Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

On the Town

St. Petersburg Yacht Club celebrates centennial


Members of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club have been celebrating their centennial for months now, but the official 100th anniversary gala was a party for the ages.

Commodore Bob Johnson and his wife, Carol, got there early to welcome Elizabeth Wright, who arrived with her daughter Nancy Thomas. Mrs. Wright was born in 1909, the year the club organized. She celebrates her own centennial later this month.

Given the size of the crowd, it felt as though every one of the 2,732 members were present, but membership director Mary Pontone estimated the guest list at somewhere above 1,500.

Nancy Vildibill and Lynda Lind did much of the preliminary planning for the membership event, then praised the phenomenal execution of all the club's staff, including manager Robert Lovejoy, catering manager Shannon Chafin and executive chef Matthew Tracy.

“When I see what management did for this thing — they just were superb," Vildibill said. "I think we have the best club in the world anyway."

And what a party it was, spread through every square inch of the yacht club, from the lobby to the lounge to the ballroom. Photo displays detailed the club's history, from Olympic champions to social events, and there was abundant food and drink and live music in all of the rooms.

The dress code for the evening offered several options: period costumes, black tie or yacht club formal (navy blue blazers, white trousers, white shirts, black ties, white socks and white shoes). Many former commodores wore their trademark jackets.

There's more to come, and members eagerly await a published history. It is a labor of love for Jim Watters, the overall chairman for the centennial committee, and Bill Ballard, a past commodore, who is editor of the book. Club historian Barbara Watson Clapp is its photo editor; Tom Pierce is the copy editor; and Gina Bowden-Pierce is the page designer. All have spent countless volunteer hours on the publication, which should be completed by the end of the year.

Coming up

Nearly 15 years ago, retired hotel executive Jeff Fortune and his late wife, Joan, a retired lawyer, met retired educators Bob and Barbara Anders and began trying to figure out how to establish a school for at-risk children in St. Petersburg.

They knew about youngsters with early promise who were being shifted from place to place, who had no books, newspapers or other reading materials, who lacked support from their families and the school system. And they hoped to have a positive effect on their lives.

After extensive research and dogged fundraising and recruiting other volunteers, they established Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg, which opened in 1997 with boys in grades 5 and 6. The private school extended enrollment until it had boys in grades 5 through 8, then opened to fifth-grade girls in 2000. Academy Prep now offers classes for boys and girls in grades 5 through 8.

The school's press material says that 95 percent of its graduates are in high school, college or in the work force. A Tampa expansion opened in 2003.

"There's no magic in these walls," Fortune said in a recent interview at the St. Petersburg campus. "It's all about adults putting in the time to assist kids to grow up."

Fifth grade, he said, is "just before children's behavior becomes fixed." Academy Prep offers youngsters the opportunity to have goals and helps them to achieve them.

Fortune and his wife, Sherry, spend much of their time in the Bahamas these days, but they expect to be in St. Petersburg on Saturday when his continued support and commitment will be recognized with the inaugural Jeffrey L. Fortune Dream Maker Award. The presentation will be made at the Evening of Dreams fundraiser for Academy Prep of St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg Yacht Club celebrates centennial 10/03/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 3, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.