The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.
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Second Soiree a solid success
Posted Jun 8, 2012 by TBO.com
Updated Jun 9, 2012 at 12:48 AM
How would you like to wake up in the morning and face a day of launching and managing major amateur sporting events, like a fun and games job?
Most of us would love it, a dream come true, and that is what the Tampa Bay Sports Commission precisely does. Headed by the capable, running all of the time, Rob Higgins, the organization is public and private. “Their mission is to attract, promote and /or organize major amateur sporting events, and grassroots youth sports programs, that foster the ongoing development and quality of life for the entire Tampa Bay Area. With a full service approach, this organization provides leadership and guidance for the oncoming events.”
Part of what Rob and his staff do is to attract such events to Tampa and then help them put on their activities. All of the information on the events is on their
website, very impressive.
This is the second year that this organization has appeared in the Breakfast Bonus Tom McEwen blog when he was invited to the 1st Tampa Bay Sneaker Soiree at the Pepin Hospitality Centre last year, he was not well and the affair was attended by my daughter and I. As I ended up writing that blog, I said how creative the event was and how impressive it was that so many people attended the sporting event/banquet, Tom was disappointed not to go.
But this year after Tom’s death, and the loss of Freddie Solomon and LeRoy Selmon all good friends and so valuable to this community, it was a time for special rememberances. Each one was given a special reward and Tom’s was a special Tom McEwen Community Advocate of the Year award to be given every year to a deserving citizen. This year it was given to the twin brothers, George and Leonard Levy, both terrifically civic minded and in action for many years in our area. For Freddie Solomon, it was the Moral Courage Award, and for Leroy, it was the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The new format of a round table discussion was with the principals of the Tampa Bay Bucs, Mark Dominik, the Tampa Bay Rays, Andrew Friedman and the Tampa Bay Lightning, Steve Yzerman, called the General Manager’s Roundtable this year, the first was of the owners. The second Sneaker Soiree, yes all are encouraged to wear sneakers, featured a series of recognitions and awards to Tampa Bay recipients and a number of celebrities, especially Jennifer Capriatti, our great tennis player, who was an awards presenter.
For the McEwen family, we appreciated the recognition for Tom as he had given his time and devotion to promoting sports in the Tampa Bay area and was still writing up to his death about bringing new events to our community. A special thank you to Rob Higgins and the members of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.
- Linda McEwen
Sweet Leslie remembered
Posted May 25, 2012 by TBO.com
Updated May 27, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Being in charge of Tom’s writings, certain columns come to mind as being so special that they stand out among all of his good works. This one is like that. He captured the poignancy of a horrible disease taking the life of a wonderful young girl and the grief the family must have suffered. Tom could always express what most people were thinking but couldn’t write as eloquently as he did about this tragedy. - Linda
Lovely Leslie Walbolt, the vivacious daughter of educators, a runner an equestrian, died much too young, but I learned of her gallant fight for life, those who were with her all the way and felt compelled to write about it.
Readers in great numbers said she was an inspiration.
The running feet of sweet Leslie Walbolt are stilled now, the eyes that forever sparkled closed, her last smile a precious memory for her family
Sweet Leslie, brave Leslie, uncomplaining Leslie, died peacefully this week past in her own bed, holding the hands of her parents, leaving legacies of love, and courage, and confidence that she would live again.
Services were held for sweet Leslie Friday at St. Mary’s amidst thoughtful celebration of the gifts she gave while here, amidst a remarkable outpouring of respect and romance for this selfless girl/child from her own legions of friends and those of her attentive parents, Dan and Sylvia Walbolt, and her young brother, Danny. Leslie Walbolt was only 13.
It was when she was 11, about this time in 1979, that the family and her doctor thought the bone cancer discovered in January of 1978 was in remission and that she, like her father, would beat the scourge.
It was then, when she was 11, in early February, 1979, that I wrote a column on the Walbolts, titled, the family that runs together, lives together.
Her dad, Dan, a former athlete, a lawyer, and then and now the University of South Florida vice president for student affairs, had completely whipped his malignancy, Hodgkin’s Disease. He was fit and trim, a distance major contributor to his victory, which remains complete. Oh, he’d been through the chemotherapy and all of the other pains of the struggle.
