For many of us, fishing is in our blood. It has the power to bring people together, no matter where we're from or where we're going.
I joined the Floridasportsman fishing forum back in 2000. It was a place where like-minded people on the west coast of Florida could interact online, sharing fishing stories and techniques. Many forum regulars would get together and expand their online talks into real-life friendships on and off the water.
One such regular was Capt. Anthony Leverett, known to many as FlatsRunna. From the time "Da Runna" began posting his fishing reports on the forums, his infectious smile appeared, showcasing his daily catches. No matter what trip he would venture out on, he would return to share that his day on the water was extremely enjoyable. This positive attitude started for Leverett years before.
"I met Anthony when he was 17 years old in 1997 at Marine Surplus. Anthony was fiberglassing the bottom of his 12-foot jon boat. I lent him a hand, and we became friends," said Capt. Vern Bratvold of Sea Pro Sportfishing.
"I remember taking him offshore for his first time for grouper and seeing nothing but a huge smile all day. From that moment on Anthony wanted to be the first mate on my charter boat. He had what I was looking for in a mate, and he was a fast learner. Anthony fished with me for more than 10 years. He was the best first mate I have ever had."
Offshore fishing became Anthony's love. During his early offshore days, one of his favorite types of fishing was for a species many of us try to avoid, further endearing him to the fishing community.
"His favorite type of fishing was for grunts!" said Capt. Nate Weissman, who met Leverett in 2002. "He'd go out and slay grunts. He did become quite the grouper digger in the past several years, though. Anthony's demeanor when fishing was the same all the time no matter what type he was doing: positive, outgoing, happy and jubilant."
Leverett turned the love of offshore fishing into a career, acquiring his Captain's License and running Kingdom Business Charters. He planned on expanding in 2014 to run more trips and better provide for his family.
As life works in mysterious ways, Capt. Leverett fell sick just more than a week ago and soon lost his battle to sickle cell anemia and a MRSA infection this past week. He was 34, leaving behind wife Di-Anna and five children. Much as this tight-knit community comes together in times of happiness, Leverett's passing has brought together many friends and acquaintances who knew him as an exceptional person who must never be forgotten. The viewing on Friday afternoon brought out hundreds of friends.
"Anthony has had many challenges in life, starting with his health," Capt. Noel Shaw said. "Having had sickle cell since being tested as an infant has been an uphill battle, but one he faced without complaint or an expectation of sympathy. He loved his life, his family, his fishing, and his passion to be alive showed through in the smile that never left his face."
In one of Leverett's reports from this past August, he left these words: "I truly believe if you surround yourself with positive people, you will not only be a positive person but the vibe will also be correct."
He asked that his ashes be spread over his favorite snapper spot in the Gulf of Mexico. This spring, his fishing friends are anticipating a memorial tournament with proceeds going to his family.
Anyone who would like to know more about supporting his family emotionally and financially during this difficult time may contact me at email@example.com.