January 10, 2018
10 mins read

Our corner of the world is, in many ways, reminiscent of a large, boisterous, somewhat dysfunctional, but no less loving family. Like our actual blood relatives, the Northeast Florida family can inspire the entire spectrum of emotions. As much as we may grumble and gripe at times, when one of our own passes on, we all grieve and we all celebrate the memories.

Last year gave us a lot to celebrate and a lot to mourn. Folio Weekly salutes some of our extended Northeast Florida family members who, though departed from this earthly realm, will forever remain in our memories.


Dr. Sam Beckett (Lovell Smith) is rememberedby the Duval hip hop community as a visionary and a leader who “shined from the jump,” said DJ, producer and MC Paten Locke. Many say Beckett sought to take the extraordinary talent here in NEFL to a wider audience, while also catalyzing his own folks (3rd Diemenchun crew). “He moved here and took over,” said Notsucal MC, producer and filmmaker.

He was spark-and-fire for creativity: He made other people believe in themselves and in their ability to make music. “And me, trying to impress him, I was, like, ‘Fuck school work, I need to have five or six new rhymes by the time I see Beckett again,’ so he would know I’m serious about this thing,” said rapper Swordz. We imagine folks in the local hip hop faction might still hear his words of encouragement in their ears.

In addition to his work, and helping others with theirs, he founded one of the first Duval-based hip hop podcasts—the 3045TV Duval Originals. Though it had been several years since he’d released a new episode, at the time of his death, he’d been working to re-launch the program.

On Facebook, friends still post well wishes and messages that tell him how much they miss him and they promise to keep his legacy going—one that includes community organization, hard work, championing talented friends, and listening to that inner voice extorting them to burst out in sick rhymes over tight beats.

As Dr. Beckett himself might say, “Don’t cry … we all clear, this year get ’em all open …” Here’s to a year of progress, success and support. And here’s hoping for an eternal “summer in Mayport” for the Duval rapper who helped his friends believe in themselves and, in so doing, helped build a scene.

Even the lung cancer that would eventually claim his life couldn’t keep Bill Brinton from coming out in the early morning hours last winter to witness the fruition of his advocacy, when the first of three lit billboards on I-95 was removed, according to the agreement he’d help broker decades earlier. A thoughtful, gentle-seeming man, it was an honor to join him, CAPSigns co-founder Tracy Arpen, and a friend as they watched the sign topple.

The attorney, who concluded his career at Rogers Towers, was best known locally for fighting those glaringly bright, ostentatious billboards, protecting trees and helping create term limits for city officials.

Brinton’s family moved to Jacksonville from Kansas City, the place of his 1952 birth, in 1959 and, aside from college and law school, the city was his home until his untimely death at the age of 64 on June 19. In 1987, he co-founded Citizens Against Proliferation of Signs, or CAPSigns (which later merged with Citizens for Tree Preservation to become Scenic Jacksonville), through which he successfully brought voter ballot initiatives to limit outdoor advertising, leading to the removal of more than 1,400 billboards. He later led successful voter initiatives to create term limits for City Council (1991) and to protect trees (2000). Throughout Brinton’s life of service to his community, he was active in so many boards and organizations, it’s not possible to list them all. In addition to CAPSigns, he was involved with Leadership Jacksonville, Jacksonville Community Council Inc., The Jacksonville Bar Association, The Community Foundation of Northeast Florida, Tree Hill Nature Center, City Beautiful Jax (formerly Jaxpride), the city’s Jacksonville Landscape Commission, Scenic America, Citizens for a Scenic Florida, Scenic Jacksonville, the city’s Charter Revision Commission, and many more. His list of awards and recognitions is even longer, including such honors as International Municipal Lawyers Association’s Amicus Service Award, the Milestone Award for Citizen Advocacy from Jacksonville Community Council Inc., the Prize for Civic Engagement from the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, the Mimi & Lee Adams Environmental Award, the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Jake Godbold Award, and the 2014 Mayor’s Environmental Award.

Bill Brinton is survived by his wife of 36 years, Cathy, daughters Caroline Brinton and Leslie Bicksler, grandchildren Luke and Adams Graham, and Virginia Bicksler. Rather than flowers, the family fittingly honored his legacy by requesting memorial contributions to Scenic Jacksonville Endowment Fund.

