valentines-day-hearts-3There is something special about Valentine’s Day.  Think of “hearts” as a conservation issue.  Your heart, that is.  Insofar as you are able, exercise your heart. Walk to St. Armands Circle.  It is about one-half mile.

  • It is good for you.
  • You will not have to look for a parking space.
  • You will have saved some gas and put no nasty exhaust into the air.

Stairs are a way to get up and down.  Remember?  If you are going up and down a flight or two, use the stairs.  And do use the railings.  (That is, if you are able to climb stairs.)

Not everyone in the tower wants to climb 24 flights for exercise but, in February, the stairs are a warmer place to exercise than the great outdoors.  Elevators use electricity.  If the power should go off again (heaven forbid), it is nice to know that someone can use the stairs to get help.

And “flowers,” a conservation issue?  You can prevent plants and dead cut flowers from taking up space in the landfill by getting them to the huge dumpster in the northeast corner of our parking lot, near the Yacht Club.  If you can remember to keep pots and plastic out of the dumpster, you can take your plant stuff there.  Or you can call Jeanne at Ext 489 and she will cause them to disappear miraculously from outside your door.


Electricity costs twice as much from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Please use washing machines on weekends or in the middle of the day.

Sarah Pappas-portrait_4x5Sarah H. Pappas, EdD
Vice Chair, Board of Trustees


“I am pleased to serve on the Plymouth Harbor Board because it is the premier CCRC in the Sarasota area and I respect its “non-profit” status. The Board has a practice of having three residents serve, and since my husband George and I hope to live there in the future, I think that practice is very wise and results in transparency and a quality institution.”


Dr. Sarah H. Pappas is President of the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation and past president of Manatee Community College (now State College of Florida). She received her Master’s degree in social science education from University of South Florida and a Doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Nova Southeastern University. Her career has spanned 40 years in higher education at three community colleges and UCF. Married to artist George Pappas, they have two children and two grandchildren. Dr. Pappas is active in the community and has a long record of service in leadership capacities including, but not limited to Community Alliance of Sarasota; Sarasota and Manatee EDCs; Board of Directors for Greater Sarasota and Manatee County Chambers of Commerce; Florida Women’s Alliance; Chair, United Way Board of Directors, Manatee Co.; President, Florida Community College Activities Association. She has also been the recipient of many awards and honors within the communities she has served.


Finlay_5x7 300 dpiThe Board of Trustees of Plymouth Harbor, Inc. welcomed three new members and elected new leadership for 2015.

The newly elected Chair of the Board of Trustees is G. Duncan Finlay, MD who is also currently serving as President and CEO of the Florence A. Rothman Institute and Chief Medical Officer of Alive Sciences, LLC.  During his previous tenure as Chief Medical Officer and President and CEO of Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the system was named one of America’s Best Hospitals by US News and World Report in seven medical specialties.

Harry Hobson, CEO of Plymouth Harbor said, “Dr. Finlay has served as a Trustee for the past three years.  He brings leadership, experience, vision, and a passion that is consistent with Plymouth Harbor’s mission.”

After four years as Chairperson during which he guided Plymouth Harbor through a significant growth initiative that culminated in the grand opening of new Wellness Center, F. Thomas Hopkins will now serve as Immediate Past Chair.

“Tom has always been present for important governance discussions and decision,” says Hobson, “I can’t imagine a more dedicated person than Tom Hopkins.  While we will miss him as Chair, we will cherish this coming year knowing he is in the Board Room with us.”

Sarah Pappas-portrait_4x5Three current Trustees have also been elected to serve as officers of the Board. Sarah H. Pappas, EdD, has been elected to the position of Vice Chair. Dr. Pappas is President of the William G.  and Marie Selby Foundation and former President of Manatee Community College (now State College of Florida).

Cindy Malkin, recently Board Chair at the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, also a member of the Women’s Resource Board, will serve as Secretary.

Brian D. Hall, Executive Vice President and Director of Wealth Management at the Gateway Bank of Southwest Florida, will serve as Treasurer.



In addition to the officers, Plymouth Harbor is pleased to welcome three new trustees to the board:

CranorJohn M. Cranor, III, former President and CEO for the New College Foundation, has over 30 years of management experience in the food service and retail industries including senior executive positions with Pepsi-Cola North America, Taco Bell Corporation, Wilson Sporting Goods, and Frito-Lay Company. He currently serves as the non-executive Chair of the Board of Directors of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc.

