Mannix About Manatee: Retirement? Where have the years gone?

March 30, 2014 

Staff Photographer

Longtime Bradenton Herald journalist and columnist Vin Mannix shares some of his favorite stories with characteristic aplomb during his retirement celebration at the Bradenton Herald on Friday. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

PAUL VIDELA — pvidela@bradenton.com Buy Photo

The signs have been coming for some time now.

The fishing rods, a gift from friends.

The business postcard about my eligibility for Medicare come October.

Then there was the phone conversation with a former colleague.

"Hey," she said. "Aren't you about ready for retirement?"

There was a pause on my end.

"Yeah," I said. "I can see it from here."

That day is here.

Monday I am officially retired.

Wow.

Forty years in this crazy business, including the last 16-plus years here.

Sixteen-plus wonderful years, too.

There's more where that came from, hopefully, but yours truly is stepping away from the daily grind for a while.

What's next?

Well, since I made my decision last January, Sherri's "Honey-Do List" has grown exponentially.

I ought to be done by October.

"Don't count on it," my father-in-law joked.

Seriously, I'm going to cool out, read and relax, take in some Marauders' games, try out those fishing rods, and catch up with friends I haven't seen for too long.

Where has the time gone?

It doesn't seem that long ago I was driving across State Road 70 for the first time to my new job, Boz Scaggs' "Jojo" cranking on the pickup's console tape deck.

I'll never forget the gorgeous sunset as I passed through the solitary flashing light at Brighton where the road sign reads:

Bradenton 97 miles.

It was a good omen.

Whenever friends back in Boca Raton asked me what Bradenton was like, I told them it's the kind of town where the big deal is still the high school football game on Friday night.

It's a caring community with a big heart that will embrace you if you respect it, a community with a rich history predating the Civil War, a history that behooves you to understand, appreciate and love.

Yet, when it came time to take on an issue within the community, I called it like I saw it and let the chips fall where they may.

There are so many of you who educated me

about our hometown, and it includes several folks who have passed on whom I remember most fondly:

Paul Bartley.

Jane Evers.

Jim Forssell.

Pat Geyer.

Rona Livingston.

Norma Lloyd.

Ed Price.

Seymore Sailes.

Alcee Taylor.

Every time I smell that funky citrus aroma wafting from Tropicana, I remember Sailes' words: "That's the smell of money."

I've truly enjoyed telling the stories about the people in this community.

Some that immediately come to mind:

The World War II veteran who managed to get the wing of his B-17, downed over Belgium, into Savannah's magnificent Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum.

The surviving players from the Bradenton Nine Devils, the Negro baseball team that could really play the game.

The New York City firefighter who cheated death on 9/11 only to spend weeks searching for the brothers he'd had coffee with that terrible morning.

You've shared my family's stories, too.

My nephew Michael, who was diagnosed with leukemia? He's in high school now.

My nephew Brendan, whose foot had to be amputated after a car accident, is now skydiving like his big brother, Kevin, who just did a combat tour in Afghanistan with the Army Special Forces.

My mother's passing and me spreading her ashes on mighty Benbulben, Yeats' beloved mountain in Sligo, Ireland.

The mountain where I proposed to Sherri.

There were the births, birthdays and anniversaries around the community.

The kids in the service.

The kids on the high school championship team.

The kid playing ball at some distant college.

The kid who won the spelling bee.

Those were the building bricks of my relationship with you, dear reader.

I laughed with you.

I grieved with you.

I debated with you.

I celebrated with you.

I danced with your daughters when they were Sugar 'Canes.

What fun times.

Like helping Sean Murphy start the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Holmes Beach.

Making it onto the Shake Pit marquee, the heartbeat of the community.

Emceeing "Yes, We Can DANCE," the scholastic dance team showcase that gets better every year.

I'm going to miss Ed Dick ending his phone calls with, "Be blessed."

Eddie Shannon reminding me, "Mannix, you missed my birthday again."

Lawton Smith, all fired up at Council's, leaving me a message that goes something like, "Wait till you hear what those @#$%&! on that school board are trying to do to Manatee now. Call me."

Now it's onto retirement.

Or as Bob Delaney said, my "transition."

So what if I never won a Pulitzer.

My prize was seeing something I wrote posted on your refrigerator door.

It was my privilege.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, has been about people and issues in Manatee County. He'll still see you around town. He's the one in the Hawaiian shirt. Twitter: @vinmannix

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