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Lending a helping hand to butterflies


The 77 senior citizens at Summerfield Retirement Residence on 26th Street West receive deliveries regularly.

Flowers. Candy. Toiletries. Greeting cards.

But last month Dell Trawick got two overnight packages that are still the talk of the place.

Try 44 Monarch butterflies.

“It was the most unusual thing,” said the 102-year-old Hopkinsville, Ky., native. “Maybe I’ve started something.”

Her great-grandson’s kindergarten class at Fieldston Lower School, Bronx, N.Y., was exploring the four stages of butterfly metamorphosis in October.

When the cycle was complete, however, the class realized it would be too cold to release the Monarchs.

Thomas Venarde had an idea — send the butterflies to “Great Gran Dell” in Florida.

“It’s warm weather down there, and I knew that would be better for the butterflies,” the 5-year-old said from his Manhattan home.

When Thomas’s dad, David, called Trawick, she said go right ahead. “It was so fascinating to think it was possible to ship them,” she said.

No problem, said Trawick’s daughter.

Raising Monarchs has been a family pastime for the last three generations.

“Those things are tough,” said Dell Venarde, 77, in Wilmington, Del.

“Mom thought it was the silliest thing shipping them down, but when it happened she was really taken by it. Who wouldn’t be?”

Folks at Summerfield sure were.

“We’ve had shipments of many different things from great-grandsons before, but never butterflies,” said Pam Green, the admissions director.

Still, Trawick feared the worst after the first FedEx overnight package arrived, containing 22 butterflies in 11 lightly sealed envelopes.

Their release was planned for the 1.3-acre wetlands on the property.

“They looked dead when I opened them,” Trawick said. “I suppose it was the overnight trip. They were folded just like somebody would go to sleep. I shook the envelopes, and I guess that woke them up.”

The Monarchs slowly emerged, jumped onto Trawick’s hands and lap, then began to fly, according to Green.

“It was truly amazing,” she said. “They were all alive.”

So were the second batch after they arrived.

“I knew they’d be OK,” her great-grandson said.

Trawick’s daughter said the Monarchs will stay here through the winter, migrate north in spring, lay eggs and die.

Meantime, “The Butterfly Lady” is enjoying her celebrity.

Besides the satisfaction of giving her great-grandson’s class project a maternal assist, what pleased Trawick was their thank you note, signed in crayon.

She wouldn’t mind doing it again, either.

“If it makes children happy, why not?” Trawick said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at Please include a phone number for verification.