Jay Alan O’Connell
Jay Alan O’Connell went to be with the Lord, recognizing his match was dormie on Oct. 20, 2022. God thankfully allowed us to play alongside Jay for many years, enjoying the many wonderful days on the golf course along with hours after each round in the 19th hole.
Jay was born to the late John Austin O’Connell and Mildred Jeanette Funnell on May 13, 1944, in Whitehall, Mich. Being the son of depression-era parents, who embodied frugality and moderation…. well, let’s just say Jay didn’t exactly follow in their footsteps. He was quite a consumer, as noted by the many golf clubs in his garage and his passion for living life to the fullest in consumption. This may have resulted from his being the middle child and suffering from, perhaps, the Middle-Child Syndrome. Jay was slightly rebellious, some would call a stinker, but he did focus on athletics to excel from that feeling of being second-best. He was elected to the Whitehall High School Hall of Fame, primarily for his golf accomplishments, notably winning the 1959 State of Michigan Golf Tournament, but also for many other sports, including football and skiing. He loved to sail, winning numerous regattas and was the Junior Commodore of the White Lake Yacht Club in 1961.
He attended Western Michigan University but had a little too much fun his first year. He transferred to Grand Valley State University and started working at Howmet Aerospace, where he accepted an opportunity to move to Wichita Falls, Texas. It did not take long for Jay to start making inroads into the local golf community of his new home. He became a regular on the “Bar-B-Que Circuit” of golf, although there was much more beer consumed than Bar-B-Que in those days. This paved the way for Jay to meet new people and continue his slightly rebellious ways. He won several tournaments throughout the region, taking his “Quickest Back Swing in the West” to new levels of success. He and his wife of 45 years, Kathleen O’Connell, enjoyed their time in Texas but were ready for a new chapter.
In 2000 he and Kathleen decided to move to Sun City Center, Fla., to take advantage of the 12 months of good golfing weather. Again, it didn’t take long for Jay to meet like minded golf aficionados and settle into the Florida transplant way of life. Still swinging fast, Jay continued to rack-up his extensive collection of “Garage Clubs.” He took pride in his new home and was happy he was only a short golf cart ride away from the frequently visited 19th hole.
In all, Jay made 16 hole-in-ones during his lifetime, including the double “Grand Slam” on his childhood course in Michigan (making two hole-in-ones on every Par 3). Surprisingly, he accomplished all these feats without eating a single vegetable in 78 years.
But along the way, God gave Jay a couple of mulligans on his health. He made the most of them by always welcoming a new friend into his life and frequently calling his children and grandchildren. He loved talking to them, sometimes offering unsolicited guidance, but they cherished every minute. He was a loving father and grandfather in that respect, and these calls will be greatly missed.
Jay was preceded in death by his parents, John “Father John” and wife, Jannette “Shorty” O’Connell; his brother, Terry O’Connell; and his nephew Darin O’Connell. He left many loving memories and will be deeply missed by his wife, Kathleen O’Connell; her sons, Ron West (Terry) and Steve West; his sister, Nancy Tryon (Melvin); their children Justin (Becky), Jeremy (Jamie), and Julieann (Richard); nephew, Dana O’Connell (Heather); his daughter, Kimberly Christensen (Dan); grandchildren Mitchell (Samantha); his son, Kevin O’Connell (Wilma); grandchildren Luke (Brianna and great-grandson Porter), AR and Ali. The family would like to express a special thank you to his cousin, Bob Funnell (Robin), and to all the friends that have been so caring to the family during this time.
After an extremely short deliberation, it was decided that it may be best to celebrate the life of Jay O’Connell on the 19th Hole rather than a church (more to come on this celebration). The family hopes that all the friends’ Jay made along the way will join them in helping to remember a truly classic, loving and friendly, one-of-a-kind human being.
Paul L. Van Kirk
Paul L. “Pete” Van Kirk, 76, died suddenly, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, in Sun City Center, Fla.
