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Commentary | Indy champ taught young racer well

Go-kart racer Morgan Healey’s recent success would’ve made Dan Wheldon proud.

The Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School freshman, who was mentored by the late British race driver at Andersen RacePark in Palmetto, took second in the Rotax Junior Florida Karting Championship Series and was also voted Most Improved out of 200 drivers.

Wheldon, who had a home in St. Petersburg, was killed in last month’s Las Vegas IndyCar 300.

n Uh, oh! Nurse Amy Langford is about to hit the Big 4-0! The milestone lands Saturday for the Bayshore High alum.

n Firefighter Blair Pontious was promoted to engineer for the North River Fire District and will receive his fire science degree from Florida State College in December.

Cheers from Team Pontious.

n Alyssa Beard, a Miller Elementary fifth-grader and scoring wiz for the unbeaten (8-0) YMCA soccer Wolverines, is 11.

n Newlyweds Lindsay and Steven Hussey are honeymooning in Maui.


n When former Oakland Raider Henry Lawrence sang our national anthem prior to his old team’s Oct. 16 game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, he impressed many people with his poignant performance during pre-game ceremonies honoring the late Al Davis.

Among them was the wife of John Madden, the NFL Hall of Fame coach and icon.

Virginia Madden told her husband’s former right offensive tackle and three-time Super Bowl champion it was the finest rendition of the national anthem she had ever heard.

n Say it ain’t so! Dave Ott hit the Big 7-0!

Sounds like it was no big deal for the tireless Habitat for Humanity volunteer, who participates in a spin class almost daily.

Cheers from wife Sandy, daughter Brenda Kern and sons David and Dan Ott.

n Faye Blackstone’s posthumous induction into the county’s Agricultural Hall of Fame generated fond memories for all who knew and loved her.

Take Buddy Keen, a Parrish rancher whose family owns orange groves in Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties.

“One morning we were saddling horses in the barn and I accidentally hit her,” he recalled. “She came around and said, ‘Son, let me show you how to saddle a horse.’ ”

No fooling.

This was a woman who rode a horse for 90 years, was the featured act in Gene Autry’s Wild West Rodeo, and is enshrined in the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.

n Manatee High senior JEB Eldridge is 18. Cheers from dad Frank, sister Jessica and Leslie Marie.

n Overheard at Popi’s Place Too in Palmetto.

Waitress: “How’s your lunch?”

Customer: “Good, but I ordered applesauce. You gave me vegetables.”

Waitress: “Honey, somebody has to look out for you.”

Vin’s People, is by local columnist Vin Mannix. He can be reached at 745-7055, or