Cynthia Edmonds, whose works have appeared on Winter Park Magazine covers three times, is a popular plein-air painter who lives in the house where she grew up near Lakemont Elementary School.

I’LL HAVE ANOTHER CUP OF COFFEE

Cynthia Edmonds, whose works have appeared on Winter Park Magazine covers three times, is a popular plein-air painter who lives in the house where she grew up near Lakemont Elementary School.

Award-winning plein-air painter Cynthia Edmonds discovered her passion for art as a youngster taking classes at the Rollins College Summer Day Camp. Now she doesn’t have to go any further than her backyard to find inspirational settings.

Edmonds, who lives in the circa-1950s house where she grew up on North Phelps Avenue near Lakemont Elementary School, has cultivated what she describes as a “secret garden” just outside her doorway. 

It showcases an array of native plants including sand live oaks, cabbage palms, saw palmettos, coral honeysuckles and such pollinators as coontie plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. In fact, an image of her garden appeared on the cover of the Summer 2019 issue.

Park Avenue Café — the third painting by Edmonds to grace a Winter Park Magazine cover – marks a departure from nature themes and captures a familiar scene at the iconic Briarpatch Restaurant, where countless Winter Parkers enjoy breakfast, lunch and people-watching.

That’s never been more true than now, in the era of COVID-19, when many are choosing to dine outdoors for safety reasons. Although Park Avenue Café predates the pandemic, Edmonds updated the painting to add masks to the server and several bystanders.

“This scene is so Winter Park,” says Edmonds. “I especially liked the way the figures were backlit by the sun shining from Central Park across the street. The graphic design of the awnings and roofline also appealed to me.”

Edmonds, who has a bachelor’s degree in fashion illustration from Florida State University, hasn’t always painted for a living. She worked for many years as an advertising illustrator for local retailers, including Ivey’s, Jordan Marsh and Hattie Fredrick.

She later earned a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Florida and moved to Washington, D.C., and later Seattle. There she worked as a photo art director and catalogue designer for Nordstrom while simultaneously discovering the wonder of oil painting.

“Each day, painting en plein air provided an exciting challenge to capture the ever-changing light and shadow,” she says. “Working on location inspires me in a profound way, and observing nature helps me to understand the shape, form and infinite colors of my subjects.”

Edmonds, who returned to Florida in 2001, is a signature member of the American Impressionist Society and Plein Air Florida. She participates in plein-air exhibitions throughout the U.S. — including the annual Paint Out Winter Park, sponsored by the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens.

Edmonds’ paintings can be found in collections at the University of Central Florida and the Maitland Art Center. Her paintings are also included in the St. Joe Company’s Forgotten Coast Collection and the Shands Arts in Medicine Collection at the Venice (Florida) Regional Medical Center.

Aficionados of Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival memorabilia will recall that Edmonds’ image of Greeneda Court on Park Avenue adorned the official festival poster back in 2007.

Edmonds loves to paint in her wildlife habitat garden and around Winter Park, but also finds inspiration in Maine, France and Italy. More of Edmonds’ work can be seen at cynthiaedmonds.com.

Edyth Bassler Bush

HERE COMES ‘THE EDYTH’

The Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation has recently begun work on a new, 16,934-square-foot headquarters to replace its existing building at the corner of East Welbourne and South Knowles avenues, a block off Park Avenue. The project will be “transformative,” according to foundation David A. Odahowski, president of the foundation for 30 years.

Could picture-postcard Winter Park possibly become even more exceptional? For generations it has been a hub for dining, shopping, education and the arts. And it’s one of the most charming small cities in the U.S., highlighted by genteel, old-world ambiance and the business district’s signature, oak-shaded Central Park.

Rollins College, a top-rated liberal arts institution that anchors the southern terminus of Park Avenue, appears on virtually every compilation of the nation’s most beautiful campuses. And, from downtown, a half-dozen one-of-a-kind museums are within walking distance from one another.

Still, despite this superabundance of style and substance, the answer to the question is yes. The city could — and soon will — increase its already off-the-charts cultural and intellectual quotient. 

The Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation has recently begun work on a new, 16,934-square-foot headquarters to replace its existing building at the corner of East Welbourne and South Knowles avenues, a block off Park Avenue (next to the popular Cocina 214 restaurant). 

But this won’t be just another building. “The Edyth,” set to be completed in 2022, will house not only the 49-year-old foundation’s administrative offices. There’ll also be community meeting spaces that will bustle with activities ranging from classes, performances, art exhibitions and more.

“I think this project will be transformative,” says David A. Odahowski, now entering his 30th year as president of the foundation. “We’ll have to start calling Park Avenue ‘The Avenue of Ideas.’”

Odahowski is referring not only to the foundation’s project but also to the Innovation Triangle, which is planned by Rollins on what’s now known as the Lawrence Center — a city block bounded by New England, Interlachen, Lyman and Knowles avenues, just down the street from The Edyth.

According to college officials, the 40,000-square-foot building now occupied by Valley National Bank and other tenants would remain on the site’s northwest corner. Two new buildings — one housing the Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business and one housing the Cornell Fine Arts Museum — would be built on the southeast and northeast corners, respectively. The third component of the triangle is 72-bed expansion of the college-owned Alfond Inn.

Each component of the Innovation Triangle is dependent upon fundraising, which COVID-19 has temporarily upended. Still, plans call for the project — which earned city approvals earlier this year — to continue apace when the health crisis resolves and economic stability returns. 

The Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, however, is pushing ahead now with a view toward positioning itself for a post-pandemic world in which philanthropy will be more important than ever.

“This too shall pass,” adds Odahowski, an attorney by training who ran the Wasie Foundation in Minneapolis before finding a decidedly warmer home in sunny Central Florida. “Between our project and the Innovation Triangle, downtown Winter Park will be buzzing,”

Ironically, Odahowski’s Minneapolis connection continued in Winter Park. Archibald Granville “Archie” Bush and Edyth Bassler Bush, his wife and the local foundation’s benefactor, were also from Minneapolis, and became seasonal Winter Park residents in 1949.

Odahowski continues: “Our new home will reshape our ability to serve the community in a very dramatic way. Our intention is to create a gathering place that will spark creative new ideas, connect individuals and organizations doing good in the community, and provide the tools, space, and resources that many nonprofit organizations would not have access to otherwise.”

Odahowski, who prefers to keep a low profile, has nonetheless come to be known as “Mr. Winter Park” for his scrupulous stewardship of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation — which supports numerous good causes in the city where it was founded nearly 50 years ago. Odahowski has been at the foundation’s helm for 30 years.

Designed by SchenkelShultz Architecture, The Edyth will feature a glass facade, a two-story atrium and three levels — each with a specific purpose. The layout is comparable to a theater, a nod to Edyth’s advocacy for the arts and the foundation’s history of supporting the local arts community.

The first floor will be dedicated to meeting rooms and open space for use by local groups. Odahowski describes it as “a hub for creativity and connection.”

The second floor, dubbed “The Archibald” in honor of Edyth’s husband, will house a community board room equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The third floor will encompass administrative offices and perhaps another nonprofit tenant.

Since it was formed, the foundation has distributed 4,141 grants to nonprofit organizations totaling more than $113 million. Most of the grants have gone to nonprofit organizations involved with education, healthcare and programs for the underprivileged “that help people help themselves.” 

But the foundation casts a wide net — and was the first and largest contributor to the under-construction Winter Park Public Library and Events Center in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The $750,000 matching grant gave the project — which was controversial in some quarters — a seal of approval from one of the region’s most respected philanthropic organizations.

