

THINGS WE DID RIGHT IN 2020

The city set the bar for proactive measures and communication output in terms of COVID response by leading the way independently before other cities and the county when it came to initial closings and mask mandates; Boca was the first to declare a state of emergency, close nonessential businesses, and issue stay-at-home orders.

TOP ISSUES WE ARE STILL DEALING WITH

  1. People not wearing masks when asked to
  2. No staffing available for restaurants and hospitality business
  3. Sparse inventory in stores
  4. Escalating housing costs
  5. Escalating paper goods and construction costs
  6. Lack of workforce housing
  7. I-95
  8. Hotels waiting for the return of business travel

IN MEMORIAM

CHARLIE SIEMON

charles siemon

Charlie Siemon was a giant in Boca Raton—and its institutional memory. He helped to plan the city as it grew, from defining developments like Mizner Park, and putting the city on the map as an artistic powerhouse with the Mizner Park Amphitheater and the Festival of the Arts.

JAY VAN VECHTEN

A public relations guru, determined advocate for disabled people and beloved member of the Boca Raton community, Jay Van Vechten will be remembered most fondly for founding the city’s Boating and Beach Bash for People with Disabilities, the largest free event for disabled people in the country.

IRA GELB

This renowned cardiologist from New York would turn his retirement in Boca Raton into an opportunity to transform the city’s medical bona fides. When he joined FAU’s Continuing Science Faculty in 1993, the university provided only four courses for just 16 students; within a year of Gelb’s leadership, FAU had enrolled 100 pre-medical students, eventually paving the way for the establishment of the Schmidt College of Medicine.

HOWARD SCHNELLENBERGER

Before he was the father of FAU Football, Howard Schnellenberger was the championship-winning coach who helped lead the Miami Dolphins to its undefeated 1972 season and elevated the University of Miami’s football program to a national powerhouse in the 1980s. But he’ll always be remembered in Boca Raton for building the FAU Owls football program from the ground up and coaching the team during its first seven years.

SHAWN FRIEDKIN

Friedkin lost the use of his legs in a car accident at age 27, and proceeded to become one of Boca Raton’s most passionate disability advocates. He formed the nonprofit Stand Among Friends as a fundraising and research organization for individuals with disabilities. His partnership with FAU led to the opening of the Disability Center on the campus of the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. Though he lost his seven-year battle with cancer at age 56, his wife and co-founder of SAF, Lisa Friedkin, vows to “carry on Shawn’s legacy.”

JAMES RANDI

Late of Plantation, James Randi spent more than four decades as a magician and escapologist. During his time as “The Amazing Randi,” he accrued two Guinness records: for encasing himself in a block of ice for 55 minutes and for locking himself in an underwater casket for an hour and 44 minutes. He would remake himself in his post-performance career as a skeptical investigator of the pseudosciences, ultimately launching the influential James Randi Educational Foundation to support his research.

JOHN E. SHUFF

John Shuff started JES Media and its flagship publication Boca Raton magazine with his wife, Margaret Mary, in 1981, having moved from New York to Boca Raton after a diagnosis of MS. A strong believer in both quality design and content as well as community involvement, Shuff became a community leader and expanded JES Media to include Delray magazine, Mizner’s Dream for the Resort, The Chamber annual and Worth Avenue magazine. In 1989, he launched Salt Lake magazine and later, Utah Style & Design and Utah Bride and Groom.

JAN MCART

Officially designated the “First Lady of Florida’s Musical Theatre” by two governor’s decrees, McArt is chiefly responsible for establishing live theatre in Boca. Her Royal Palm Dinner Theater became an institution for nearly 25 years, giving performers like Ariana Grande their start. Later in life, McArt linked up with Lynn University to launch a New Play Reading series and boost the private college’s performing-arts pedigree.

This story is from the July/August 2021 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.

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