When I joined the Times-Union more than 10 years ago, in the Specialty Publications department, one of the first stories I wrote was about Atlantic Beach. As I was putting it together, I came across a quote from Isak Dinesen: "The cure for anything is saltwater: Sweat, tears or the sea."
Beaches residents know this to be fact. Nothing works out the physical kinks and clears the mind like a brisk walk along the shore or a dip in the ocean. When tears must be shed, there are a multitude of good people and organizations in Atlantic, Neptune, Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra beaches who are willing to help.
As I moved from staff writer to editor, I took the helm of Shorelines in 2017. It was almost like coming home; I got my start as a reporter writing for a small parish newspaper in Louisiana. Plus, I'm a native Floridian and have spent more than my fair share of time on this state's beaches.
In preparing this final edition of Shorelines, the recurring theme of comments has been the boundless generosity and strong character of Beaches residents. Nearly all of those I spoke with repeatedly emphasized that the residents are no small part of what makes this area special.
As Bill Longenecker noted in his final Wavelengths column, Shorelines first began 30 years ago, in August 1992. While other T-U community sections fell by the wayside over the years, it has remained, no doubt in large part due to Bill's columns profiling various local residents (and semi-tongue-in-cheek product reviews), as well as the always entertaining (and sometimes educational) pieces from our social scene guru, Jackie Rooney.
Being an editor doesn't provide me the opportunity to write as often as I once did. Still, I've created a few pieces here and there, when the subject matter "spoke" to me in a profound way.
Sometimes they were timely, such as a report on the return of Independence Day fireworks around the Beaches after the pandemic. Sometimes they were just fun to write, like the November 2021 story on the Awards of Excellence presented by the Urban Land Institute.
Those awards recognize exceptional development projects that demonstrate innovation, responsible use of land and beneficial community impact. On this side of the ditch, the stunning Global Home of the PGA Tour in Ponte Vedra Beach took the top prize for new development.
My favorite stories, without a doubt, were the pair of tributes I wrote following the death of two men who were widely respected and beloved around the area: Rene Schiegg and Sterling Joyce.
Schiegg was an award-winning chef and local hotelier who was highly regarded in the community for his generous spirit and zest for living. A Swiss native, he was born in 1944 and passed away last August after a 20-year battle with Parkinson's Disease. I was inspired by his story, especially his determination to make the most of the time he had left.
His wife, Esther, recounted their 2019 trip back to Switzerland, where their husband (walking with a cane by then) enjoyed lunch with his “girls” at the top of Jungfraujoch in Switzerland — 11,362 feet above sea level.
Just a few months later, the death of Sterling Joyce brought forth another outpouring of respect and admiration.
The longtime maitre d’ at the historic Casa Marina Hotel and Restaurant in Jacksonville Beach was known not only for his dapper bow ties and genteel service, but also for his generous community spirit. He held two benefit parties each year to benefit Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, an effort that was reportedly born out of a tragedy he experienced as a child.
One winter day while living in New Jersey, young Joyce was at home with his mother and two younger sisters, their home's furnace caught fire. According to an earlier article, he remembered it was Dec. 12, because it was two days before his birthday. The fire department arrived in time to rescue him, but not his mother or sisters, who all perished in the blaze.
Joyce later said he supposed that losing something very precious at such a young age was most likely the catalyst for his generous nature. He established his birthday bashes as a way to honor the memory of his mother and sisters, as well as a way to give back to the community.
Telling those types of stories has always been at the heart of Shorelines; as we send the section on its final journey, below are comments from former staff, contributors and a few members of the community.
Kevin Hogencamp, currently the deputy city manager for Atlantic Beach, was part of the original reporting staff for Shorelines.
"If you arrived early at the Atlantic Beach movie theater circa 1992, Julie Howard, Keri McGee and I greeted you on the screen — promoting our shiny, colorful new zone edition, which curiously shared the name of a new (then) and venerable (now) Neptune Beach gift shop.