Most Central Floridians know the Bush name because of the foundation and its wide-ranging work. But the people who made it all possible have fascinating backstories.

Edyth Bassler Bush

Edyth (1887-1972), whose name would one day become synonymous with philanthropic giving in Central Florida, was a successful actress, ballet dancer and playwright until she gave up her stage career in 1919 to marry Archie (1887-1966), sales manager for the then-struggling Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing company. 

Archie was not wealthy at the time — but he later became the chairman and largest individual shareholder of the company known worldwide as 3M. The Bushes first visited Winter Park in 1949, buying a winter home and immersing themselves in civic life. 

Most notably, they donated to Rollins and helped found Winter Park Memorial Hospital (now AdventHealth Winter Park). After Archie’s death, Edyth decided to settle permanently in Winter Park and focused on giving to programs that advanced education and the arts. 

In 1967, for example, she funded construction of Loch Haven Park’s Central Florida Civic Theater, which was renamed the Edyth Bush Theater following her death. (It’s now known as Orlando Repertory Theater.)

The Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, formed in 1973, has kept on giving. Rollins has been a major beneficiary, receiving almost $15 million — including an $800,000 gift for construction of the original Archibald Granville Bush Science Center. (In 2013, the foundation gave another $1 million for renovation and expansion of the building.) 

In collaboration with the college, it operates the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership, which provides consulting services to some 3,000 nonprofit executives and board members from around the country every year. 

In 2015, the foundation won the Outstanding Foundation Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals — earning the same honor from both the international chapter and the regional chapter — by effectively carrying out Edyth’s instructions: “Make Central Florida a better place for all of its citizens.” 

Odahowski, who prefers to keep a low profile, has nonetheless come to be known as “Mr. Winter Park” for his scrupulous stewardship of the foundation — which supports numerous good causes in the city where it was founded. 

The epitome of “Minnesota nice,” Odahowski earned a law degree from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul. He likes to point out that as a student, he studied in Hamline’s Bush Memorial Library — named for Archie Bush — never dreaming that he would someday head a foundation that would fund yet another educational building named for the self-made millionaire.

“I’m always asking about the highest and best needs of the people with whom I meet,” says Odahowski. “My role is that of a fiduciary of the philanthropic legacy of Edyth Bush. It’s not my foundation, nor my money, nor my priorities. I’m here to prepare the next generation of board and staff to carry the torch and burn a brighter flame of servant leadership for the future.”

Although it’s basically a sandwich shop, George’s makes fantastic cookies as well as brownies and other yummy baked desserts. They’re made in small batches, Paul says, which means they’re less greasy and more robust-looking than most restaurant cookies.

BY GEORGE, IT’S TIME FOR LUNCH

Photography by Rafael Tongol

George’s Cafe is owned and operated by George John Paul II (right) and his best friend, Alice Eide (left). The welcoming location (site of the former Brandywine’s Delicatessen) offers plenty of bang for the buck.

Those $130 steaks we feature here, those artfully plated luxury foods, those chef passion projects — poof! Gone from our minds. In this issue, we’ll get our culinary kicks from a simple sandwich or well-made salad featuring fresh ingredients. Period. For now, we have no bandwidth for the fussed-up feasts which, until March 2020, were a highlight of Winter Park’s dining scene.

Introducing George’s Café, although most of you probably know George — or at least his food. The eatery, which since April has served daytime meals in the old Brandywine’s Delicatessen location on North Park Avenue, is the right restaurant for these challenging times. 

Here’s why: The food is straightforward. The service is friendly. And the outside seating area is expansive. Trifecta!

George’s Café is a sandwich shop, known also for its oversized cookies. It now serves breakfast, too, in a homey space filled with mismatched furniture and doodads that represent the interests of owner George John Paul II. (He was named for his father, not the Beatles, so there’s no Ringo.) 

Still, those interests, as you may have guessed, include Beatles’ memorabilia. There are also decorative giant fish and assorted Key West gewgaws. The floor stickers reminding customers to stand six feet apart are canine paws because, according to Paul, his English bulldog pets have been “the loves of my life.”

George’s specialty sandwiches include the Philly cheesesteak (center), which features USDA Choice prime rib sliced and topped with grilled onions and peppers plus provolone on a hoagie. Side choices include house-made french fries and macaroni salad The chicken salad sandwich (top left) comes on a croissant with a choice of sides that includes potato salad and roasted beets. The Abigail (top right) is the cafe’s version of a Reuben. It’s made with house-roasted corned beef, fresh sauerkraut and imported Swiss and Russian dressing, then grilled on fresh, house-made bread.

You might remember George’s Café from its small storefront location on Lee Road — then known as George’s Gourmet Cookies and Catering, which operated there for five years prior to moving in the spring. I had heard about it often from enthusiastic friends, so finally I went for lunch a while back. 

The establishment’s name didn’t sound much like a sitdown restaurant, but what the heck. At the time, I was thrilled to see an egg-salad sandwich on the menu, since I had been on a futile 20-year quest to find one I liked at an Orlando-area restaurant. But I was disappointed with the sandwich, and had not since returned to George’s.

Yet, friends continued to talk up the place, and I didn’t understand why. Then it occurred to me that my bafflement was based on a single experience from several years earlier. Perhaps it was time to try again. 

On a recent Wednesday, I walked into the relocated George’s Café and ordered several sandwiches with two side dishes apiece as well as chili, two green salads (classic with mandarin oranges and pecans, and brie and apple with maple walnut dressing, both excellent), two cookies and an indulgent Danish. 

I thoroughly and completely enjoyed every single item — except the egg-salad sandwich. I guess I’m just impossible to please when it comes to egg salad.

Here’s what I learned: George’s Café makes its food from scratch. Unlike most Central Florida restaurants, which buy pre-cooked and often pre-sliced deli meats, George’s uses its oven. 

How about a healthy lunch? The fresh beet and goat cheese salad (left) encompasses creamy goat cheese, romaine lettuce, field greens and pine nuts with a balsamic dressing. Also shown is a brie and apple salad, which is a full meal loaded with wedges of imported cheese, crisp apple slices and roasted pecans with maple-walnut dressing. George’s award-winning chili (right) is topped with sour cream, white cheddar cheese, green onions and Applewood bacon. It comes with cornbread or any other kind of bread your heart desires.

It roasts turkey breast, which you’ll find in the Puddsy, a baguette sandwich with bacon, muenster cheese and house-made sun-dried tomato dressing. The steak in the Elizabeth is tenderloin topped with sautéed onion, smoked provolone cheese and Béarnaise sauce. The French dip is loaded with USDA Choice prime rib and accompanied by French onion au jus and house-made steak sauce. 

And let’s not forget the Reuben, which here is called the Abigail after George’s first French bulldog. It’s made with house-roasted corned beef and rolled (I would have preferred it flat; what is this, TooJay’s?) with fresh sauerkraut, imported Swiss and Russian dressing before being grilled on fresh-baked bread.

The bacon is, of course, Applewood — the best. The potato salad, the cole slaw with celery seeds, the chunky applesauce — all made in the kitchen. The salad dressings are house-made, as are the potato chips. The breads are baked in-house from imported French dough. A pre-pandemic rye was flown in from New York; it’ll be back eventually.

“I want people to feel that our food is just like what their grandmother made,” Paul adds. Except, presumably, you never got a bill at your grandmother’s house. Which is to say, George’s isn’t cheap — but it’s reasonable for the quality.

Each sandwich is about $15, while salads are in the $12 range. “You get what you pay for,” George says. I agree, although I balked at the $120 bill for my (huuuuge) take-home lunch. Still, I’d go back in a flash. 

