Thursday, February 22, 2018
News Roundup

Gulfport's Blueberry Patch founder Dallas Bohrer dies at 81

GULFPORT — The celebrants trekked in a half-hour before sunset. Some carried coolers; a few had bug spray.

They entered a deep back yard strewn with kitsch and clutter, found art and discarded objects that might be made into art, strings of colored lights between trees and hints of 1970s nostalgia.

Regulars call the Blueberry Patch "Florida's oldest surviving artists retreat." The sight can overwhelm new visitors, who describe it in the group's literature as "Alice in Wonderland meets Tim Leary," or "like being inside of a Christmas tree looking out."

This crowd would have showed up in any event on Monday, the 37th anniversary of the Patch. But on this night, celebration mingled with mourning. Dallas Bohrer, an enigmatic devotee of numerology who founded the retreat on July 7, 1977, had died the day before in a nursing home. He was 81.

"He lived a very unconventional sort of counterculture life," said longtime friend Mary Anna Eaton. "He wasn't a baby boomer. He wasn't even part of the Beat Generation. He was more of an outsider."

Mr. Bohrer nurtured dozens of obsessions, the fruits of which line pathways inside a tall gate surrounding the former nursery at 4923 20th Ave. S. Old signs and strings of beads hang everywhere. He cut up beer cans and folded them into stars. An alligator made of pull tops from cat food cans lurks near the stage, not far from the spray-painted shell of an MG with rainwater pooled on the hood.

He loved sake and marijuana, according to Eaton and Dee Wilson, another friend who later became his health care surrogate.

As for dislikes, the word "hate" provoked a sharp reaction, said Ken Carman, 63, a musician better known as "Spirit."

"If you said, 'I hate it when it rains,' he would say, 'Why would you put a word like that into the universe? I would prefer it if you used a different word,' " Carman said.

Dallas Laverne Bohrer was born in Dalhart, Texas, in 1933, one of an oil field worker's seven kids. A football standout, he won a scholarship to Colorado State University but lost it when doctors discovered a heart murmur.

For a decade or so he tried a traditional lifestyle with a wife and children. He managed stores in Denver and Wichita, Kan. Along the way, a 3-year-old daughter drowned in a swimming pool. The marriage ended in divorce.

"I think (the death) gave him a lot of empathy for others," said Eaton, 61.

For a time, Mr. Bohrer slept on a four-poster bed on the edge of a canyon in Arizona. "Everything he ever owned was rained on at one time or another," Eaton said. He owned an art gallery and studio in Phoenix, where he began to hold large gatherings.

Mr. Bohrer moved to St. Petersburg in the mid 1970s. He started the Blueberry Patch on July 7, 1977, at 5890 31st St. S. For several years in the 1980s he also leased the Merry Pier at Eighth Avenue in Pass-a-Grille, where he ran concessions and fought with the city over back rent and other issues.

He held a memorable Patch party at his residence on Pass-a-Grille Way on Aug. 8, 1988, that drew 200 people ("the Eights," he called it). At his behest, 11 people held mirrors to the sky "to tune in to whatever it is that is there that can bring us some peace," Mr. Bohrer said at the time.

The Patch moved a couple of times over the years. Mr. Bohrer finally bought the 20th Avenue S property in 2003. That same year the city closed it over code violations, including dilapidated structures, noise levels from the bands that played there and various fire hazards.

Volunteers fixed the problem, and the Patch has improved relations with its neighbors, including Mayor Sam Henderson, who lives a few blocks away and called Mr. Bohrer "an excellent guy to know."

"They had issues in the past," Henderson said. "All of those things got resolved, and they've actually been a good partner with the city and a great asset to the community."

In 2012, after being nominated by Henderson, Mr. Bohrer won the Spirit of Gulfport award. In December, the government granted the Patch organization, Sharevival, nonprofit status.

That could not have happened before because Mr. Bohrer did not want to give anyone his Social Security number. He also refused to deal with banks.

"He didn't want the authorities to know his business," said Wilson, 62.

