By Randy Noles
Right to left: Ted Maines, Marty Prague, Fannie Hillman and Jim Cooper.

While we don’t frequently run obituaries in Winter Park Magazine, we’re deviating from style in this issue because the city recently lost four extraordinary citizens who inspired us with their kindness, passion and perseverance.

Ted Maines, owner of Ted Maines Interiors, died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma at just 64. It would take a spreadsheet the size of a bedsheet to chart the array of public and private organizations across the political, cultural and social landscape of Orlando and Winter Park touched by Ted and attorney Jeffrey Miller, his partner for 39 years and husband since 2013.

Ted was the immediate past president of the board of trustees for the Orange County Library System. He and his beloved Italian Greyhound, Donatella, were co-chairs of the annual Paws for Peace walk, which benefits Harbor House of Central Florida, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse and their pets. 

A regional power couple in every sense of the word, Ted and Jeffrey were also involved in the Human Rights Campaign and were founding members of the Rainbow Democratic Club and Central Floridians United Against Discrimination, which later became Equality Florida.

Ted was on the Historic Preservation Board of the City of Orlando and the boards of the Orlando Ballet, the Creative City Project, Hope and Help and the Orlando Police Foundation.

At the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center, Ted was instrumental in creating the Upstanders Anti-Bullying Campaign. (Jeffrey is co-chair of the project to build a massive new facility for the center near downtown Orlando.) 

Yes, it’s all too easy for written memorials to morph into nothing more than lists of good works. When Ted’s death was announced however, social media lit up with personal reminiscences of his warmth, his good humor, his larger-than-life personality and his love for the music of Joni Mitchell — who famously sang, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.”

Martin “Marty” Prague was a maestro of accounting who used his skills with numbers to support the arts organizations that he loved. Marty, who died at age 92, was mostly a behind-the-scenes force, but did appear several times in non-singing roles with the Orlando Opera Guild (a precursor to today’s Opera Orlando).

A native of The Bronx, Marty graduated from CCNY (now the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College) and became certified as a CPA in 1954. He worked for several firms in New York City before moving to Orlando in 1972 to simultaneously manage the Laventhol & Horwath offices in Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville. 

In 1972, Marty opened his own practice, Martin M. Prague, CPA, P.A., in Orlando. In 1986, he relocated the business to Winter Park, where he shared space with The Paper Shop, which was owned by his wife, Ellen — a civic force in her own right — on Park Avenue. 

Beginning in 1975, Marty served for five years as treasurer of the Florida Symphony Orchestra, followed by a term as the orchestra’s president. In 1977, he became president of PESO (the precursor of United Arts). More recently he served on the board of the Winter Park Library. 

“Marty Prague was an accountant’s accountant,” says Rick Walsh, owner of the Knob Hill Group, an investment and consulting company. “He loved what he did, and he enthusiastically enjoyed telling young people why they should love it, too, by funding scholarships for students who were interested in the profession.” 

Marty served as president of the Central Florida Chapter of the Florida Institute of CPAs (FICPA) and as president of the FICPA Educational Foundation. Walsh, in tribute to his friend, helped to establish the Martin M. Prague Endowment to provide scholarships to future generations of CPAs.

David Odahowski, president and CEO of the Edyth Bush Foundation, fondly recalls Marty’s keen interest in the city’s economic vitality — right up to the time of his passing — as well as his genial personality. 

“Marty was a regular at Winter Park Chamber of Commerce meetings,” says Odahowski. “He sat in the same place, just inside the entrance to the  community room, where he would greet you with his trademark smile.” 

Fannie Hillman, who died at age 88, was a single mom and a biology teacher at Winter Park High School before earning her real estate license in 1972 and becoming a top producer for Don Saunders Real Estate of Winter Park.

She founded her own brokerage, Fannie Hillman + Associates Real Estate Company, in 1981 — when mortgage interest rates were in the 18 percent range. “My mom was gutsy, fearless, strong — all those accolades described her,” says son Scott, who has been president of the now-iconic company since 1994.

Mrs. Hillman, a trailblazer for woman business owners in Central Florida, was the first woman board member of the Winter Park Racquet Club. She was also a supporter of the arts and quietly gave back to numerous good causes. A song featured at her memorial service was, appropriately, “My Way.”

Finally, I wanted to note the passing of Jim Cooper at age 82. A real estate developer and a member of the Greater Orlando Builders Association (GOBA) Hall of Fame, Jim helped me and many others — more than he ever knew, I’m sure — during the economic collapse of 2008.

A group of about 60 GOBA board members — many of them distraught and heartbroken as they watched their livelihoods disintegrate due to circumstances beyond their control — had gathered to discuss how to survive. I was GOBA’s associate vice president at the time.

Jim — husband of custom builder Carmen Dominguez — was a quiet man who was already an éminence grise in the homebuilding industry. So when he asked to speak, everyone listened.

He frankly described, in deeply personal terms, hardships and setbacks that he had weathered. He added that, while he had no easy answers, he hoped that anyone feeling utterly hopeless would call him immediately, any time. There’d be a friend on the other end of the line, he promised.

There was a moment of stunned silence before everyone in the room stood and applauded. It’s fair to say that more than a few tears were shed. And it’s equally fair to say that this soft-spoken man became, to those listening and to those who heard about his remarks second hand, an anchor in the storm.

Listen, empathize, persist. Upcoming community leaders would do well to follow the examples set by Ted, Marty, Fannie and Jim.

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