Although it’s basically a sandwich shop, George’s makes fantastic cookies as well as brownies and other yummy baked desserts. They’re made in small batches, Paul says, which means they’re less greasy and more robust-looking than most restaurant cookies.

It doesn’t jump out on the menu, but George’s — owned by a devout Catholic who had considered becoming a priest — also offers up some serious old-fashioned Jewish fare. 

The cabbage soup is reminiscent of that served at Ronnie’s, the legendary Orlando deli, which was owned by family friends of Paul’s. Brisket, matzo ball soup and potato pancakes are other staples. And those pickles! The crisp spears are exactly like the half-sours set out on the table in New York delis. George’s makes those, too.

George John Paul II has spent nearly his entire 62 years in Winter Park. You might have used Classic Catering, which Paul started with his late mother, Leona, in 1989. The business closed in 2010, shortly after Leona’s death and the national economic collapse. 

All told, Paul has been in food-related businesses his entire life, starting with his parents’ grocery store and the Holiday House and Hostess House buffet restaurants. 

Paul still does catering gigs. In fact, providing food for events accounts for 60 percent of his business — and the food comes from the same kitchen that the café uses.

“When people eat in our restaurant, I want to let them know this is an example of the quality of our catering food; they’re not two different things,” Paul says. “We use the same prime rib, the same tenderloin.”

That’s how crab cakes Benedict came to be on the breakfast menu. George’s already creates the seafood patties for catered events, so why not share them in the dining room? “From an inventory standpoint, from a consistency standpoint, it just makes sense,” Paul adds.

Now, we need to discuss the cookies. George’s always has a variety of cookies that are big, round and look like scones. They date back to the Classic Catering days, when Paul determined that the company needed a signature item and settled on distinctive cookies. 

This was in the late 1980s, around the time Mrs. Fields, David’s and, locally, Selma’s were changing the cookie business nationwide. Paul tinkered with recipes for two years, throwing out batch after batch of creations that friends assured him were terrific. “I wanted a cookie that didn’t flatten out and didn’t look greasy on top,” he says.

The interior is a homey space filled with mismatched furniture and doodads that represent the interests of owner George John Paul II, which range from Key West culture to Beatles’ music. The café also features an expansive outdoor seating area — perfect for the times.

Paul — inspired by something he had seen on the Food Channel — then began baking cookies in small batches. “With large batches, the heat of the mixer starts to melt the product,” he says. “And that’s where they bleed, and the grease comes out.” 

Also, he found that covering nuts with a light dusting of flour keeps grease at bay. The result is a moist, flavorful cookie. I urge you to try a peanut butter one. And a chocolate chip. The restaurant’s menu proclaims: “Life’s Short. Eat Cookies,” which sounds like excellent advice.

Like any small business, George’s is about relationships as much as food — and Paul’s relationships go back a long way. The Bishop Moore alumnus seems to know, or have gone to school with, pretty much everyone in town.

It’s also about giving back. Paul regularly hands cash to homeless people and is convinced that prayers from one grateful recipient helped to cure a sick friend. He also gives each day’s leftover cookies to the Winter Park Fire-Rescue Department. 

OK, these aren’t huge, gaudy acts of magnanimity. But they’re important to Paul, a believer in karma (although that’s not a term he would likely use). “Gandhi said what we do might be insignificant, but we should do it anyway,” Paul says. “I just think we should try to help one another and be kind — with sincerity.”

Humbly, Paul accepted kindnesses in return when the pandemic struck and his catering engagements were cancelled in rapid succession. The crisis erupted just as he was moving the restaurant into its new space and just as the state banned restaurants from allowing diners to eat on the premises. 

Selling $100 gift cards for $70 was a way to raise quick cash. One local philanthropist and longtime acquaintance, recalls Paul, came in and announced: “I want to buy $50 gift cards for 100 of my friends. No negotiations. This is what I’m going to pay you for them.” The amount, he says, was many times what it should have been.

“It makes you realize that you hear about the horror stories but seldom hear about the people who are supportive,” Paul notes. “We’ve had so many of them. So much of what has happened has been by the grace of God.”

So, when you really need to experience a good version of a food you’ve known forever (OK, maybe not the egg salad) or a friendly smile, George’s Café may be the place to go. “I don’t take myself seriously,” Paul says. “But I take what I do seriously.”

George’s Café
505 North Park Avenue, Winter Park
407-622-1499
georgescafewp.com

Nadeau didn’t much like his first published comic book work, 1989’s Best of the West (above), but says the retro shoot-’em-up was salvaged by inking from Dick Ayers, a former stalwart at Marvel Comics. More recently, Nadeau has continued drawing and publishing comics while expanding his horizons to encompass oil painting.

SEQUENTIAL ARTISTRY

Photography by Rafael Tongol

“I was that kid who drew all the time,” recalls John Nadeau. “In middle school, I discovered comics. And I decided: ‘I want to do that.’” Nadeau still draws mind-bending comics, but has recently begun to display his oil paintings at one-man shows.

John Nadeau was a senior at Winter Park High School when he landed his first professional gig as a comic book artist. He penciled a western called Best of the West for Americomics, a Longwood-based independent publisher that specialized in Golden Age-style adventure and superhero titles.

He thought, in retrospect, that his 1989 effort looked awful. Luckily, he says, veteran comic book inker Dick Ayers took the penciled pages and “cleaned them up considerably” by adding depth, weight and richness with his pen and brush.

“I didn’t actually see it in print until I was away at college,” says Nadeau, who admits that his high school “cool quotient” increased exponentially at having a forthcoming professional credit. “They mailed a copy to me. My excitement at doing anything at all eclipsed the fact that I didn’t think it was very good.”

Comics, for the uninitiated, are often drawn in pencil. Then, for purposes of reproduction, another artist embellishes the pencils with India ink. A good inker brings his or her own flair to the penciled pages. Ayers — who in the 1960s had been the primary inker on the legendary Jack Kirby’s artwork for Marvel Comics — was one of the greats.

From Best of the West through Aliens and Star Wars, Nadeau, 49, has penciled and inked his way into the upper echelon of comic artists through his mastery of complex, futurist machinery and a vivid imagination that conjures up gigantic space colonies in which cities are enclosed in cylinders that float through deep space.

Such a megalopolis is the setting for a recent series of self-published comics called Vector, which combine the seemingly disparate worlds of science fiction with fine-art smuggling. The stories are fun, but the real treat is Nadeau’s art, which depicts the self-contained colony and its denizens in exquisite detail.

Nadeau, who briefly pursued a career as an aeronautical engineer, loves to render complex machinery and futuristic structures, such as the image from Vector (facing page) of a vehicle speeding along the streets of a floating space megalopolis.

“I was that kid who drew all the time,” recalls Nadeau, who as a child moved to Maitland from Syracuse, New York, with his family. “In middle school, I discovered comics. And I decided: ‘I want to do that.’”

More specifically, Nadeau discovered the work of British-born comic artist John Byrne, who in the late 1970s was teamed with writer Chris Claremont on Marvel Comics’ The X-Men. Byrne and Claremont revitalized the title and made its Canadian character, Wolverine, among the most popular in Marvel’s publishing history.

If Marvel (whose characters included Spider-Man, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four) and D.C. (whose characters included Superman, Batman and the Justice League of America) comprised the comic book equivalent of the major leagues, there were some far-more-accessible minor-leaguers doing good work as well. 