Pat Borno’s smile was always a welcome sight in the vestibule whenever anyone walked into church. St. Paul’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Jax Beach (rumored to be called ‘Holy Mackerel’ among the diocese’s upper echelon) isn’t particularly straight-laced; after all, they are Episcopalians. But among the quiet murmurings of ‘good morning,’ the polite smiles—as some people’s kids sprayed one another with water from the drinking fountain—and the subtle handing out of service programs, Pat could be counted on to have a twinkle in her eye, as if she were about to play a practical joke on someone. Most likely her husband, former Atlantic Beach mayor Mike Borno, who can take a ribbing better than most, would be in on the fun. But when the processional music began, she was all business in her role as a Eucharist Minister, allowed by the Bishop to administer the wine during communion. Pat was also a respected lector, reading lessons, Psalms and prayers during services.

And those lucky enough to see the Sassy Tappers (Seniors at the Seashore Staying Young) enthusiastically clapped along with the snazzily costumed ladies of a certain age as they tap-danced their way into our hearts. Pat was among the gals who strutted their stuff at church functions, for shut-ins and just for good ol’ fun around the beaches. Sassy, indeed.

Outside of church and treading the boards, Pat was an active Real Estate agent until her retirement. She courageously battled lung cancer; it eventually proved too much for her physical body but never conquered her kind, caring soul. Pat Borno died Nov. 19, leaving behind her husband, two children and several grandchildren.

When cancer claimed the life of Bill Harrell, the well-known eponym of local law firm Harrell & Harrell, on Oct. 14, he left a legacy as one of the most recognized attorneys in Northeast Florida. Harrell is survived by a loving family that includes his wife, Renee, four children, five grandchildren, a sister and countless current and former colleagues, employees, clients and friends throughout the region and beyond.

A native of Lake City and former University of Florida football player who attended UF on a full athletic scholarship, Harrell was an Army veteran, former police officer and longtime trial attorney whose slogan, “Don’t settle for less than you deserve,” landed his firm at the center of a landmark federal lawsuit challenging The Florida Bar’s finding that it was impermissibly manipulative, which he won in 2011. His civic activities also extended far and wide; in the course of his 70 years, Harrell was active in Masonic, Shriner and Mensa groups, a director of the Florida Justice Association, trustee of the Florida Lawyers Action Group, a legacy member of the Justice Association and president of the nonprofit First Amendment Society.

Harrell’s Florida roots extend back three centuries, to 1712, and to present day, the family is one that embraces tradition: Some five generations of men in the family, including Bill and his son Holt, both served in the U.S. Army and attended law school.

At the time of Bill Harrell’s death, the firm he started in 1996—then as Harrell & Johnson, which became Harrell & Harrell upon the retirement of co-founder Greg Johnson—employed 18 attorneys, including his widow and two of his children (another of his daughters serves as administrative director).

Even in death, Bill Harrell remains a class act; in lieu of flowers, The Florida Times-Union reported, the family asked mourners to send donations to the Shriners Hospital for Children or The American Cancer Society.

In many ways, Virginia Atter Keys exemplified the ideal of a successful, thoughtful and community-minded professional woman that is a part of the 20th century’s enduring legacy. But she did it about 20 years ahead of everyone else.

In 1950, she was singing at the Roosevelt Hotel and someone said “You should be on TV,” and “that’s where it started,” she told Harry Reagan of the Jacksonville Historical Society about her role in the then-fledgling Channel 4. She retired in 1984 after a career that included two stints at Channel 4, a dozen years at Channel 12 and time on the radio.

Those who described the former Channel 4 “Midday” cohost often used the words ‘gracious’ and ‘generous,’ but those terms (and her modesty) played down the rigors of daily television appearances, even though, as she said in a 1977 interview with the Jacksonville Journal, “You went on the air, and made your mistakes on the screen for everyone to see.” She made it seem easy and effortless, almost like a lark. Even when she started hosting Open House with Dick Stratton, she said, “The mistakes we made, [the audience] accepted us because we were naïve and young.” Also, “it was [a show about] the people of the entire community.” Later, she hosted her own The Virginia Atter Show, and produced several others during a 40-year career.

She was a devout Catholic and involved with charity work—often for elder communities. But her favorite charity was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; she had come to love the hospital through fundraising with its founder, entertainer Danny Thomas. To her family, she’s their beloved Aunt Nina, while to Jacksonville, she’s forever our First Lady of Television and the Grand Dame of Radio.

When recalling her time singing live on the radio, she said, “I thought that was really it.” Virginia Atter Keys, we think you were really it, and hope that wherever you are now, you’re still singing. She died Dec. 18.