Came January, 1978, four years after her dad’s most important triumph, and Leslie was hit with the bone cancer. ” Hers was different. It was cancer but it was not lymphoma, not Hodgkin’s. Hers was different from mine and not traceable to me,” said her dad.
It came as Leslie had taken full-bore to horseback riding and to her studies. What a student she was then. What a student she was to the last.
She took all of the treatments; lost her hair and was most identifiable in her school by the bandana she wore, by those dancing eyes and perpetual smile. Her parents had been told she’d not make it through the year of 1978.
So it was that the Walbolts in February, 1979, shared their story with me, and through me with some of you. She was loving life and school and rode horses, gently, and Berkeley was her school.
“Last June,” said her mother Sylvia, herself a practicing Tampa attorney, “she had finished the seventh grade and was reading for the eight. But she began to feel bad again and the checks began.
“It was back. Oh, we took her everywhere. She had every kind of test, painful tests, but it could not be isolated. They called for surgery.
“The cancer was in her liver and in her kidneys and bone marrow.-It was obvious now it was a matter of time.”
But as she could, she and the family went about their business and their activities. She was a devoted Tampa Bay Rowdie fan and often there. Her adopted Tampa Attorney Tom MacDonald, was a frequent companion and would be a confidante in the last days. He also would speak at the funeral services, along with Attorney Reece Smith and Judge Tom Clark.
I saw her at the Rowdie games in the late summer and she was bright and chipper and unafraid and optimistic.
Later, she would go to Rowdie games in a wheelchair, and it was there MacDonald gave her a soccer ball with Rowdie signatures, a gift she cherished, just as she would cherish the game jersey Florida wide receiver Cris Collinsworth wore in the Tangerine Bowl, sent her by him through MacDonald.
“Knowing what a Gator fan Tom was thrilled here. He was the last one Leslie spoke to. She went into a coma last Saturday and slept the rest of the time.
“It was best,” said her mother. “She had been in horrid pain. Toward the end, she could not move anything but her eyes, but they sparkled to the last.”
Father George Gentry would talk of the sparkle in her eyes at the last rites.
He was giving her a final communion and in for her to see a candle her brother had given her for Christmas and, “I reached over and I saw the candle reflect in her eyes and I saw something I have never seen before. Oh, may she rest in peace.”
Peace came, her mother said, “with us all in the room. For weeks her dad and I shared sleeping to keep her home, and we did.
“So when Leslie died, she died in her own bed and she died with all of her grandparents, with all of us in the room. Dan called us in. He sensed it.
“He had bold of one hand I hold of the other. She was so peaceful.
It was beautiful. What a brave girl she was. My daughter went with class. I’m proud of her.
“I don’t know if people can really believe this, but Leslie never once complained. Not of pain, not to the last.”
“I sensed,” said her dad, “at the end a remarkable confidence. She seemed to know she was going to some other place. And it is impossible for me to see the great spirit this young girl passed and not believe that there isn’t a reward for her somewhere.”
“The running? Sure,” said her mother. “I am convinced it prolonged her life. I know it made it happier, as it made our lives happier. Danny has become an accomplished runner. Dan is a marathoner now.”
With her classmates assemble, some in the choir, with her riding class there, Leslie lay in a closed coffin over which MacDonald said, “I was privileged to see an indescribable light of joy in the eyes of Leslie Walbolt.”
Judge Clark spoke of her “spiritual grace” as a person who, despite her youth, “had an ability to know God’s will.”
Attorney Smith, once acting president of USF, said Leslie Walbolt “taught us what courage really means. Though she didn’t live long, she gave us a gift of love and of example.”
“My daughter,” said her mother, “was a great little lady.”
Saints are for elevation by others, but if ever there was one saintly among us here, surely it was sweet Leslie Waslbolt.
“Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” - John 11:26
Tom McEwen’s wonderful golf tournament
Posted May 22, 2012 by TBO.com
Updated May 23, 2012 at 12:52 AM
It was a spectacular day, the sun was shining and no rain, and many good golfers and celebs were gathered for a spectacular golfing event at Avila Golf Club in Tampa on Monday, May 14. The occasion was a royal kickoff event for the McEwen Family Foundation inaugural for the legacy of Tom McEwen, their famous patriarch who died in the summer of 2011.
The first event was eagerly awaited by the McEwen family, being played to make scholarship money for the College of Journalism and Communication at the University of Florida, to be awarded to an aspiring young sportswriter in Tom’s name at his old beloved school in Gainesville. Tom was an eager college student, freshly graduated out of Wauchula, a citrus and cattle mecca and not a whole lot more. His daddy was a gentle man, prone to smile a lot and play practical jokes on his friends and yes strangers.
There was not a mean thought in his mind ever, and after three other children, raised the youngest, Thomas, in the ways of the country lad, who fished, studied hard, played with his friends, later working at the local grocery store sacking groceries and doing other odd jobs. I don’t think ever did Thomas think of himself as something special, he was doing what he liked, living where he liked and had loving parents.
It was this Thomas that did well in schools in Wauchula, graduating high, and then entered the University of Florida, where every educated man in Florida went, no girls back then.
While loving and working his way through school in journalism, the Second World War raged, ultimately devouring most of the young men just finishing college. Tom and his friends were drafted, and he went to army training with three of his close friends from the University. After basic training, he and his three friends in war split up, Tom to the Philippines, the others to the European front. As the war was fresh over as Tom arrived in ‘45, he was assigned by the occupying troop commander, the daunting task of housing and feeding 2000 Japanese prisoners of war.
The task made him a man, he did his job, which offered to him material to write many columns later in life, he served his country and later began his literary career of sports writing. Why do I tell you this, so that you will know the man, know what made him tick and made him one of the most popular and respected sports writers in the country.
For the supporters of the Tom McEwen Golf Tournament at Avila Country Club, it was genuine, most of the players knew Tom, regretted he was not there, but had a good time anyway. The tournament was a celebration of a thoughtful, caring, wonderful man who worked all of his life for his parents and family, his country,and for his Tribune readers in the Tampa area. And he did it his way, he wrote what he wanted to write about, always people, some good, some even a little shady but had their side of it too, but always of interest to his readers. Many of the celebs in the tournament had been subjects for Tom’s
columns to write about over the years.
The prize was to go to a deserving young lady from U.F. who had been a successful athlete in diving, then developed a physical condition at 13 that was life threatening and left her bedridden. Fighting for her movement and life with strenuous rehabilitation, she won her movement back and entered competition again. For such a plucky girl athlete, pretty too, the tournament players yielded up a fine scholarship for Emily Padgett’s dream of being a sports writer for the final two years at the Journalism College at UF.
With Tom Pepin, Pepin Distributors, and Tommy Shannon, Tom and Kathy Shannon Foundation, as Honorary Co-chairmen, the list is long for the sponsors and players of the tournament, so we can’t name them all but we thank all involved profusely. Starting with Eddie DeBartolo, DeBartolo Corporation as the Course Sponsor, then Carol and Barney Barnett of Publix, Bob Barker, publisher of the Tampa Tribune, Brian Ford of the Tampa Bay Bucs, Bill Wickett of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Rob Higgins of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, Rick Vaughn of the Tampa Bay Rays, Malio Iavarone, Malio’s Prime Steakhouse, Pam and Les Muma, and many more individual playing sponsors, hole sponsors David McEwen and Wally Copeland, prizes by Kim Rogers, Reeves Imports, and food and drink provided by Bob Bashim MVP Holdings and Outback, Pepin Distributing Co., Publix, Maverick Interactive, Mike’s Pies, Gino Iavarone, and many other very giving friends of Tom’s.