Nadeau connected with one of them, Americomics, when he met publisher Bill Black at a comic book convention at a hotel on Lee Road. Black was already an industry notable, having drawn stories for Warren Publishing’s popular black-and-white horror magazines Creepy and Eerie in the 1960s. 

Those now-defunct periodicals featured the work of Frank Frazetta, Reed Crandall, Joe Orlando, Wally Wood and others who were considered masters of the craft. Several had made their names at E.C. Comics, the company that published stories so gruesome that a U.S. Senate subcommittee on juvenile delinquency met to discuss “the problem of horror and crime comic books” in 1954.

(As with rock ‘n’ roll, though, the grownups just didn’t get it. Still, the ensuing brouhaha pushed publishers to offer tamer — or, to be honest, duller — material until the superhero genre really took flight in the early 1960s. Some comic artists subsequently came to be regarded as rock stars, and “sequential art” as a discipline began to be regarded seriously.)

Nadeau didn’t much like his first published comic book work, 1989’s Best of the West (above), but says the retro shoot-’em-up was salvaged by inking from Dick Ayers, a former stalwart at Marvel Comics. More recently, Nadeau has continued drawing and publishing comics while expanding his horizons to encompass oil painting. More recently, Nadeau has continued drawing and publishing comics while expanding his horizons to encompass oil painting. Take, for example, Yellow Flower Tree (below), a view of Park Avenue from Central Park.

Nadeau showed Black his portfolio, and shortly thereafter began getting scripts to illustrate. By that time, the comic book industry was no longer driven by single-copy sales at those ubiquitous revolving racks at drug stores (Hey Kids! Comics!) but through direct purchases by comic book retail shops.

While having fun, Nadeau nonetheless recognized the need to earn a living and drifted away from comics, where creators remained poorly paid despite their increasing panache. He enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach to pursue study as an aerospace engineer. “I realized, though, that I just didn’t have the math skills,” he recalls. “I hit the wall at differential equations.”

Short and frustrating stints at Embry-Riddle and later Florida State University confirmed the futility of the effort. “The more I discovered my ineptitude in mathematics, the more I wanted to go back to comics,” says Nadeau, who began drawing again for Americomics in 1991. 

 The title he was assigned was Femforce, an “all-girl” team of shapely superheroines that included some new characters and some that dated from the 1940s and had been resurrected from public domain. The characters were pure eye candy for young male readers, but there was a certain nostalgic quaintness to the series — which is still being published despite its political incorrectness.

By the late 1990s, Nadeau had moved on to a galaxy far, far away with a series of Star Wars comics for Dark Horse, an Oregon-based publisher. A one-off issue that featured bounty hunter Boba Fett was voted “Best Original Star Wars Comic” by readers of Star Wars Galaxy, an officially licensed magazine that focused on collectibles related to the film series. 

Nadeau also drew Aliens-themed mini-comics, which were packaged with action figures from the screamworthy science fiction film, as well as several issues of Wolverine for Marvel and Green Lantern for D.C. Most comic artists love drawing iconic superheroes. But Nadeau was really more suited for the elaborate machinery and horrifying bug-like monsters in Aliens. 

Later, as the comic book industry slumped, Nadeau began to expand his horizons and completed a degree in film production technology from UCF. He also scripted and produced a low-budget feature film — never completed — which he describes as “a horrible idea involving pizza delivery drivers who get involved with murderers.”

Discouraged, Nadeau returned again to drawing and found an outlet for his love of structures and contraptions as a commercial artist and architectural renderer. He worked for various clients in Central Florida and around the world, including GoCovergence, HHCP Architects, OBM International, Simiosys, Sonesta, the Walt Disney Company and others. 

He has subsequently sought to enter the fine art world by honing his painting skills through classes at the Crealdé School of Art. In 2018, he began doing oil paintings for The Art of Disney Galleries, and his creations have been featured in several one-man shows — including one earlier this year at Winter Park City Hall.

But for Nadeau, the lure of comics remains strong. In 2017, he co-wrote and illustrated the series Murder Society for the Dark Horse anthology Dark Horse Presents. And two issues have been printed, but not yet distributed, of Vector, set in the meticulously rendered space colony. 

Nadeau is hard at work on issue three of Vector, a comic book that depicts a massive space colony and its denizens — some of whom are involved in art smuggling.

What’s the future of comic books? “I’m the last person to ask,” says Nadeau, who confesses that he enjoys creating comics but is generally ambivalent about the business model that keeps the industry afloat. “I suppose everything is going digital.”

Well, hopefully not everything. Nadeau is currently hard at work — using a pencil and illustration board — on the third issue of Vector. “Making comics is better than making movies,” he says. “You have the scope of a big-budget movie, but you don’t have to depend on other people — and you have complete control.” 

– Randy Noles

Desserts at BoVine, as one would expect, are housemade. The triple-chocolate layer cake, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, is particularly homey and satisfying — the ideal conclusion to a first-class steakhouse meal.

A DEFIANT STEAKHOUSE

Photography by Rafael Tongol

Opening a new restaurant is never easy. But owner Joanne McMahon (seated); Tony Krueger, executive chef (standing, left); and Ben Peters, chef (standing, right) debuted their upscale steakhouse on Park Avenue just as the COVID-19 pandemic was spiking in Florida.

Owner of two popular Park Avenue eateries, Joanne McMahon, faced a daunting challenge: to create a new restaurant in the space that was occupied for 36 years by the iconic Park Plaza Gardens — regarded by many Central Floridians as the epitome of special-occasion dining.

Over the decades, countless Winter Parkers had strolled into this Park Avenue institution toting gift bags to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, babies and business coups. 

Patrons lingered in the foliage-filled dining room with its partial glass ceiling. And the sidewalk seats were prized for people-watching with a drink and a nibble.

The food? It was at times exceptional, depending upon the chef. But the quality of the cuisine was almost beside the point. Locals simply had a communal emotional attachment to the space. 

But Park Plaza Gardens unceremoniously closed in 2016 during a rancorous dispute between the owner and the landlord over conditions in the restaurant space. (The building, nearly a century old, is enveloped by the charming 28-room Park Plaza Hotel, a separate business.)

McMahon, truly an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur, had the chutzpah to step into the empty space and create something new — something that wouldn’t make people forget Park Plaza Gardens but would be a worthy successor to it.

She already owned 310 Park South and Blu on the Avenue, so McMahon knows the boutique-lined boulevard and what it takes to run a successful restaurant there. The dining room dynamo signed a lease and commenced to turning the once-bustling location into BoVine Steakhouse.

Of course, a major renovation always uncovers surprises — usually not good ones. Just ask anyone who has ever hired a home remodeler. But in addition to the usual construction hassles, a pandemic hit just as the restaurant was finally about to open.

BoVine’s lobster bisque (top left) is made with sherry and lobster broth. The crab-stuffed salmon (top right)is Scottish salmon stuffed with jumbo crab mix and topped with béarnaise sauce. The dry-aged, bone-in ribeye (bottom) is superb and, like all BoVine meat, is shipped directly from Linz, a Chicago-based purveyor.

Still, BoVine Steakhouse welcomed its first guests on June 18, 2020. No grand opening party took place, no marketing reps handed samples to food writers. McMahon simply unlocked the door and ushered in the first diners seeking a socially distanced seat. We suspect that none of those early diners, especially the carnivores, left disappointed

Meals at BoVine are mostly traditional steakhouse fare with a few trendy upticks. McMahon developed the menu in collaboration with Executive Chef Tony Krueger, who has worked in McMahon’s kitchens since 2008. 

They chose beef shipped directly from Linz, a Chicago-based producer of black-hide Black Angus cattle, pampered and corn-fed for their final 150 days. Vegans, though, will find two entrées just for them, while appetizers such as salmon tartare offer light alternatives.