PattersonNora Patterson, a Sarasota County Commissioner, was first elected to the Sarasota City Commission in 1991, and served until 1998 when she was elected to the Sarasota County Commission.  Prior to this she served as the Mayor of Sarasota from 1994-95 and was appointed by the Governor to serve two years on Florida’s Legislative Committee on Intergovernmental Relations from 1996-98.

Woeltjen lo resWilliam Woeltjen has served as the Chief Financial Officer of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System since 2010, where he is responsible for all financial matters related to the health care system, including financial reporting, financial planning, revenue cycle, reimbursement, debt management, and managed care contracting. He has more than 25 years of experience in corporate health care finance.

Judith MerrillOn any given day, you can find Judith Merrill turning on her iPad and using the popular app FaceTime to share stories with one of her great-grandchildren. She wouldn’t say she’s a “high tech” person, but anyone who has spent any time with Judith can see that she has always kept up with the world around her with a lively curiosity.

In 1920, Judith was welcomed into the world by parents who filled their lives with music. Unsurprisingly, little Judith did the same, learning from her mother—a violinist, violist, and pianist—as well as from her father, who played woodwinds. Both were on the faculty of the Northern Conservatory of Music in Bangor, Maine, and offered their daughter some extraordinary opportunities to make music. By the time she was 13 years old Judith was playing violin with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, the oldest community orchestra in America.

Music has been a mainstay of Judith’s life, and she played her violin with orchestras and small ensembles for many decades in Maine, Massachusetts, and Florida. She also taught violin, at one time managing a schedule of fifty students. Stories of her long performing career alone would fill a book, but music was not the only exciting current that swept her along on adventures.

When Judith was only 15 and singing in the All Souls Congregational Church girls’ choir, she looked out and there he was, the new youth minister, a first-year seminary student named John Whitney MacNeil.  Yes, that name might sound familiar to you. MacNeil was the visionary Congregational church minister responsible for founding both Plymouth Harbor and New College in Sarasota. Imagine this bold young man in his mid-twenties waiting almost five years to wed the beautiful and talented young Judith, almost nine years his junior.

After her childhood, Judith calls her 39-year marriage to the outgoing clergyman the second of her three lives, so distinct is the division in her mind. She and John married in 1940 and had their first son, Peter, while living in Auburn, Maine. After five happy years, they moved on to Eliot Union Church in Lowell, Maine, where their second son, Paul, was born, and then on to Framingham, Maine, where John joined Grace Congregationalist Church as its minister until 1957.

During those years in and around Boston, Judith was kept busy with many performing opportunities. She played her violin with small chamber ensembles, as well as the Reading Civic Symphony and Boston Women’s Symphony.

When John and Judith, with Peter and Paul, moved next to Sarasota, Judith soon put her violin back to work, this time with the Florida West Coast Symphony.  While the boys adjusted to new schools and John developed his vision for the First Congregational United Church of Christ, Judith received an invitation from conductor Alexander Bloch and concertmaster David Cohen to serve as principal second violin during the 1957-58 orchestra season. It was to be the longest association with a single orchestra of her lifetime.

Just as they were all enjoying their new lives in Florida, their older son, Peter, was diagnosed with cancer. Two years later he passed away.

Reminiscing about a family vacation taken when Peter was seven, Judith says she marveled at seeing the national parks out west through the eyes of her son. Not long after Peter’s death, the family took a second cross-country road trip with Paul, who was a teenager by then, but this time visited retirement communities from the Midwest.

John was already envisioning the solution to a need he saw for a life-affirming retirement community devoid of long halls and parked wheelchairs. He even imagined smaller groupings (colonies) as an innovative solution. He brought the best ideas back to the volunteer leaders of the First Congregational UCC to consider as they raised funds, constructed, and finally opened the doors of Plymouth Harbor in 1966.  “I just watched him do it,” says Judith, who claims she played no role in her husband’s illustrious achievements.

They were not to enjoy these times for much longer. John had a serious heart attack in November of 1965, retired from his church leadership in 1966, and remained frail until his death 13 years later. Judith was strong and healthy throughout this time and continued teaching and playing her violin.

