Eustis woman who befriended homeless man passes down a legacy of caring

Put your feet up. You deserve it after a rough day of shopping.

Here at Column World, we're going to get you comfortably caught up on past goings-on in Lake County whilst you sip your favorite beverage.

Homeless man's friend

Remember Marlene Homeyer, the 75-year-old Eustis resident who befriended a homeless man and his dog, to the distress of her grandchildren? A couple of granddaughters saw Marlene talking with Ben Perrine and his dog Nokie near the Kmart in Mount Dora.

They called her grandson, a Lake County deputy sheriff, who dispensed a lecture on safety. Her response was to give them a little lesson of her own in compassion via an email to the three of them.

Now, Marlene's daughter, Karol Davoren of Orange, Mass., who said she cried when she read the account of her mother's kindness, has written a response.

Here is part of her email:

"A statement you quoted from mom, 'This is who I am,' jumped out at me, and I felt compelled to write you.

"My mother reaching out is not at all surprising to me. She has been setting examples for us — her children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren — all her life.

"She has given me a deep love of animals by allowing me to be blessed with an array of pets growing up, including an injured owl she rescued from the middle of a street. His name was Barney.

"Despite my mom working hard at her own job even at her age and with health issues of her own, she can reach out to the homeless and unemployed without judgment as to why they aren't working. She truly sees and has a heart for the downtrodden."

Amen, Karol. It's heartwarming to see a family that passes down a legacy of caring, isn't it?

Kids and veterans

Two weeks ago, fifth-grade students at Tavares Elementary put on a one-day museum in honor of Veterans Day. They gathered artifacts from the various wars and displayed them, along with explanations and original research on the items.

Teacher Laura Saalmann wrote, "We had a great turnout. We even had some World War I items — a gas mask, mess kit and helmet — which we displayed. Several veterans also came and shared stories and some great displays with our students.

"I saw some joyful tears in the eyes of many of the veterans."

So, many thanks to those who helped students gain a better understanding of what war is all about.

Sadly, the woman who was so generous as to share her father's World War I keepsakes and to attend the event to talk to the children died just days after the exposition. Patricia Farner, who was 86, was well known in the community for working to get a fire department in Tavares while she was a City Council member in the 1970s. Farner, who died of heart failure, leaves a legacy of her own in the form of a family deeply involved in the community. The kids were lucky to have met her.

Mining in the Green Swamp

And, finally, Lake County's proposal to create a committee to see whether more restrictions are needed to mine sand in the environmentally critical Green Swamp drew grumbling from folks who understand that the area is the source of most of the state's drinking water.

Here is a sample of some readers' thoughts:

From Susan Woods of Ocala:

"The Florida Constitution says, 'It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources.' (Art. II, Sec. 7)

"What part of this don't they get? I think I'm getting a headache. Again."

And from Linda Bystrak, a member of the Lake County Water Authority board of trustees, comes this observation about the proposed committee:

"I think the deck is stacked in favor of the mines. There should be a member representing a water utility company. They and the property owners have the most to lose.

"I read the sand-mine consulting report and noticed a lot of red flags. For instance, they claim that Department of Transportation sand is essential to making certain types of road-grade concrete because of its larger grain size. But if you look at their map of where that type of sand is located, it can be found in large areas outside of the Green Swamp.

"They don't need more mines in the Green Swamp."

Lritchie@tribune.com Her blog is online at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/laurenonlake
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