Treasure Coast Personalities

Arlo’s legacy

Legendary folksinger, songwriter and Sebastian resident Arlo Guthrie says he will continue to go on the road with his band and family until his voice won’t allow him to sing.

“Nobody retires in folk music,”Guthrie says in the dining room of his home overlooking the Indian River. “Pete Seeger died at 94 and we did a show together three months before he passed away.”

Guthrie, at 72, has slowed down somewhat but still spends eight to nine months a year touring with band members who’ve been with him since the 1970s. The days are long gone when Guthrie actually drove the tour bus to a different venue every night.

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Arlo Guthrie

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


Born into a routine life, Jonah Martinez was 10 when his father sold his business in Illinois and commissioned a sailboat to be built in Taiwan. But after a typhoon hit the boatyard, his father had to improvise.

“Dad packed us up into a camper to go on tour,” he says.

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Between shaping custom surfboards and riding huge waves on six continents, Charles Williams has had a profound impact on the Treasure Coast surfing community.

Williams and his twin brother, George, have manufactured more than 40,000 Impact surfboards at their Fort Pierce shop during the past 40 years. Three generations of faithful surfers have grown up riding custom boards made by Impact.

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Cristina Maldonado, a veterinarian at Monterey Animal Clinic in Stuart, lives her dream job by caring for dogs and cats and doing everything to keep them healthy. The daughter of Dr. Carlos Maldonado, a well-known general surgeon in Stuart, she remembers wanting to work in animal medicine since she was 4 years old.

“It was something that I got in my head as a little girl and there was never anything else that I wanted to do,” she recalls.

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Coming from a family of educators — her mother and her aunts were all teachers — Pamela Brown Williams says she grew up with the realization that she enjoyed most helping those students who struggle with academics or confidence. Visiting the classrooms of her aunts, she says she saw how they were able to make learning fun for their students and she wanted to help students learn in that way, too.

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Michael Naffziger, theater and technical director for the Schumann School for the Visual and Performing Arts at Indian River Charter High School. For the past decade, Naffziger has taught acting, drama, musical theater, stagecraft and comprehensive theater at the school, but he actually got a degree in science in college and at one-time taught physics.

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For LaShawnda McNair, being a third-grade teacher at J.D. Parker Elementary in Stuart involves far more than instructing on how to read, write and do arithmetic. It’s about molding young lives.

“I inspire kids. That’s what teaching is,” she says. “It’s making them believe that they can learn. Half of the battle is getting them to know that you care enough about them, that they can do the work — even when it gets hard.”

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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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