Along with music, there had been another constant in Judith’s life since her childhood. For several generations, her family had spent every summer at Onawa Lake in the Great North Woods, beside the Appalachian Trail in northern Maine. After John’s death, Judith returned to the lake and surrounded by mountains, family, and friends, she enjoyed nature and the many memories associated with those past summers.

Another family that summered on the lake introduced her to a quiet civil engineer from the University of Maine who had also lost his spouse in the previous year. Bob Merrill and Judith MacNeil met in July and knew their fate early on. By October 1980 they were married and honeymooning in Great Britain.  Bob was a woodsman who loved to hike and travel. They split their time between Maine and New Hampshire for the summers and Sarasota in the winter for the next two or three decades and enjoyed their combined families, now burgeoning with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

 sunrise wind 
a sandpiper walks 
the waterline

Of course, her family is very important to Judith, and she is quick to point out that her son, Paul, is an award-winning poet specializing in haikus and editor of the print and web haiku monthly, The Heron’s Nest.  Judith delights, too, in Paul’s two beautiful twin granddaughters.

In 2007, Judith recalls, life seemed to circle back on itself. “I convinced Bob that it was time to consider Plymouth Harbor as our home. He was skeptical at first, but was won over by the Wood Shop, which he loved.” For five years they enjoyed Plymouth Harbor together before Bob began to face health issues. When he died in February 2012, Judith sorrowfully closed another chapter of her life.

Judith’s North Garden residence is filled with art, photos, and memorabilia from a life richly lived. She doesn’t teach or play her violin anymore, but she does keep up with the news of Sarasota’s lively arts scene. And now, with her iPad in hand and following the details of her extended family’s activities, Judith is still enjoying a most extraordinary life.




Did you ever wonder what role Philanthropy plays in the whole scheme of things across the country?  We hear about the mega gifts from the Gates Foundation to end polio, or Warren Buffett’s bracket challenge, or how Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan were the top philanthropists in 2013, having made a gift valued at $970 million to a Silicon Valley charity…because this magnitude of giving makes the headline news.  But, important to know, and even surprising to discover, is how much is really donated to charities annually, where those donations go, and who made the gifts.

2013 By recipient Org

2013 Contributions by Source

Giving USA is published, researched, and written by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.  It is the annual report on philanthropy for giving across the country.  Giving USA 2014 has just been published, and we are pleased to share with you some of the highlights from the report.  As noted above, some of this information may be surprising to you…we indeed have an incredibly philanthropic country!  If you would like to see more data related to this report, please contact me at ext. 398 at the Plymouth Harbor Foundation office.


Total 2013 contributions to charitable organizations: 


2013 Increase in Total Giving over 2012:  4.4%

2013 Increase in Individual Giving over 2012:  4.2%

2013 Increase in Bequest Giving over 2012:  8.7%

Giving by Foundations increased by 5.7%

Giving by Corporations decreased by 1.9%

Tom-Towler“When the time came for us to consider our next move, it was unanimously Plymouth Harbor.  When they asked me to consider a seat on the Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board, it was also unanimous.  The Foundation is doing great things for life at Plymouth Harbor, today and into the future.  I am honored to be part of it!”

– Tom Towler, Trustee
Plymouth Harbor Foundation
Plymouth Harbor Resident since October 2009

Tom graduated from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and joined Mobil Oil Company for several years. He subsequently chaired the grocery non-food company for the Kroger Company, Top Value Trading Stamp Company, TV Travel, and served as an officer of the Baldwin United Financial Services Company in Cincinnati. He arranged the purchase of the S&H Green Stamp Company, taking them private from the NYSE public listing. Tom retired, moved to Siesta Key in 1984 with his late wife Sue, and then spent 5 years working as a property assessor with Goodnow Associates. He has a passion for volunteering, which includes Board positions with Sarasota Memorial Hospital Healthcare Foundation Board (chair), New College Foundation Board, Field Club Board, and Bay Plaza Board, and he was Chair of Siesta Key Utility Authority for six years. He is currently an elected trustee of Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Tom has four children and has encouraged each of them to be active volunteers. He and his significant other Nancy Lyon have a beautiful view of Sarasota from their 16th Colony apartment.  They are both “legacy residents,” as Tom’s sister is a current resident, and his late aunt and Nancy’s late mother were both residents of Plymouth Harbor.