Born May 31, 1946, in Beaver Falls, Pa., he was the son of Paul H. and Margaret M. (Naska) Van Kirk. They preceded him in death.
He is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Cheryl L. (Smith) Van Kirk, whom he married March 3, 1966, in Turtle Creek, Pa. He is also survived by his three sons, Greg (Sheri), Jarrod and Jeff; his brother, Larry (Donna), three grandchildren, Spencer, Tyler and Aleah Van Kirk; an adopted granddaughter, Kayley Ross; nieces, nephews, numerous in-laws and friends.
Pete grew up in Pennsylvania, spent most of his adult life in Michigan raising his family and retired to Florida. He was a United States Army Veteran and worked as an engineering manager at Ford Motor Company. He enjoyed spending time at his family cabin in the Allegheny Mountains with family and friends, where he often hunted. Pete loved boating on Michigan lakes, where he would spend the days fishing or pulling the kids skiing and tubing with his boat, or watching his kids, and then his grandkids, in their sporting events. He absolutely loved cruising all over the world with Cheryl, their family and friends. Paul (Pete) had a big personality and was a wonderful man who will be missed by all who knew him.
Interment of his remains will take place at the Sarasota National Cemetery at a later date.
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.nationalcremation.com/location/ruskin for the Van Kirk family.
Eugene E. Regula
Eugene E. Regula, 93, formerly from Wisconsin and recently residing in Sun City Center Fla., peacefully passed away on Oct. 23, 2022, at Hospice House.
Eugene was born in Baltic, Ohio, in 1929 and grew up in Dover, Ohio, prior to graduating from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
He served his country in the US Army for four years, where he was stationed in Germany. While in Berlin, he met Ingrid Schellenberg, who subsequently immigrated to America where they were married in 1955. In 1956, their first son Cedric was born, followed by Barry in 1960.
Gene worked in accounting at Clark Controls in Cleveland, where he moved up to the position of financial controller. In 1970, an opportunity came up to relocate to Milwaukee, Wis., with Globe Union, also as financial controller, where he worked for several years until branching out with Ceramite, a small electronics manufacturer in Grafton, Wis.
After retirement in 2000, Gene and Ingrid relocated to warmer weather in Sun City Center, where he enjoyed the climate and activities of the South.
He is survived by his loving wife Ingrid of Sun City Center and son Barry of Gulfport, Miss.
A celebration of life took place from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 in the Armstrong Room, Sun City Center Atrium at 953 North Course Lane, Sun City Center.
Orajean Jeanie Elliott
Orajean Jeanie Elliott, 97, passed away peacefully on May 2, 2022. She was born in Martinsville, Ind. She moved to Ruskin with her husband Joseph in 1959 where they owned and operated the Ruskin Rexall Drug Store until 1990. She lived a happy, beautiful life, full of faith and love for her family. She enjoyed reading, playing the piano and spending time with her family. She was proud of her ability to live out her life independently in her own home and frequently stated, “I love my daughters and my home.”
Jeanie was preceded in death by her husband, Joseph L. Elliott, in 2006. Jeanie is survived by her daughters, Ann (Randall) Williford, Suzie (Louis) Pasetti, Cynthia Elliott and Jackie Elliott; grandchildren, Melissa (Scott) Chandler, Amy (Scott) Giesler, Jamey (Becca) Williford, Louis (Valeria) Pasetti and Brittany (Mitch) Harley. She is also survived by 10 great-grandchildren, Cameron Chandler, Ainsley and Tanner Cochran; Logan and Kayla Williford; Anthony, Isabella and Nicholas Pasetti; and Blake and Halstyn Harley.
A private family service was held on May 6, 2022, at Ruskin Memorial Park.
Suzanne Gutter McFadyen
We mourn the passing of Suzanne Gutter McFadyen, who recently lost her battle with cancer. Born in Greensboro, N.C., in 1950 to Fairfield Jack and Ellen Williams McFadyen, she is survived by her father, Jack (Patricia) McFadyen; her sisters, Heather (Rick) Spencer and Courtney (Earl) Oakley; and her nephews, Matthew (Sabrina) Spencer and Isaac Oakley.
