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Caring people respond in time of need

To a great big bunch of caring people out there, Alvena Pryor sends a love note, "because there's just no way I can thank all those people enough," she says.

On April 1, 1990, Mrs. Pryor (then Mrs. Winstead) was selling Pepsis and barbecue tickets at an Easter Seal fund-raiser at Kokomo's at Tierra Verde.

"I got this excruciating pain," she said. "I sat under a tree, and the pain didn't subside."

A fellow volunteer called an ambulance, and her year-and-a-half odyssey of hospitals and surgeries and recuperations began.

Words like acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis, peritonitis, abscesses, ileostomy and ileostomy reversal came at regular intervals. Amid all of this, she and her husband were divorced. She moved from Tierra Verde to Carlton Arms, and then to Lynn Lake Arms.

There were surgeries in St. Petersburg and at Shands Teaching Hospital at the University of Florida. There were four different hospitals and teams of doctors involved.

Mrs. Pryor's three children and her friends never quit. They visited, sent tons of flowers and cards, did laundry, brought meals. And when there was plenty for dinner, they brought breakfast. They stayed the night, gave a baby shower for her first grandchild, and drove a van to Gainesville to transport her home.

When her insurance company stalled payment of her bills, alleging a "pre-existing condition," her Maximo Presbyterian Church set up a fund for her.

"How can I possibly thank all these people?" Mrs. Pryor asked. She now works part time and is doing nicely, although she said she feels like "a walking drugstore."

Those who helped her include Kappa Alpha Theta alumnae; League to Aid Retarded Children; Medical Auxiliary and Medical Society members; Racquettes, Lakettes, Pointsets and the Paradise Ladies tennis groups; and the Century 21 Spinning Wheel office staff, as well as countless medical workers.

The Black Echo (Little, Brown, $19.95) is Michael Connelly's first novel. Take note, not only because of its good reviews from the New York Times and People magazine, but because the author has local ties.

Connelly is married to the former Linda McCaleb, Lakewood High graduate and daughter of Myra McCaleb of St. Petersburg. The Connellys met when both were journalism students at the University of Florida.

A Fort Lauderdale native, Connelly got the background for his novel from 12 years of crime reporting, first for the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun Sentinel and then for the Los Angeles Times, where he now works.

Ever since a story appeared recently about Seminole resident Samuel Skemp's lost U.S. Military Academy ring surfacing after 39 years, lost jewelry stories have been breaking out like measles.

One of the most unusual stories came from Dorcas Holt of Clearwater. She reports that her son, Robert Fowler, a Dunedin High grad, lost his 1967 Citadel ring while diving off Guam during the Vietnam war.

Seventeen years later, a man diving off Guam found the ring on a piece of coral rock. Like the West Point ring, it had its owner's name and graduating year inscribed in it, and the finder got it back to Fowler through the Citadel.

Eileen Gilmore Slater, who has been in the day-care business for 22 years, says, "These little children are doing lots of things a lot earlier." She attributes this to television.

But Mrs. Slater doesn't rely on television to entertain her group of five. She believes music hath charms to soothe the savage "tot."

"I think I would almost put music above reading," she says, although she works with both. "You can change the tempo of things with music. You can distract, turn attitudes around with it." She likes using rain sticks, and has children as young as 3 playing the piano recorder.

She also has a garden patch where children can grow vegetables, pick them, help her cook and eat them.