Our special thanks for all of the celebs who came and added so much to the tournament, we are very grateful to them for giving of their time to promote our cause, as well as the great volunteers. The whole tournament concept was born prior at a meeting at our house with Dean John Wright, head of the College of Journalism and Communications, Lindsey Stevens and Mike Harding, developmental people of U.F. and Bob Barker, publisher and Duke Maas, Executive Editor of The Tampa Tribune and
Richard McEwen and myself, wife Linda, as Tom was prone to call me always, decided that this was to be a collaboration between the Tom McEwen legacy and writings, the Tampa Tribune and the University of Florida Journalism School.
So there you have it, and now with this fine start, we can look ahead to helping young writers in the future as well as enjoying the friendships from above and the fun below with Tom McEwen.
Mother’s Day in South Africa
Posted May 14, 2012 by TBO.com
Updated May 15, 2012 at 12:51 AM
My mother’s day that year was a long fishing experience, so I can’t really say he was thinking of me, but we had a great time and it gave Tom a new experience to write about. For me, it was an important part of my travel experiences in Africa, he had said he wanted to fish in South Africa, so I made that happen. I got an A for this one from the writer!
May 17, 1992
SODWANA BAY, South Africa—It is a week late, but the jungle telegraph is less reliable than some communications systems in the United States. Thus, the tardiness of this report on an unlikely Mother’s Day party for wife (and mother) Linda, in a most unusual place, with unusual results.
I mean, is not a Mother’s Day spent on the Zulu Coast of South Africa, an hour’s charter flight north of the modern port city of Durban at Sodwana Bay Lodge, exotic-different, special? Is trying your luck at marlin fishing by surf launching in the deep blue waters of the Indian Ocean, snorkeling amid the coral splendors comparable to Micronesia and the Caribbean, taking a trip to a nearby new wild game camp, then having a lamb barbecue while Zulu dancers performed, enough for any mother?
It was. Except for a couple of drawbacks, of which you will read.
First, locate this Mother’s Day area. It is just south of troubled Mozambique, or, 100 miles north of Richard’s Bay. It is Sodwana Bay, a national park area along the wonderfully rugged coast of South Africa, where the tree and grass-covered dunes rise several hundred feet, lapping down to where the sea washes up on smooth, brown sand beaches that are flat as glass. The sand is firm and can be 75 yards deep. Coral is but a few feet off shore for snorkeling.
Mackerel and barracuda can be caught by surf fishing with those long rods from shore.
There is an inlet at Sodwana Bay, a small freshwater river and lake, and it is here boats are launched into the surf for fishing, or as transport for divers to explore some of the best underwater experiences in the world. There are no docks. No docks can handle the pounding of the great waves and surf from such deep water only a 100 yards or so out. Thus, all boats are launched through the surf from the sandy inlets.
Beyond the dunes inland is Sodwana Bay Lodge, a series of thatched roof cottages surrounding a dining room, swimming and diving pool and bomba, or walled enclosure, for barbecues and Zulu dancing shows. Inside the huts, all is modern. In the dining room, the food is spectacular, the wines the best of South Africa. One nuisance was a small cobra that kept popping his head up and spreading for you as you moved along the planked walkways.
To the west of the lodge, inland and away from the sea, the land fans out into savanna country, brush and acacia, thorn, pine and eucalyptus trees, into tribal country, into the country of wild animals, but all now in protected reserves and for the viewing.
It is farther away than a faraway place.
On Mother’s Day ‘92, it was up before dawn and down to the bay and beach to meet Capt. Bok Van der Riet, a veteran charter boat captain and commercial fisherman who had pulled his boat and equipment the 1-1/2-hour drive from St.
Lucia Bay to the south, a more populated area where, again, there are no docks, where, as in most of the world, you walk out on a dock and step on a boat and go fishing.
The boat of Capt. Van der Riet and his mate, Johan Wassenaar, was only 18 feet long, with a deep catamaran hull, with steel stripping along each hull. It had a portable marlin fishing seat in place, a stepladder in the rear between the twin Yamaha 85s, a center control console, and collapsible canvas cover. And how do you board? You wade out and climb up the rear while Capt. Bok, and mate Johan stand in the water and hold the boat in place.
And how do you launch? You hold on and trust Capt. Bok, who will first slip the boat out a few yards and idle and wait for the right moment, the right wave.