As for the famous atrium-style dining room — you won’t recognize it. The revamped (and now atrium-free space) has brick walls, some of them original. The tables have white tablecloths, and there’s a bar and a banquette as well as loads of booths.

The goal: elegant enough for an upscale experience yet welcoming enough to enjoy dinner while clad in shorts and a polo shirt. “Since the space was iconic Winter Park, we wanted to make it something nice, where people who used to go there would feel comfortable coming back,” McMahon says. Hence the conservative, vintage steakhouse look.

But oh, my! It was no easy task for BoVine to configure its operation to serve crab-stuffed salmon; dry-aged, bone-in ribeye (superb!); and veal chop topped with fontina (cheese) and speck (ham) either at the bar, in the dining room or packaged to take home.

Desserts at BoVine, as one would expect, are housemade. The triple-chocolate layer cake, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, is particularly homey and satisfying — the ideal conclusion to a first-class steakhouse meal.

Back when we were still maskless, hugging each other and innocently sharing food platters, McMahon was unearthing the former Park Plaza Gardens foundation. “Nothing had been done to it for years,” McMahon explains. “Nothing was up to code. We basically gutted it.” 

That meant a new roof, floors, ceilings and bricks as well as a bar and every sort of kitchen equipment. The restrooms were moved for easier access. Those glass ceilings that were a signature feature of Park Plaza Gardens? Not code-compliant and now history. 

And whoa, what’s that? An old chimney? Really? “Things were intermingled,” McMahon reports. “Every stone we turned, we’d see something and wonder, ‘Oh my God, where did that come from?’”

For many months, Winter Parkers — assuming the pandemic would someday abate, or that we’d at least learn to live with it — eagerly awaited a new restaurant in this hallowed space. And McMahon was determined to give it to them.

She and her crews cleared out rubbish and installed a sparkling new food-service system, from state-of-the-art air-conditioning with enhanced filtering capacity — a boon in these crazy times — to copper and black and white Villeroy & Boch Glow plates. Says McMahon: “We had to start from the beginning to do it all right.” 

The menus were printed and the staff was hired — then a mandatory lockdown was imposed that temporarily prohibited restaurants from hosting inside diners. “We were about to start training,” McMahon says. “It’s a three-week training process. At least we hadn’t ordered the food yet.” Some good news, at least.

Still, training proceeded apace. “Everyone had to wear a mask,” says McMahon. “Everyone sat six feet apart.” She added pandemic-related instruction, since masks, temperature checks, social distancing, frequent cleaning and super-sonic sanitizing were required.

The interior of BoVine, with its stately brick walls, bears no resemblance to the atrium-style dining room at Park Plaza Gardens, which previously occupied the space.

Then, with a slightly reduced menu since so much takeout was expected, BoVine swung its glass door open. And, surprise! People did indeed request takeout — but, once reopening began, many more wanted to dine indoors.

Maybe they were comforted by the website’s homepage, which lists an array of sanitation and safety precautions. Perhaps most importantly, with 200 seats, BoVine is big enough to spread guests out. For now, only two tables inhabit the long-popular sidewalk area. 

“If you’re going to buy a nice steak, you’re not going to sit outside and eat it in the summer. It’s just too hot,” McMahon says. She’ll add more tables there when the temperature drops.

On a recent Thursday night in August, I overheard staffers say that they had 22 dine-in reservations for that evening. Other customers would surely call to take home a meal, each item secured in eco-friendly paper packaging, with wines and to-go cocktail add-ons optional. A little thank you note goes into the bag, too.

The situation can only get easier for BoVine from here on, it seems. Kudos to McMahon for not being intimidated by the space’s reputation, discouraged by construction snags or prevented from bringing a new business to Park Avenue by a nasty virus that has done enough damage to our community already.


BoVine Steakhouse
319 South Park Avenue, Winter Park
407-794-1850
bovinesteakhouse.com

Don Sondag is known for portraits, but he’s also a world-class plein air artist.

SALUTING ‘THE VENICE OF AMERICA’

Don Sondag is known for portraits, but he’s also a world-class plein air artist.

Don Sondag has painted two of the past three covers of Winter Park Magazine, and a total of four in all — the most of any single artist. Somehow, though, we don’t think our readers will tire of seeing Sondag’s extraordinary images — especially his photorealistic landscapes.

In this issue, writer Greg Dawson explores the history of Winter Park’s iconic Scenic Boat Tour — and we were looking for an image of the canals through which the familiar pontoon boats travel.

As luck would have it, Sondag had in April staged an exhibition of original pieces called Venetian Canals of Winter Park: The Art of Don Sondag, which ran through April 12 at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. (Because of COVID-19, the exhibition had to be viewed online.)

A painting of the Fern Canal as it opens onto Lake Osceola — which was part of that collection — graces this issue’s cover. Featured prominently are the banana trees that boat tour operators say are so fascinating to many out-of-town riders. The title: Venetian Canal: Coming to the End.

Sondag, a native of Winter Park, earned a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. He also studied painting and portraiture at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in New York City.

In addition to painting, Sondag teaches at the Crealdé School of Art, where he joined the faculty in 1990. He has also taught at Seminole State College, Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Feature Animation.

He has accepted portrait commissions from the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation, Seminole State College, Tupperware Brands Corporation and the University of Central Florida, among many other institutional clients. His image of the iconic Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) hangs in the lobby of Tiedtke Concert Hall on the campus of Rollins.

Sondag’s work has also been featured on posters for the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival and Casa Feliz, and is prominent in many private collections. “I paint portraits primarily but love to paint outdoors,” he says. “Capturing the light, color and form is what I try to compose in my paintings.”

— Randy Noles

Luma on Park’s takeout drink options came in well-sealed, 16-ounce mason jars. They were meant to be shaken, not stirred, with ice and then poured into a drinking vessel of your choice. The Tequila Pine included pineapple and habanero peppers infused over a three-day period with a high-quality silver tequila.

KEEP YOUR SPIRITS UP

Photography by Rafael Tongol

New Standard sent its creations home mostly complete and accompanied by instructions on how to accomplish the finishing touches. The Pistachio Old Fashioned craft cocktail consisted of Old Forester Kentucky Bourbon infused with pistachio and served with The Bitter Truth aromatic bitters and orange.

Rattled but resolute, dozens of Winter Park restaurants remained afloat during the recent shutdown season by offering individual and family-style meals packed for in-store pickup, curbside pickup and home delivery (thank you, from all of us).

Several, though, went a step further: They added spirited beverages to accompany those appetizers, sandwiches and entrées. Thanks to temporary new regulations, permission was granted to nestle martinis and Manhattans into our take-home bags. 

Some restaurateurs took the remote bartender role quite seriously. Many others sold wine bottles at steep discounts. So let’s hear a hearty amen for those who aided us in taking the edge off when we most needed a good numbing. 

Here we feature four local eateries that went gung-ho with bagged-up boozy drinkables. Some should be at least partly reopened for dine-in service by the time you read this issue of Winter Park Magazine. 

We’re kind of hoping they keep up the gin-as-a-tonic, grab-and-go option even after the world returns to something approximating normal. At this writing, however, COVID-19 restrictions were just being relaxed and considerable uncertainty remained.

In other words, the cocktails (and menu items) described here may or may not still be available. Whatever the case, we wanted to salute local restaurants for service above and beyond the call of duty. 

We picked four — in part because of their creativity with takeout libations — but there were dozens upon dozens of others. I hope you’ll return to patronize as many of them as possible once you can dine out safely. They were there for us — let’s be there for them.

