Ann Dever might be a bit overwhelmed by how Charlotte County is remembering her and her husband Chuck.
But she’d probably like what’s been created in her name.
County officials held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting Sept. 12 to commemorate the completion of the Ann and Chuck Dever Regional Park recreation center, 6961 San Casa Drive in Englewood.
The county-funded $9 million, 23,000-square-foot recreation center includes a wood-floor gymnasium, fitness center, multi-purpose rooms and a community garden. It is the crown jewel of the Ann & Chuck Dever Regional Park on San Casa Drive.
Originally calling it Oyster Creek Park, the county formally dedicated the 315-acre active and environmental park to Dever in 2012, three years after her death from lung cancer. Her widower Chuck and their two sons, David and Scott, were among those who attended the dedication. The county added Chuck’s name to the park last year.
Dever, a charter member of the Placida Rotary Club and a member of the county’s recreation advisory board, was credited with helping to steer the county to build the park and improve it over the years.
It is now home to a well-used public pool with a splash playground for kids, nature trails, the J.M. Berlin Rotary Skate Park, dog parks, picnic areas, the Larry Nicol Field and football practice fields, playgrounds and more.
But Ann Dever’s activities and advocacy were not limited to the park.
An avid angler, Dever founded a women’s fishing club in Placida. At the time, she told a reporter, “A friend of mine moved away who I had been fishing with quite often. I realized what it was like that I didn’t have a fishing partner.”
She was an active member of the International Women’s Fishing Association and won several awards. She organized local children’s fishing tournaments for the Police Athletic League and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to imagine when Dever found time to fish.
She wrote the outdoors column for the Englewood Sun and worked as a radio host for WENG’s “All About Women.” She was an activist for the Council on Aging and Boy’s & Girl’s Club.
In 2008, through the Placida Rotary and the Love Light & Melody nonprofit organization, Dever spearheaded an effort to gather shoes and clothing for “landfill children,” children living in dumps outside of Managua, Nicaragua.
The Devers moved from Michigan in 1992. Ann’s most lasting contribution to Englewood is helping the community’s kids in need.
Meeting kids’ needs
One story about Ann Dever has been told often, but bears retelling.
In February 2009, a cold day, Ann Dever ran into her neighbor, Marcia Louden, then the principal at L.A. Ainger Middle School, at a grocery store.
During the conversation, Dever asked how the children were getting by since families in Englewood, like the rest of the nation, suffered from the crushing blows of the recession. Not good, Louden said.
Despite being in the throes of her battle with cancer, Dever, then 74, worked tirelessly to help Englewood’s children. Dever and Louden drafted the help of businessman and philanthropist Tom Dignam.
In April 2009, Ann, Tom, and others founded the Kids’ Needs of Greater Englewood. Dever died the following October.
“She was very generous,” Dignam recalled.
Dever is still remembered by Kids’ Needs of Englewood for making their work a reality. To learn more visit kidsneedsenglewood.com.