“The key is to be patient,” he was saying. “Waves come to shore in series of five or seven. Then there is a flat. You pick your flat and go.’‘
He picked his flat and we went breakneck over it at an incoming wave.
Turning slightly to the left, The Deep Blue, the name of our boat, was lifted upward and over the wave. When we hit wave crest, we jumped aboard, and the captain hit the throttle again, turned right into the wave and we were beyond the great surf.
“You must hit the first wave before it breaks. If it breaks as you hit it, you will be turned over backward,” he said. ““Two impatient chaps had that happen to them recently down at St. Lucia, where we had a tournament. We caught 46 marlin in that tournament and three sails. We have all species of marlin here, you know, all species of shark, tuna, dolphin, the works. A friend captain of mine caught a 444-pound marlin in these waters yesterday.”
Gonna be a good Mother’s Day, I thought, if the celebrant in our boat could handle the waves that were getting bigger as we headed north to fish for bait. The boat was smaller than we had figured. The mother celebrator is fit and fearless, but motion sickness is though on her. I had forgotten that. She had not reminded me.
Capt. Bok quickly rigged four lines with artificial lures, all placed in portable holders. We got a bonita quickly but it was judged too small. Then I caught a 4-pound yellowtail tuna.
The captain and mate took down the portable gear holders and installed a single portable outrigger, baited the main line with the tuna, using the Catalina baiting scheme, which allows the fish to swim for hours and which does not harm it. It is a loop of Dacron line through a passage beneath the nose that becomes a pulling noose to which the hook is attached. The hook does not pierce the fish. They fish in these waters with a single bait because it will last, because the boat is too small for large bait wells and because the sea may get ugly quickly.
We were fishing in this exotic place, in waters 500 feet deep, a couple of miles off a coastline unlike any I had seen before with only three other fishing boats in sight. Most boats were taking divers north for their explorations into the deep. We were astride a continental shelf.
The sea grew rougher. The Mother of the Day began to yawn, a bad sign.
Then she began to cough. A worse sign. Then she began closing her eyes. Worse still.
Something chased the bait but gave up.
The water got rougher and rougher, the swells higher and lower, higher and lower.
It was too much for the celebrator. She yielded to the urge. Again and again. Ice didn’t help. Sometimes nothing will. On this day, nothing did. A southeaster was upon us. And no fish were. It wasn’t, as it turned out, the most pleasant way to spend a Mother’s Day.
We surrendered to the sea and headed to the surf landing and the experience of the day, headed there through the rough seas that had our boat slamming down hard between each wave, the jarring adding to the discomfort of the Mother aboard.
As we approached shore where the giant waves rolled toward the beaches and then broke on them with a ferocious wash, Capt. Bok said this to us, as we stood beside him holding on:
“Grab a good grip, for when we hit the beach the stop may be sudden.
We are going to mount and ingoing wave and ride it to the beach, allowing our bow to cut a ditch into the sand until we are stopped. So, the stop can be sudden.’‘
A few minutes later, I would think that surely would be the understatement of the trip.
Guiding the sturdy boat sideways to the beach, Capt. Bok suddenly picked his wave, jumped on top of it with the boat, turned shoreward, hit the throttle and jockeyed the speed to keep us atop the wave. Now horsepower and water power were sending us 20 mph at the beach. When the wave broke 30 yards from the beach, he hit it again to carry us over the shallows and into the beach.
My gosh, I thought, when we hit the beach we are all going to be flung headlong half across Africa to Johannesburg.
Didn’t think the Mother’s Day celebrator could get any more pale. But she did as we sped toward the beach. The guy had to be nuts. But you couldn’t talk.
Your lips would curl back and flatten against your face like Cheetah used to do for laughs.
We hit the sand in shallow water. The boat, riding its steel skirts and the sand yielding to the weight gently, the motors kicking upward. Out of the water. They had been unlocked to be out of danger of damage. It was frightening for we were headed to the beat at a good speed. But, it was nothing. We standing and holding o n to bars, but we simply slid through the beach, almost gently, and to a stop perhaps 15 yards up on the beach, completely out of the water.