DEXTER’S NEW STANDARD
1035 North Orlando Avenue, Winter Park
407.316.2278
newstandardwp.com

The staff of Dexter’s New Standard was ready and set to go as soon as the state gave to-go cocktails the green light. This Orlando Avenue restaurant already made its craft cocktails in batches. 

“The problem with craft cocktails is that it often takes 20 minutes to make a drink, and nobody likes to wait that long,” says Erin Allport, director of operations at the eatery, which opened last October and during normal times offers live music daily. “It’s actually quite frustrating.”

Her team’s solution was to produce several creative martinis by the batch and have bartenders add a couple of final ingredients in the glass. “Then boom! The drinks were out to guests,” Allport says.

Such a process was made to order, if you will, for the new mode of operation required by the pandemic. It likewise didn’t hurt that the New Standard’s chefs already produced key cocktail ingredients.

The culinary team was accustomed to heating bourbon and pistachios together at a very low temperature, sous vide-style, for the Pistachio Old Fashioned, and to making a variety of syrups as well as the house sour mix. 

When word got out that restaurants might be allowed to bottle up beverages traditionally served in clever glassware, Allport rushed to a College Park store that caters to home brewers, where she knew she’d find empty bottles for sale. She snapped them up like you and I filled our carts with hand sanitizer at Publix.

Ultimately, the New Standard sent its creations home mostly complete and accompanied by instructions — printed in Prohibition-style type — on how to accomplish the finishing touches.

The Tonic Blossom ($10), for instance, arrived as a mix of Cathead honeysuckle vodka, Chareau aloe liqueur and Jack Rudy elderflower tonic. Soda water can’t be added until the last minute, so a can of Q club soda came separately. 

Because the Pistachio Old Fashioned (1 liter, priced at $65, makes 10-plus drinks) doesn’t age well when bitters are added to the bourbon mix early, the restaurant sent this key ingredient on the side.

The Skinny Margarita, as it turned out, was the biggest seller, perhaps because it was priced at $25 for 25.5 ounces. (That’s the equivalent of four or five drinks, depending upon the size of the glass). The restaurant also added several flavored margaritas, which customers ordered on weekends to sip on a boat or by a pool. (Some people, obviously, endured the lockdown better than others.)

By law, guests must buy food with the fun stuff. So the New Standard offered a market menu that included not only meals but also pimento cheese, French onion dip, house-made crackers and desserts. That was in addition to to-go menu staples plus daily family-style specials. 

All wine bottles were half price — which likely won’t be the new standard by the time this crisis has receded. But it was appreciated while it lasted.

At Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar, the two-quart servings of sangria quickly became must-have to-go items. The Reel Red sangria was made with Stillhouse Spiced Cherry Whiskey along with red wine, lemons, limes, oranges and apples. The same fruit with white wine and Stillhouse Peach Tea Whiskey made the Sunset Sangria a standout.

REEL FISH COASTAL KITCHEN + BAR
1234 North Orange Avenue, Winter Park
407.543.3474
reeflishcoastal.com

Since it opened three years ago, Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar has drawn diners with its house-made oyster crackers (pop ’em and grin), its fanciful fish specialties and its old-time platters of battered and fried Gulf oysters or wild-caught Florida shrimp.

But sangria? Not the first menu item that comes to mind. Yet during the prolonged time of shuttering (and shuddering), two-quart servings of sangria — red or white — quickly became must-have to-go items at $18. 

“They sold consistently well,” says proprietor Fred Thimm, who found that mostly couples, rather than families or groups, were the biggest buyers.

What’s not to like, really? The Reel Red sangria was made with Stillhouse Spiced Cherry Whiskey along with red wine, lemons, limes, oranges and apples. The same fruit with white wine and Stillhouse Peach Tea Whiskey made the Sunset Sangria a standout. 

A third beverage was also popular for the grab-and-go crowd: The Seaside Margarita was essentially tequila that had lingered for a bit with pineapple, brown sugar and house-made sweet-and-sour mix before being served with a grilled pineapple wedge. 

These refreshing beverages — along with bottled wine at 30 percent off — left the premises accompanied by full seafood meals. The restaurant offered a rather extensive takeout menu and often promoted specials. 

“Everyone wants a deal,” notes Thimm, who singled out the popularity of a date night meal for two. At $39, it included fried green tomatoes or a fried clam strip basket with either a boiled or pecan-crusted rainbow trout entrée. To finish, there was a dessert of coconut cake or carrot cake.

“Some restaurants focused on Blue Apron-type meals to cook at home, or they went the grocery store route with bleach and toilet paper, but we didn’t,” Thimm says. “We just did what we know how to do — cook for people, package it and deliver it using our own drivers via Uber Eats. That way, we were able to keep as many staff members employed as possible.”

For its takeout customers, Cocina 214 packaged happy hour priced, ready-made cocktail kits with instructions. The Tex-Mex restaurant is known for its margaritas, so a popular choice was the frozen El Diablo, made with Sauza silver tequila swirled with sangria.

COCINA 214
151 East Welbourne Avenue, Winter Park
407.790.7997
cocina214.com

Groups of merrymakers dine at Cocina 214 as much for the margaritas as for the quesadillas — so this bastion of Tex-Mex cuisine included tequila-laced concoctions from the earliest days of the stay-at-home spell. 

Better still, libations were offered at happy hour prices — $5 for a single drink, $20 for a quart and $70 for a gallon. “The quart sold best,” says Lambrine Macejewski, partner, co-founder and business manager of the eatery just off Park Avenue. “It was great for two people who want two drinks each.”

As for the food, this was no time to get esoteric. So Macejewski chose only the restaurant’s top sellers for home consumption. That meant salsa-
accented suppers could be had with a dizzying array of margarita choices.

While some restaurants relied upon cocktail kits with instructions packaged separately, Macejewski sealed ready-made drinks into a container, put a sticker on the jar and sent it out the door. “The kits sound cute and they’re successful for some restaurants,” she says. “But to me, they just seem like more work for customers.” 

Even with a limited staff, Cocina 214 served up additional liquid mood enhancers. The curbside cocktail menu listed single-, quart- and gallon-sized portions of chef-made red sangria as well as 15 wines and 11 bottled beers. The Justin cabernet sauvignon sold so well that the restaurant ordered new cases every week.

Although Cocina 214’s food menu was smaller than usual, the resourceful Macejewski and her stalwart team added family-style meals to the mix. “Our guests are feeding their families daily, often including kids home from college,” she says. “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we make it easier for them?’”

Enter the family dinner options, priced at $50 each and feeding up to six. Choices included beef, chicken or veggie tacos with four toppings, and combo meals such as the Tex-Mex Fave (with quesadillas and fajitas) and the Gringo Tex-Mex Mix (with fajitas and housemade chicken fingers — a favorite of the younger set). 

All meals came with chips and salsa. All the better to accompany the margaritas.

Luma on Park’s takeout drink options came in well-sealed, 16-ounce mason jars. They were meant to be shaken, not stirred, with ice and then poured into a drinking vessel of your choice. The Tequila Pine included pineapple and habanero peppers infused over a three-day period with a high-quality silver tequila.

LUMA ON PARK
290 South Park Avenue, Winter Park
407.599.4111
lumaonpark.com

Just as no food is as simple as it looks at Luma on Park — arguably Winter Park’s cheffiest restaurant — the same is true of its deceptively complex cocktails. 

The herbs and fruits in most of the sleek and stylish eatery’s specialty creations are raised on regional farms. A so-called simple syrup may have been infused by the bartenders with rosemary or lavender. 