Julie and Keri were my favorite Beaches Bureau workmates ever. I also fondly remember my stint working for and with the nicest boss ever, Lamar Thames; stellar editors Beau Halton and Ed Stansel; amazing copy editors Robin Clark and Nick Bournias; a short-term boss, Phillip Milano, who many years later would become one of my favorite dudes ever; sweet-and-salty sojourner Sybil Fix; a young reporter-turned-lawyer who perhaps is the person I most admire — Paul Cirino; and, a couple of stellar interns who also transitioned to awesomeness: Leanna Freeman and Erica Owens.
Thanks for this opportunity to recall some of the best professional times of my life, along with the best journalists I've ever been around."
Phil Milano worked as community news editor from 1993 to 1995, later becoming news director for Jacksonville University and then a contributor for various T-U publications. These days he pursues his passion of performing with a local band.
"At that time, I think there were seven community zones and about 25 to 30 staff, including Shorelines. I moved on to become staff development editor and diversity recruiter before coming back to community news, the metro desk and features.
Those were the days with such wonderful colleagues. Now I only have time to sing."
Lana Champion, regional sales president for the USA Today network, served as general manager of Shorelines from 2002 to 2006, where she oversaw both advertising and editorial content.
"We will all miss the Shorelines publication. The early 2000s were some of the best years of my career as we built this publication with a team of dedicated journalists and advertising executives. Thank you for joining us for the past 30 years and for continuing to support the great journalism at The Florida Times-Union."
In a time when trust, truth and transparency are critically important — the news media continues to shine and provide content, insight and investigative journalism to help our communities thrive."
Jean Sealey is a former T-U staff writer and has spent several years as a frequent Times-Union contributor.
"I've had the privilege of meeting and getting to know some exceptional and inspiring people.
My most recent favorite stories were about people like Jerry Domask, who keeps fit through open-water swimming and creates art to deal with trauma associated with his military service; a Boys & Girls Club success story on the Davis triplets, whose mother was determined to overcome challenges and ensure their graduation from Fletcher High School; and Margaret Ceasar, whose passion for people earned her a promotion to human resources manager at Berkshire Hathaway, where she leads the company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council.
It has been an honor to shine a spotlight on people who make a difference, serve and inspire … and, to work with the awesome writers and editors at the T-U."
Former Managing Editor of Specialty Audience Joe DeSalvo fondly remembers how his staff of editors, writers and designers embraced the opportunity to add Shorelines to its portfolio of specialty publications and products some 10 years ago.
“The ability to produce a quality weekly report of the Beaches community while handling a full calendar of advertising-based products showed the staff’s versatility and writing skillset. Of course, it helped that we had longtime correspondents and columnists complementing our staff’s efforts.”
Ron Whittington is a public relations consultant who has also worked as a Times-Union contributor for nearly 20 years.
"As they say, all good things must come to an end. Over the years, the opportunity to be a freelancer gave me the chance to work with many great editors at the Times-Union including Joe [DeSalvo] and my most recent, Anne Hammock.
With Shorelines, I also had the privilege to meet many interesting people who make the beaches special and also capture the history of the beaches’ growth and development in real time."
Caleigh Quast is the development coordinator for Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry (BEAM).
"It deeply saddens me to hear this news, and see yet another wonderful newspaper no longer being published in our community. This may sound surprising, but I love reading a tangible paper, even though I'm 31, and many peers my age get their news online. I still have the newspaper delivered. It is a dying art, for sure. But I really wish that it wasn't.
I wanted to personally thank you for picking up so many of our press releases in recent years. It has helped tremendously with the public's awareness about BEAM's services to individuals struggling to make ends meet in our community, and helped to increase donations to our emergency programming from the height of the pandemic to today. I truly appreciate your dedication to our mission."
All good things, indeed. It has been a sincere pleasure and so greatly rewarding to help tell the stories of the Beaches these last few years. I am now working on the Opinion section, but I will do my best to get Beaches community news into the Metro or Life section. Please don't hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May we all have smooth sailing ahead!
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Fair winds and following seas: Shorelines sails into the sunset