Suzanne was complex, intelligent, imaginative and curious. She loved to read, especially anything related to science and the future of technology and the natural world. Science fiction was her favorite fictional genre. She loved music and was a violist with the Philharmonia of Greensboro where she met her (deceased) husband Robert Gutter. She helped her husband manage the International Institute for Conductors in Romania.
Suzanne joined the Army during the Vietnam war and was stationed at Fort Ritchie in Maryland where she learned about computers – a knowledge set she would build on throughout her life. She later went on to sell computer systems for IBM before retiring early and working as a day trader. She embraced technology and was planning to buy a Tesla before cancer sidetracked her plans.
She inherited a love of gardening from her grandmother and spent many happy hours growing vegetables and flowers. Her lot at the Tillers and Toilers community garden may not have been the neatest, but it was always productive. Her idea of a perfect garden was one that supports wildlife as well as food for herself and her friends. She once refused to clean a swimming pool because it was providing habitat for frogs.
She loved Florida and embraced the lifestyle available in Sun City Center by volunteering for the SCC Security Patrol and the SCC Emergency Squad, joining groups such as Ladies of the Lake and making great friends. Suzanne took pride in her work as an EMT with the SCC Emergency Squad and felt fortunate to be able to give back to her community. She was always available to help others and provided good advice. No one in need could have a better friend.
Francis J. Carman
Francis J. (Frank) Carman passed away at home in Sun City Center, Fla., on Oct. 18, 2022. He was born to Frank and Edna Carman on Nov. 2, 1935, in Portland, Ore.
He is survived by his longtime partner, Sylvia Eddens; three children, Frank Carman, Jonathan Carman and Felicia Herbstreth; eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
He was predeceased by his parents and brother, Joseph. He spent his career in the aviation field, retiring as a department manager for McDonnell Douglas St. Louis, Mo.
His ashes will be interred at Glen Haven Memorial Park in Kagel Canyon, Calif., where he was raised.
Send memorials in his honor to Life Path Hospice 3723 Upper Creek Drive, Ruskin, FL 33573.
Margaret Poteat Johnson Byrd passed away on Oct. 2, 2022, under the care of hospice, at home with her daughter and son-in-law. Mrs. Byrd was a long time resident of Sun City Center and was very active with her church over the years.
She was born and grew up in Salisbury, N.C., until she moved to Tampa, Fla. in 1973, having received a transfer to the James A. Haley Hospital where she worked. She retired in 1989 after a 30 year career with the Veterans Administration. Upon retirement, she embarked on travels, which she had dreamed of over the years. She spent 48 days traveling through England and Europe and also traveled to Israel and Egypt. Margaret also had several trips around our country from Maine to California, and also to Hawaii and Alaska. She also went on several cruises with friends and her daughter.
Margaret was active in several groups in Sun City Center. She was a member of the SCC Woman’s Club, serving as pianist for the club’s chorus. She also was a member of the Cameo Club, which sponsored the Ms. Sun City Center and Ms. Senior Florida pageants. In 2002, she won the title of Ms. Sun City Center. Margaret also served as secretary of the Kings Point Association and served as secretary of the Mental Health Coalition as well as being a member of NARFE.
Mrs. Byrd is survived by her son, Richard Johnson of Charlotte, North Carolina; her daughter, Joy Ekardt (husband David Ekardt); three grandsons, Richard Ridinger, Joshua Johnson, Chad Johnson; and great-grandson, Micah Johnson.
Her ashes will be interred next to the father of her children, James Richard Johnson, in Salisbury, N.C.
Bernice Joan Hunt
Bernice Joan (Bunny) Hunt, age 93, passed away the morning of Oct. 8, 2022, in her summer home on Crystal Lake in Frankfort, Mich. Bunny was born in Sault Saint Marie and raised in Rudyard in the upper peninsula of Michigan. She and her family moved to the Detroit area when she was a young teenager. Bunny graduated from Wayne State University with a Registered Nursing degree in 1950. Shortly after that, she met the love of her life, William Paul Hunt, while she interned at The State Hospital in Traverse City, Mich. They married and settled in Grand Rapids, Mich. where she raised their four children. She and Paul celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary last February.