And the shrubs — generally used as sweet-yet-acidic mix-ins — are concocted with care, in small batches, adding unseen yet appreciated depth to the drinks in which they’re an ingredient. 

Luma chose five very different drink options to package for take-home consumption. Each arrived in well-sealed 16-ounce mason jars, which were meant to be taken home, shaken with ice and poured into a drinking vessel of your choice. Prices ranged from $22 to $38. 

Prime your patio for this cocktail hour.

Consider the Tequila Pine, which included pineapple and habanero peppers infused over a three-day period with a high-quality silver tequila. Or the Strawberry Fields, made with basil- and strawberry-infused vodka and triple sec.

And let’s not forget the blood orange margaritas with a chili-lime rim, produced in conjunction with local citrus producer Natalie’s. Or the Boulevardier, which combined Mitchter’s Straight Rye, Campari and sweet vermouth

Longtime Luma fans were no doubt comforted that takeout options included the White Linen, a signature drink from the restaurant’s early days a decade and a half ago.

Four draft beers and two bottled ones completed the to-go beverage menu — well, along with discounted wines. Every bottle in the 7,000-bottle vino inventory was offered at half price, creating a significant opportunity for oenophiles. 

Like the cocktail menu, Luma’s food offerings were paired down significantly. Gone were the fanciful presentations topped with perfectly positioned microgreens and other such frills. They were replaced by a variety of meals designed for the road. 

“We chose foods that travel well,” says Tim Noelke, operations partner of Park Lights Hospitality Group, owner of Luma, Prato and Luke’s in Maitland. Salads, pizzas and a burger — albeit a relatively fancy burger with Dijonnaise rosemary fries — were available. 

Also offered were $50 family-style meals, which included a protein and three sides and could feed three or four people. The meats, such as 72-hour short ribs, were ready to eat. Roasted carrots and snap peas with mint and pistachio or potato purée with truffle oil and chives arrived piping hot. A handful of wines were available at $10 a bottle.

Prepare-at-home kits were another top pick. A Bolognese option, at $45, included house-made rigatoni pasta that needed a quick boil and a ragu sauce to be heated and added along with salad and the makings of garlic bread. Steaks and other meats were offered for cooking at home. 

Full yet?

You get the idea. In summary, whether you imbibed on Pistachio Old Fashioneds, fruity margaritas or spiked sangrias on your living room sofa, I’ll wager those liquid indulgences were a tonic eagerly welcomed during these unprecedented times.

They sure were at my house. 

Bill Farnsworth’s paintings appear in numerous museums and private collections across the country.

SUMMERTIME FOR ‘GARDENIA GIRL’

Bill Farnsworth’s paintings appear in numerous museums and private collections across the country.

As Winter Parkers venture back into the world — cautiously, after the pandemic-induced shutdown — they’ll encounter gorgeous summer days that offer no hint of the scary spring in which COVID-19 was (and, at this writing, still is) on a worldwide rampage.

Such days make us wonder how a nasty virus that was apparently spawned by bats in Wuhan, China, could touch a community half a world away; a community so lovely and so replete with flowery enclaves such as the Central Park Rose.

In fact, the city’s summer reemergence reminded us of  “Gardenia Girl,” painted by Bill Farnsworth in 2011 for the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens’ annual Winter Park Paint-Out. 

The work captured both the beauty of the season and, with the presence of the lone figure, a sense of quiet contemplation that we believed was appropriate for the recent ordeal’s aftermath.

So, while we prefer to use newer works on our covers, we tracked down “Gardenia Girl” and asked Farnsworth if we could resurrect it nearly a decade later to represent new hope and new beginnings in the summer of 2020. 

A 1980 graduate of the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Farnsworth, 62, has spent more than 34 years as an illustrator and fine artist. Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, he spent most of his life in New England, painting landscapes of rural areas while supporting his family with his growing illustration career. 

Farnsworth is a Fellow in the American Society of Marine Artists and a Signature Member of the Oil Painters of America and the American Impressionist Society. 

His paintings have appeared in many shows across the U.S. and can be found in numerous museums and private collections. He has earned awards of excellence from the Oil Painters of America’s national and regional shows and took Best in Show honors at the Punta Gorda Visual Arts Center’s 10th Biennial National Show. 

Fine Art Views wrote of Farnsworth’s paintings: “Sensitive and full of human emotion, the heartfelt work of Farns-worth takes us to inner depths.” The Venice (Florida)-based artist says: “My goal with my work is to paint what I love and convey it honestly so the viewer can share that feeling.”

His work is represented by the Hughes Gallery, Dabbert Gallery, Tree’s Place, Reinert Fine Art, Mary Williams Fine Art, Gallery 330, Patricia Hutton Galleries and Gingerbread Square Gallery.

For more of Farnsworth’s artwork and how it may be purchased, check out his website, billfarnsworth.com.

Last year, Valencia College presented its first Gus Henderson Scholarships to a pair of deserving locals. In addition to demonstrating a financial need, recipients of the $1,000 awards must be graduates of Winter Park High School and enrolled at Valencia College’s Winter Park Campus.

HOMAGE TO AN EDITOR

Gustavus C. “Gus” Henderson, a newspaper editor, is an unsung figure in Winter Park’s history. His efforts were instrumental in ensuring the town’s 1887 incorporation. Original image Courtesy of The Rollins College Archives/Digital restoration and colorization by Chip Weston

Valencia College has had a campus on the west side of Winter Park since 1996. But it’s reaching back more than a century to recognize one of the Hannibal Square neighborhood’s most important historical figures — newspaper editor and activist Gustavus C. “Gus” Henderson.

Last year, the college presented its first Gus Henderson Scholarships to a pair of deserving locals. In addition to demonstrating a financial need, recipients of the $1,000 awards must be graduates of Winter Park High School and enrolled at Valencia College’s Winter Park Campus. Going forward, older students who wish to return to college will also be eligible. 

Fairolyn Livingston, chief historian at the Hannibal Square Heritage Center — which preserves and celebrates the history of the traditionally African-American west side — suggested that the scholarship program be named for Henderson, whose efforts were instrumental in the incorporation of Winter Park in 1887.

“Gus was successful because he valued the written word and education,” says Livingston, who notes that Henderson published the first newspaper in Winter Park, the Winter Park Advocate. (Lochmeade, a newspaper that preceded Henderson’s, was headquartered in Maitland.)

In fact, Valencia had previously set aside scholarships for residents of the west side — but the program had somehow fallen through the cracks. Newspaper clippings from the late 1990s indicate that the college had once offered as many as a half-dozen such awards annually until the program ceased. 

One impetus for the original scholarship program was community relations. When the college bought its facility at 850 West Morse Boulevard in 1996, the property was rezoned from residential and office to public/quasi-public.

Many west side residents objected because of traffic concerns, and the Winter Park Planning and Zoning Board recommended against the rezoning due to opposition from the neighborhood. City commissioners, however, voted to grant the zoning change.

At the time, the college agreed to offer scholarships for west side residents — and followed through for several years. But no agreement was put in writing, and the program vanished as college administrations changed and memories faded. 

Livingston and other community leaders hadn’t forgotten, though. For years they had been directing potential students to Valencia with instructions to inquire about the scholarships. But at the college there was no record of the program’s existence and no dedicated funding source. The usual response was, “Gus who?”

The program’s demise usually wasn’t an insurmountable issue, says Sue Foreman, past chairperson of the Valencia College Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises scholarship funds from private sources. “Other scholarships were available, so the students were assisted. But no one knew about this earlier program.”