Remarkable. The launching had been exciting. The beach landing was even more.
One minute you are riding a wave and hauling buggy beachward, then the next, you are stopped, dead still, upright, high and dry.
Incredible. We caught no fish. The Mother of the Day was queasy and beyond but no ride at Busch Gardens could offer such a thrill as that surf landing off the Indian Ocean. Capt. Bok washed off his boat, winched it on his trailer and was gone. And the motion sickness of the Mother of the Day left as quickly as it had seized her. Few things can come and go as quickly as sea sickness. When the motion stops, so does the problem.
As for us, because seasickness and romantic urges are among the most quickly relieved, the celebrator was almost instantly herself again, so she moved down the beach for an hour of snorkeling.
Then it was to the lodge for a salad, then a trip with great guide Linda Forrest, 40 kilometers inland—over a dirt road, of course—for a visit to South Africa’s newest game park, already one of its lushest so far as accommodations are concerned. For two hours the celebrant, Forrest and another woman guide (a native ranger) were driven through part of the Phinda Game Reserve, a 35,040-acre facility offering lions, elephants, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras,. warthogs, rhinos, crocodiles, hippos, a wide variety of the antelope family, even pythons. The boat ride had been forgotten.
But there would be more to make her forget.
That evening, at the Sodwana lodge, we were among perhaps 230 others treated to the lamb barbecue and a series of dances by neighboring Zulus. We gave the chief a Buccaneers T-shirt. He had heard neither of the Bucs nor Mother’s Day.
The celebrator said next year she might just settle for breakfast in bed, church, brunch and nine holes at Palma Ceia, and a glass of champagne on the porch at home.
That’s what she thinks—now.
Sure as she was as sick as she has ever been this Mother’s Day, but believe me, she’ll have me in the halls of Montezuma, on the shores of Tripoli this time next year, or the Kalahari, just not on Sodwana Bay.
Farewell, Polly, till we meet again
Posted May 7, 2012 by TBO.com
Updated May 8, 2012 at 11:53 PM
By LINDA McEWEN
These are the times, I really miss Tom. One of our best friends has died and she needs to be recognized for the enormous impact she had on the Parish and School of St. Lawrence and for the help and care she gave to our very dear friend, Monsignor Lawrence Higgins. Polly Murray gave a lifetime of devotion, fifty years, to the operation of and growth to St. Lawrence Catholic Church.
Widowed by her husband, John Murray, Polly was the head of the Murray household with six sons and moved to Tampa to work as Lay Administrator of St. Lawrence Parish and School in 1960. Tom and I came in constant contact with her during these years and admired the devotion and intelligence she brought to her job.
Tom would have wanted her to be remembered as a true friend and a completely selfless woman who put all others first and never complained about her problems up to her death. Her answer to how are you was always “Great” but we knew that she suffered from unrelenting pain in the last few years of her life.
Today, the members of St. Lawrence Catholic Church and the visitors bade a farewell to their Polly Murray, pretty Polly we are inclined to say, meaning outward and inward. It was a sad time, no talk of she is in a better place, because she was so wanted and needed here, to her family of six boys, now men, her Pastor, Monsignor Lawrence Higgins, by her job as Administrator of St. Lawrence Parish and School, which also included construction of the School.
How can she not be missed? She leaves behind a legacy of devotion to her God and a reverence for her church and family. Her favorite charity was the Judeo-Christian Health Clinic and her favorite doctor was also her friend, Sylvia Campbell, M. D., who is herself an acclaimed missionary doctor. Sitting also in the audience near me was Dottie Berger MacKinnon, who is not well, but continues, like Polly, to work in projects to help her needy children at the Joshua House.
William Wordsworth, noted English poet, says it best and I take a little liberty:
“Thus Nature spake-The work was done, How soon our Polly’s race was run!
She died and left to us
This heath, this calm, and quiet scene;
The memory of what has been,
And never more will be.”
Polly was not a famous athlete, nor did she run in the races, but she would be called a champion by Tom and to all who knew her and in her humble and self effacing
way, she cared for all who were around her and we all know how much she will be missed.