Treasure Coast Personalities

Country star comes home

Jake Owen searches the world for country music talent, participates in at least a dozen charity events every year and just raised more than $1.5 million for the Jake Owen Charity Foundation to help children. And that’s just his side job.

Throw in 53 concerts last year, five career studio albums, seven No. 1 singles, two top country music awards and weekly appearances on the music competition show, “Real Country” with Travis Tritt and Shania Twain.

Raised in Vero Beach, the 37-year-old Jake boasts to the world about his hometown, returning to it every December for visits with family and friends and performances for charity events.

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Jake Owen


On a recent trip to Santiago, Chile, pilot Manuel Cabianca looked out the window from the cockpit of his 747 and saw television news crews gathering on the tarmac below.

The Vero Beach resident and captain for Atlas Air regularly flies cargo in and out of Santiago. But that night, there was an unscheduled change in the routing.

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Sit down with Jim Chrulski and you quickly discover that he enjoys putting his creative talents to work. As director of community and legislative affairs for the City of Stuart, he uses his artistic side to help make the city an economically sound, vibrant and beautiful community. His approach is a combination of a lifelong passion for music and the arts mixed with practical, fiscal sense.

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Growing up in South Florida, Jessica Harvey is the youngest of three children. Besides her mother, Harvey was the only girl in the household and was usually the center of attention.

“I always got attention when I was younger but always found myself wanting more,” Harvey says. “I would do things to entertain people like crack jokes or be really loud so others would notice me.”

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Gary Brady’s executive office is a cramped corner of an overflowing herpetarium-aquarium building. He is comfortable seated in his worn leather chair at his desk wedged between massive saltwater aquariums teeming with colorful tropical fish and temperature-controlled herpetariums accommodating exotic reptiles’ special needs for light and heat.

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When LaVaine Wrigley walked into the original Elliott Museum in the summer of 1996, she was looking for a volunteer position to keep her busy for a couple of days a week. As a 70-year-old with secretarial experience, she wasn’t quite ready to retire. So she inquired to find meaningful work.

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Many people find themselves lounging on the couch after a long workday, but then there’s boatbuilder Jeff Warner, who spends his free time building guitars and ukuleles. A “mad scientist” of sorts, Warner was always taking toys apart and tinkering with things from a very young age. His father fostered his interest in mechanics and restoration.

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Like father like daughter, April Price is a second-generation advocate for marine interests in Florida. She helps with the improvement and preservation of the waterways in the tri-county area.

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For Nicole Mader, going to her job hardly seems like work. It’s almost a mini-vacation. As a volunteer field biologist with the Dolphin Ecology Project, she studies and monitors Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the southern part of the Indian River Lagoon down to Jupiter Inlet.

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Lin Reading, a 20-year survivor of breast cancer and melanoma, co-founded a cancer support organization in Indian River County called Friends After Diagnosis that, among other things, offers survivors an introduction to the sport of crew rowing to help women with cancer regain their strength.

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What does St. Edward’s School in Vero Beach have in common with the National Geographic Society? One very talented teacher. Dr. Kerryane Monahan, chair of the science department at St. Edward’s, has been awarded a fellowship with the National Geographic Society in the field of citizen science.

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Talk to Nereida Steele and you can’t help but get impacted by her love for teaching. Her enthusiasm is contagious. Teaching is a special calling, she shares, a Godly mission for her life.

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With generations of educators in the family, it is no surprise that Corey Collins Heroux turned to teaching as a career. Her mother, Teresita Valdivia Collins, taught math at many different levels in Indian River County schools while Heroux was young. But the decades of family involvement in teaching on the Treasure Coast date back to the late 1960s.

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A self-named survivor whose own recovery is deeply-rooted in helping others — who share her pain — was moved to establish an organization nearly 10 years ago with just that purpose in mind.

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Much like her famous father, diver and treasure hunter Mel Fisher, Taffi Fisher Abt has experienced monumental highs and heartbreaking lows, but her relentless perseverance and indomitable spirit continue to chart her course through life.

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When she is not working 50 hours a week as a human resources manager and raising her teenage son, Maria Lopez Ruiz creates custom cakes for all occasions.

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