Mr. Bohrer had not been involved in the day-to-day operations of the Patch for some time. Doctors diagnosed him with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He had lived in a Pinellas Park nursing home for four years, and decorated his room with beads, stuffed animals, buttons, roosters, and the cards and letters he received.

On Monday, a couple of members spoke in his memory. Then musicians took the stage, as they do on the first, seventh, 11th and 22nd days of each month. A scattered audience in patio chairs took it all in, responding with the occasional flicker of a lighter held aloft.

A little after 11 p.m. a couple of dozen celebrants formed an "Ohm circle," which is like a group hug, only louder. The air smelled like beer, sweat and other fragrances.

Comments
Police seek machete-wielding suspect in Plant City robbery

Police seek machete-wielding suspect in Plant City robbery

PLANT CITY — Police are searching for a suspect who, armed with a machete, robbed a Plant City convenience store on Tuesday.Police say the suspect arrived at the Circle K convenience store station at 1514 Alexander St. S around 2:50 a.m. and demanded...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Lindsey Vonn scatters grandfather’s ashes near downhill course

Lindsey Vonn scatters grandfather’s ashes near downhill course

JEONGSEON, South Korea — Lindsey Vonn came to South Korea with the goal of taking home an Olympic medal and leaving something even more special behind. She did both. The American ski great said Thursday she recently scattered some of the ashe...
Updated: 21 minutes ago

Tampa police release name of man killed in hit-and-run on Adamo Drive

TAMPA — Police have released the name of a man struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Adamo Drive early Wednesday.Christopher Magdic, 41, of Tampa was walking west in the eastbound lanes of Adamo Drive about 4:15 a.m. when was struck by an unkn...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Dunedin man seriously injured in motorcycle crash

Dunedin man seriously injured in motorcycle crash

OLDSMAR — A Dunedin man was seriously injured in a high-speed motorcycle crash early Thursday morning.According to deputies, 37-year-old Justin Kaune was riding southbound on Bayside Boulevard around 2:30 a.m. when he struck a cement median and lost ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay area’s population projected to grow to 3.1 million this year

Tampa Bay area’s population projected to grow to 3.1 million this year

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay area’s population, already the largest of any metropolitan area in the state, is projected to grow from 3 million last year to 3.1 million this year, and to 3.3 million over the next five years.That growth is expected to bring c...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rev. Billy Graham to lie in honor at U.S. Capitol

Rev. Billy Graham to lie in honor at U.S. Capitol

MONTREAT, N.C. — U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan says the Rev. Billy Graham’s body will lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for two days next week. Ryan says he’s inviting members of Congress and the public to pay their respects to the man called "...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Clearwater police chief forms special unit for repeat offenders

Clearwater police chief forms special unit for repeat offenders

CLEARWATER — Police Chief Dan Slaughter started this month a new unit to target repeat offenders and nuisance properties.The Special Enforcement Unit consists of six police officers and a sergeant from within the department to focus on the small grou...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Top 5 at noon: Trump endorses raising minimum age to 21 for more weapons; about those annoying popups on your phones; and more

Top 5 at noon: Trump endorses raising minimum age to 21 for more weapons; about those annoying popups on your phones; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:TRUMP ENDORSES RAISING MINIMUM AGE TO 21 FOR MORE WEAPONSPresident Donald Trump endorsed stricter gun-control measures today, including raising the minimum age to 21 for possessing a broader ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Hillsborough County inmate dies after becoming unresponsive at Falkenburg Road jail

Hillsborough County inmate dies after becoming unresponsive at Falkenburg Road jail

TAMPA — A 54-year-old inmate died Saturday after she became unresponsive at the Falkenburg Road Jail, authorities said.Tammie Castro was alert in the jail infirmary when jail officials called for paramedics at 3:34 a.m. but became unresponsive within...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Work finally starts on downtown St. Petersburg’s newest hotel

Work finally starts on downtown St. Petersburg’s newest hotel

ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly a decade after it was first proposed, a new boutique hotel in downtown St. Petersburg is finally under construction.Workers are preparing the foundation of the Galaxy, an 11-story, 92-room hotel at Third Avenue N and First Str...
Updated: 3 hours ago