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Van Wezel Foundation Gala a swank, ‘Unforgettable’ affair

Sunday night’s Van Wezel Foundation Gala was summed up by songstress Natalie Cole — it was “Unforgettable.”

Of course, that is the diva’s signature hit, first made popular by her father, Nat King Cole. She wound up the evening with a crowd-pleasing concert in the performing arts hall.

Gala patrons started with a pre-show cocktail party, dinner and auction held in the Grand Foyer. Always-elegant Chris Pfahler chaired the event, sparkling in a purple dress as a nod to the Van Wezel’s distinctive paint job. And, proving that he truly loves his wife, Dr. Ken Pfahler willingly put on his party shoes after running the Sarasota Grouper Marathon earlier in the day.

The committee honored past chairs, including Louise Appleton, Bea Friedman, Carolyn Michel and Harvey Rothenberg. Unfortunately, Louise was under the weather and unable to attend, but Bea enjoyed cocktails with Katharine Skinner at a table on the terrace.

Lakewood Ranch’s Mike Martella is the chairman of the foundation board, and his wife, Kathy, was on the gala committee. As head of Boar’s Head Provisions, Mike stepped up to be the presenting sponsor. Longtime foundation board member Mike Pender and his wife, Marie, also put on their Sunday-best formal clothes for the fun.

Others seen in the crowd were board member Shaun and Wendy Merriman, Mote Marine board chair Judy Graham, and Jay and Veronica Brady.

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