It was recognition perhaps long overdue.

Nelda Thompson, with a nod to her late husband Jim, was honored recently for the couple’s work to restore the Hermitage on Manasota Beach.

Thompson will be the first to tell you she didn’t do it alone. There was assistance, both financially and personally, from people like Tom Dignam and Leslie Edwards. But it was the Thompsons who organized, pushed and executed the plan to take some abandoned buildings on the beach and turn them into an artist’s retreat.

The idea bloomed in the 1990s as the weather-worn buildings making up the Hermitage were threatened by neglect. A group of Englewood residents, gathered by Nelda and Jim according to a story by Elaine Allen-Emrich, worked and raised money to convert the old buildings into a retreat that would host some of the nation’s most talented writers, musicians and other artists over the years.

Friends and admirers of the Hermitage decided it was time to give Thompson, an 83-year-old real estate broker, her due.

They literally placed Thompson on a throne, lit sparklers, played music and shared a video for those in attendance that highlighted people involved with the Hermitage praising the effort to restore it and Thompson for her leadership role.

The whole affair preceded the Artful Lobster annual fundraiser headed up by Edwards and the Hermitage board. The event drew 200 or more guests who bought lobster and helped raise money to continue the Hermitage’s work.

Thompson, by all accounts, had a grand time at the event. But, in the end, she said it was others as much or more than her that should be recognized.

We’re thankful for all those who have made the Hermitage what it is today. And we’re thankful for people like Jim and Nelda Thompson who take the initiative to kick start such important projects.

Wellen Park loves its trees

In North Port, it’s pretty well known that Alice White is the No. 1 tree hugger/lover around.

But maybe, just maybe, the founder of People for Trees has some competition.

That thought comes after an announcement recently that Canadian billionaire and owner of Mattamy Homes — the top builder in Wellen Park — will shell out a million dollars to save and move some majestic oaks in the development.

Yes, $1 million will go into relocating and saving 26 mature oak trees into or near Wellen Park’s planned downtown area. Wellen Park, of course, is the renamed West Villages — an 11,000-acre development in North Port that may some day be home to 50,000 residents.

The development is working on a downtown area that will be located along Tamiami Trail. It already has a Marketplace plaza and a welcome center.

There are currently four large trees inside the planned downtown area.

One of them — 96-inches in diameter and 100 years old — will stand at the entryway to the project. The other trees will be placed around the development and its 80-acre lake, restaurants, shops, concert and festival areas according to a story by Craig Garrett.

Each tree will be in a protected area after it is carefully dug up and transplanted. The whole project will take about 24 months to complete.

When the work is done, the trees will be lit up, creating quite a sight according to Rick Severance, Wellen Park president.

White, by the way, gave the project a big thumbs up, calling it a “wonderful effort.”

We agree. Generation-old trees deserve our respect and preservation.


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