Florida settled into my soul like a fine mist during my childhood, thanks to my father’s dreams. In the late 1950s, he came to stay with family in West Palm Beach to recuperate from major life changes he’d experienced, from the loss of his father to his mother’s remarriage and his dream of college slipping away. He drove across South Florida in his old DeSoto, thru the cane fields to Belle Glade, where the streets were mud and the sidewalks wooden, to the beach at Fort Myers, where he froze all night sleeping on the dunes.

Rainbow Springs, 1969
Me, Dad, and Susan at Rainbow Springs, 1969
My earliest memories of Florida come from our annual trips that started after I was old enough to walk. I remember Mom and Dad and I walking along SR40 in Silver Springs and me yelling “Yeow bug! because of the insect invasion between Sun Plaza and the Early American Museum after dark.

I remember walking the Gumbo Limbo Trail at Everglades National Park and Dad trying to scare me as we walked past the solution holes by saying “oooooolite.” I remember jellyfish on the beach and staring out the car window at sugar cane fields, canals, and the awesome expanse of ocean as we drove across the original Seven Mile Bridge, and how the giant jewfish at the Key West Aquarium dwarfed me.

Dad with newborn Sally
Later that same year, my sister Sally was born

Dad’s dreams of Florida brought us back here every year, even as our family expanded from 3 to 6, and ultimately led to our moving to Ocala, with Silver Springs one of my parents favorite destinations, in 1977. I was in the middle of high school and did not take the change well.

Dad at Disneyworld
I did visit, however, and a favorite destination for Mom and Dad was Walt Disney World

My life moved in different directions until ten and a half years ago, when my sister Susan died. I came back to be with Mom and Dad in this difficult time and I fell back in love with my childhood memories, my father’s dream of Florida.

Mom and Dad at Sunken Gardens
I took Mom and Dad on a lot of my research trips from 2001 on.
Ormond Memorial Gardens
Amber, Mom, and Dad at Ormond Memorial Gardens
Mom and Dad at Old Spanish Point
Our last garden together: Old Spanish Point, Sarasota.

That dream will always be a part of me, but it is no longer my father’s dream. He left us last night to join my sister Susan. We will carry on that dream, the dream of Florida and backroads, of the Everglades and the springs and forests and gardens and tropical trees he so loved. He will always be with me in my travels.

Reader Interactions


  1. Cherish those memories, Sandra. This first year is the toughest. Slowly the grief will share space in your heart with the good memories. My dad died on Christmas Eve, 2005, and my family marks the holidays with a lunch telling “Dad stories”. He, too, loved Florida and brought us every winter break to the Ft. Myers area, eventually settling in LaBelle with my mom. A recent visit to Sanibel made me recall the trip when I was 10 and pushed a bucket full of shells under the station wagon car seat for the drive home. About the time we got to the Florida state line, my dad erupted, wanting to know who brought live shells with them and where was the offending contraband? Fathers: they do always know best.

  2. Sandy…this is a beautiful memorium. You are such a good daughter, sister and cousin. I love you. Ruth

  3. Very sorry to learn of your father’s passing, Sandra. Your remembrance was beautiful and meaningful for those of us who have a connection, however tenuous, to Florida.

  4. Sandra, So sorry for your loss, but as you continue to celebrate your dad’s life, please keep sharing all those adventurous journeys with your Florida (and Tennessee) friends.

  5. Jim and I are so sorry to learn of your father’s death. It is obvious from what you wrote that your family loves each other very much. Remember all the wonderful times and experiences you had together. You are in our prayers.

  6. Sandy, I am so very sorry for your painful loss.
    What a legacy he has left behind for generations through your passions, talents and drive to reach others and share Florida’s natural treasures.
    May God’s peace flood your soul and colorful family memories warm you in the coming days.
    Prayers and hugs to you and yours.

  7. Hi sandra,

    Our thoughts are with you at this time. His love of nature had inspired you Sandra, and you have inspired so many with the sharing of your writings and blogs. During this difficult time its hard to reflect, but he will live on thru your camera lens and writings.

    Thanks for all you do for the trails of Florida that sometimes don’t have a human voice.


  8. Sandra, we know you are in a shock stage right now, hope you can stay and take care of your mom..What a great thing to do.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you and we all appreciate you and your endeavors..

    A misplaced Floridian in cold South Georgia…Joan Richards Herndon

  9. What a beautiful tribute to your dad, Sandy. He has given you a gift–your love of the outdoors and of Florida—that you’ll carry forever, right there with your cherished memories of him. With sympathy, Kath

  10. Sandra,
    I am sorry to hear of your Father’s passing. It will be 1 year on the 28th of this month that my own Father passed away. Though it is different for everyone, I do understand the loss.
    I am still figuring things out for myself in losing my Dad, so I have no inspiring words to offer, not that they would help at this time…but I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.
    I Send you all my best wishes for Peace.

    My heartfelt sympathies,