So in 2018, Foreman convened a committee consisting of Livingston; Mary Daniels, a docent at the Hannibal Square Heritage Center; Lee Rambeau Kemp, a community activist; and Elisa Mora, a guidance counselor at Winter Park High School.

Other members included Ronnie Moore, assistant director of the city’s parks and recreation department; Elizabeth “Betsy” Swart, an adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Central Florida; and Anne Thomas, mentor coordinator at Winter Park High School.

The group, called the Gus Henderson Committee, decided to formally revive the scholarship program and to adopt Livingston’s suggestion to name the effort for Henderson, whose importance to the city’s history is not generally well known — but should be. 

“It’s wonderful to be able to tell this story through the scholarship program,” says Foreman. “Especially because we’re able to spotlight a person whose name should be remembered.”

Fairolyn Livingston, chief historian at the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, suggested that the new Valencia College scholarship program be named for Henderson, whom she describes as “successful because he valued the written word and education.”

WHY GUS MATTERED

Henderson was a newspaper publisher, an entrepreneur and a civic activist who rallied his neighbors and was instrumental in making certain that a contentious referendum to incorporate Winter Park passed in 1887.

Like many African Americans during the 1880s, Henderson and his family moved here because Winter Park was thought to be a relatively enlightened place where they could own their own homes — albeit only on the west side’s designated “colored lots” — and control their own destinies.

The politically savvy Henderson, who had been a traveling salesman, started a print shop and later established the Advocate, a weekly newspaper that primarily covered activities in the Hannibal Square neighborhood but was equally well-read east of the railroad tracks.

Henderson, working alongside city founders Loring Chase and Oliver Chapman, was instrumental in turning out voters from Hannibal Square, which resulted in the incorporation of Winter Park and the election of two African-American commissioners in 1887. 

“If it were not for Henderson’s efforts, the incorporation of Winter Park would not have taken place on October 12, 1887, and Hannibal Square may not have originally been included within the town limits of Winter Park,” Livingston says.

The victory, however, would be relatively short lived. Henderson was an ardent Republican, as were most African Americans at the time. So, when Winter Park was incorporated with boundaries encompassing Hannibal Square, the political balance of power shifted.

William C. Comstock, a grain merchant from Chicago, led an effort in 1893 by Democrats to de-annex the close-knit neighborhood. Although Winter Park’s elected officials refused to change the boundaries, the Florida Legislature did so over their opposition.

In the pages of the Advocate, an anonymous editorial writer — probably Henderson — wondered how Comstock and his associates “could sign their names to such an undermining petition, and one showing such bitterness toward the colored population of this town … there never was a more bitter spirit in existence against the colored people than what is hid behind this scheme.” 

Hannibal Square was not a part of incorporated Winter Park again until 1925, when local leaders sought a change in status from town (fewer than 300 registered voters) to city (300 or more registered voters). Henderson moved to Orlando in 1906 and died there in 1915. His legacy, however, lives on through the west side’s continuing pride and activism.

BRIDGING THE DIVIDE

Winter Park is thought to be an affluent place — and it generally is. But areas of scarcity still exist, and there are substantial numbers of working poor who find Valencia’s modest $103 per credit hour tuition beyond their reach without assistance. It surprises many to learn that 40 percent of Winter Park High School students qualify for free or reduced lunch prices.

 So, the Gus Henderson Scholarship serves a dual purpose: It honors a community leader and provides a lifeline for young people seeking higher education.

The first set of scholarships were made possible by a donation from St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church’s Bridging the Color Divide Program. The program began in 2018 with a daylong conference related to an Advent service and grew into a communitywide effort to bring about compassion and understanding.

“In Winter Park, the railroad tracks have historically been a color divide between black and white neighborhoods, historically forming a barrier across which black residents had to retreat by sundown,” says Swart, who in addition to teaching serves as the group’s parish coordinator. 

Bridging the Color Divide, Swart notes, “works to replace that barrier with bridges of justice and community” between the west side and the east side.

Last year, Valencia College presented its first Gus Henderson Scholarships to a pair of deserving locals. In addition to demonstrating a financial need, recipients of the $1,000 awards must be graduates of Winter Park High School and enrolled at Valencia College’s Winter Park Campus.

Today, the group boasts participants from a diverse assortment of local churches from both sides of the tracks as well as the Hannibal Square Heritage Center.

The first two recipients, Valencia students Tonya Carlisle-Francis and Aaliyah Medina, say they plan to pay it forward once they complete their educations. 

Carlisle-Francis, whose goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration, hopes eventually to open a center to care for seniors and children. “I want to help my community here in Winter Park and give back the support that was given to me,” she says.

Medina says she’d like to someday become a child psychologist, hopefully at Nemours Children’s Hospital. “It’s because of assistance like the Gus Henderson Scholarship that I can try and change the world, one child, at a time,” she adds.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

To donate to the Gus Henderson Scholarship, visit the Valencia College Foundation’s website at valencia.org/gushenderson. You can mail a contribution to: Gus Henderson Scholarship, Valencia College Foundation, 1768 Park Center Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32835.

In addition to a roster of individual donors — including Henderson’s oldest living grandson — governmental agencies and foundations are stepping up. Among them are the Winter Park Community Redevelopment Agency and The Joe & Sarah Galloway Foundation, both of which have contributed grants to bolster the fund.

All contributions are tax deductible, and 100 percent of every dollar donated goes directly to the scholarship. More money raised means more scholarships can be awarded later this year and beyond.

Adds Terri Daniels, executive dean of Valencia’s Winter Park Campus: “The Gus Henderson Scholarship will honor [Henderson’s] memory of community service by ensuring that our residents have the resources needed to pursue academic goals that will have a long-term, positive impact.” 

Don Sondag is known for portraits, but he loves to paint outdoors.

A GARDEN'S BEAUTY IN FULL BLOOM

Kraft Azalea Gardens with Lake Maitland in the background by Don Sondag.

The same artist had never painted consecutive covers for Winter Park Magazine. But leave it to Don Sondag to set a new standard. We had planned on using a Sondag image on the Winter 2020 cover. But the death of Thad Seymour, the president emeritus of Rollins College, left no question that the cover should feature the beloved community icon.

Thankfully, the city’s most renowned portrait artist also happened to be an admirer of Seymour’s. Sondag, a Winter Park native who has rendered images of many community leaders and notable personalities, graciously agreed to drop what he was doing and turn out a cover.

When he took time out to paint the portrait, Sondag was working on original pieces for an upcoming exhibition called Venetian Canals of Winter Park: The Art of Don Sondag, which runs through April 12 at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. 

A painting from Kraft Azalea Gardens with Lake Maitland in the background — which was shown at that exhibition — graces this issue’s cover. The image was originally a horizontal and had to be cropped, so the unaltered version is shown above.

Don Sondag is known for portraits, but he loves to paint outdoors.

Sondag, a native of Winter Park, earned a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. He also studied painting and portraiture at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in New York City.

In addition to painting, Sondag teaches at the Crealdé School of Art, where he joined the faculty in 1990. He has also taught at Seminole State College, Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Feature Animation.

He has accepted portrait commissions from the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation, Seminole State College, Tupperware Brands Corporation, and the University of Central Florida, among many other institutional clients. His image of the iconic Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) hangs in the lobby of Tiedtke Concert Hall on the campus of Rollins.

Sondag’s work has also been featured on posters for the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival and Casa Feliz, and is prominent in many private collections. “I paint portraits primarily but love to paint outdoors,” he says. “Capturing the light, color and form is what I try to compose in my paintings.”

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