She was predeceased by her parents, John and Dorothy Boncher; sister and brother-in-law, Don and Ruth Star; and brother, Chuck Boncher.
She is survived by husband, William Paul Hunt. Other members of her family are children, Stephen Hunt, of Traverse City, Mich., Phillip Hunt, and wife Betty of Hudsonville, Mich., Elizabeth Fry, and husband Stephen of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Eric Hunt ,and wife Deb of Benzie, Mich.; her nine granchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Other surviving members are her sister-in-law, Geri Boncher, and several nieces and nephews.
After she and husband Paul were married and moved to Grand Rapids, in 1951 they opened a new dry cleaning business called Bunny Cleaners, which eventually transformed into Bunny Tuxedos. The business still thrives today and is operated by their son Phillip. While living most of her adult life in Grand Rapids, she was an active member of Central Christian Church. She was an avid reader and joyfully volunteered her time at Woodcliff School in her children’s elementary school library. She loved gardening and was a member and secretary of The Periwinkle Garden Club during the summers that she spent at their cottage on Crystal Lake. She also served as the chairman of the recreation committee for several summers at the Cottagers Association of Crystal Lake. Other hobbies that she enjoyed were tennis, water skiing, swimming and dance.
In 1986 she and Paul retired, sold their home In Grand Rapids and moved to sunny Florida. They settled in a retirement community that was on a golf course and had many other activities to partake in. Since Bunny loved to dance, she joined a dance group called the Silver Tappers. The group preformed at many different events In the area. In their early years of retirement, they enjoyed traveling to many countries around the world.
A memorial service will be planned In Florida for a later date this year.
Gretchen E. Meixner
Gretchen Emma Meixner, 99, passed away Oct. 27 in Sun City Center, where she resided for the past 34 years. Born in Philadelphia, Pa., Aug. 1, 1923, she was the child of Frederick H. and Grace M. Mertens.
Gretchen was matriarch of a large family of more than 35 members, which included six children, 10 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and three Rotary exchange students from Austria, Denmark and Sweden.
Her beloved family will forever honor her influence as its tree grows and blossoms. Each family member was always aware she had her eyes on them.
Gretchen was a teacher, artist and dedicated friend of many. She had a quick wit and huge heart and gathered friends as one gathers berries. It would take a book to describe the breadth and scope of such an incredible being’s life.
In December 2021, Gretchen celebrated her 80th wedding anniversary with her husband, David, 98, who survives her.
Next door neighbors in State College, Pa., in 1941, she and David shared moments of solace in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor. They were married five weeks later.
A lifelong artist, Gretchen mastered painting, lapidary, stained glass, needlework and knitting. The knitting had a dual purpose as she knitted prayer shawls for her daughter’s church, “All Paths to God.” The more than 300 shawls she made were gifted to folks who were experiencing difficult times in their lives. The prayer shawls were every bit a donation of time and materials.
Gretchen was also an athlete who fondly shared memories of playing six-a-side basketball at State College High School in the early 1940s. She was a straight-as-an-arrow golfer and champion lawn bowler. She walked and walked and walked.
The first lesson taught in the Meixner family was always do for others. Gretchen was the dispatcher for Team 6 at the Sun City Center Emergency Squad for 17 years. She taught stained glass classes and lawn bowling.
Gretchen lived her life based on a motto she adopted while at State College High School, “Be gone dull care! You and I shall never agree.” That motto in years after became, “Whatever!”
In honor of her dedication to serving others and in lieu of flowers, the family wishes donations be made to All Paths to God Church, 1005 Augusta Drive, Sun City Center. A memorial service will start at 5 p.m., Nov. 14, in the Florida Room of the Sun City Center Atrium building.