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Sickle cell disease benefit soars to record attendance

Mary Murph never had a chance to relax at her own party.

The president of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of St. Petersburg dashed around the ballroom of the St. Petersburg Bayfront Hilton most of Sunday evening, greeting patrons of the jazz bash that benefited the agency.

Her committee was equally busy, among them Rose Barkley, Daphne Porter, Louise Davis, Lula Love, Manita Moultrie, Margaret Gilliam and Barbara Griffin, who brought her mother, Bette Wimbish.

The group has watched the annual fund-raiser grow for six years, to this year's record crowd of 400. The format has grown each year, too, with a seated dinner and fashion show added to the lineup of great local jazz performed throughout the evening.

Enjoying the pre-dinner concert by Al Downing, Ernie Calhoun and the Soul Brothers were Joyce and Robert Spells, Ernestine Adams, Joy Williams, Michael Hughes and Stacey Clayton, Bruce Chapman, Mildred People, James R. Harvey, Carolyn Smith, Tangela Murph, Bessie Kirnes, Kelvin and Latonna Kirnes Lamar, Florida Power executive Kevan Dean, Edyth James with her mother, Adella Golden, James and LeAnn Elliot, George and Pearl Richards, and Charles and Leslie Shorter.

Insurance executive Naomi Nesbitt filled her table with family: sister Myrtle Williams with her daughter Evyan and son-in-law Kevin Gordon, brother Jesse Nesbitt Jr. and father Jesse Nesbitt Sr.

Amid dozens of glamorously dressed women, standouts were Terri Murph in a pewter brocade pants suit and Joyce Thornton in a peach crepe evening suit draped with long ropes of satin cording.

Most notable in the fashion show organized by Janice Teemer was the opening group of at least a dozen raincoats accessorized with hats too beautiful to wear in the rain.

The event was also a reminder of the seriousness of sickle cell disease. Board member Dr. Frederic Guerrier compared the level of pain during a sickle cell crisis to that of a heart attack. Vickie Quintana and Tia Pack, representatives of Bayfront/St. Anthony Health Care, announced new procedures recently introduced to Bayfront's emergency room that will expedite treatment for sickle cell patients.

"Every day of the year," said Museum of Fine Arts director Michael Milkovich, "we want you to know how marvelous and valuable you are to us. Today, we're doing it officially."

With that, Milkovich greeted more than 200 volunteers honored at a luncheon Monday at the museum.

Joining him was Evelyn Wilty, volunteer and hospitality coordinator, who covered tables with flower-sprigged cloths and Clare and Charley Williams' centerpieces of toy wheelbarrows filled with gloxinias.

In the group were Joan Malone, Elizabeth Thurston, Betty Wright with daughter Nancy Thomas, Elsa Tugman, Clare Trice, Carol Upham, Hope Andruss, Stuart Society president Greta Myers, Virginia Smith, Peggy Botts, Mary Perry, Marlys Cox, Ruth Friedman, Carolyn Bower, Betty Bowley, Edie Lyster, Marilyn Armstrong, Karin Edmiston, Evelyn Queen, Zeta Bobbitt, Edith Jeffries, Mary Jean Wall, Janet Pardee, Joan Van Middlesworth, Vicki Fox and Josephine O'Brien.

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