If you went to D.U. Fletcher Senior High School—the school, the summer camp or just on a stroll by the Seagate Avenue campus—you’ve been within the reach of the noble sphere of “Wimpy” Sutton. Most called him Coach; when a Folio Weekly staffer met him in the early ’70s, he was teaching science, coaching Fletcher swimming, fishing, and dancing with his beloved wife Bobbie, bopping all over the region.

By now, we’ve all heard the tale of how he got his nickname; cartoons, hamburgers, etc. The same staffer’s father Bill Dryden, then-editor and publisher of The Beaches Leader, simply called the energetic—peripatetic—columnist, who cleverly called his weekly effort ‘The Fishing Leader,’ John.

Coach was a stellar example of what people believed a man should be: forthright, God-fearing, outgoing, helpful to a fault, a real people-person. His ancestors, mostly beach folks, included an inordinate number of lifeguards: his mother Ruth was in the Jacksonville Beach Women’s Life Saving Corps, his grandmother Anna Pursel gave young John a long, smooth piece of mahogany which turned out to be a surfboard. Very ahead of her time. His dad, John L. Sutton, was also a JB lifeguard. Among them, they saved many floundering tourists from the Atlantic Ocean’s fierce waves.

Coach was more than all these things, though. Rumor is he never took a sip of alcohol nor let a cigarette near his lips—unusual for a man who hung around Monty’s Marina in the sleepy fishing village of Mayport. But John W. Sutton was a man who kept to his own counsel and did not follow any fads, trends or popular foolishness. Happiness and contentment were in his aura. He passed these strong values down to his three daughters, their children, and his many grands and great-grands, swim team members, science students, lifeguards, fisherfolk and production rookies in newspaper backrooms.

We would all do well to strive to be even a little bit more like Wimpy Sutton. He died on Dec. 11.

Four months before his bandmate Gregg Allman departed for the great swampland hereafter, Butch Trucks, drummer and founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, committed suicide, leaving behind a legion of fans, a wife, children, grandchildren and extended family that includes his nephews, Derek Trucks of Tedeschi Trucks Band and his brother Duane Trucks of Widespread Panic and Hard Working Americans. Butch Trucks was a great pride of Jacksonville with local bona fides including being born here, playing in the Englewood High School band, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and Jacksonville Symphonette.

Bands with two drummers are exceedingly rare, but with Trucks’ steady beats and fellow drummer Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson’s jazz-inspired rhythms, The Allman Brothers created a signature, iconic sound that won fans the world over. In the band biography One Way Out, bandmate Dickey Betts referred to Trucks as their “drive and strength, freight train, meat-and-potatoes ….”

The rambling, trippy, hippie music of The Allman Brothers wasn’t something that some—even the band—expected to catapult them to stardom, but there was just something about how the music was grounded in the real world that made it feel both soothing and transcendental. In the early years, it also made them unpopular with record executives; but Trucks told Rolling Stone a year before his death at age 69 that they were unmoved by requests that they become more commercial. “We were out spreading the gospel of this music we had discovered. We never thought that we would be more than an opening act. Atlantic Records was riding our ass constantly …” he said. “We told them to go fuck themselves. ‘We’re playing this for ourselves. We’ve tried it your way before. We didn’t make any money and we had a miserable time.’” This resolve led to the creation of some of the most recognizable songs of the 20th century and, Trucks said, to the band having “the time of our lives.” Some Folio Weekly staffers can personally confirm that the audience shared completely in their joy.


On Feb. 27, Folio Weekly lost a member of our extended family when Mary Bäck, a beloved wife, grandmother and mother of two, including our Art Director Chaz. Bäck.

Born in Tennessee, Bäck moved with her family to Jacksonville when just a teen, where she was crowned Miss Jacksonville Jaycee in 1962, went on to raise her own family and take part in many horticultural, beach and artistic activities.

Though she certainly saw many successes in her career in medical administration, including being promoted to the position of director with the Florida Medical Association, it was as a wife, mother and grandmother that Bäck found her greatest joy. At her funeral, her son and grandchildren spoke lovingly of her joyful commitment to her family, as well as her famously green thumb and genuinely sweet nature.

When the devoted Christian woman passed away as a youthful 75-year-old following a brief illness, she left behind her husband of 50 years, John Larry Bäck, sister Dr. Phila L. Crane, sons Chaz and John, and grandchildren Anna, Nick, Mariah, Hudson, Cameron and Lillian. An unflagging supporter of her loved ones and an avid user of Facebook, because her son worked here, she could be counted on to “like” every single post on the Folio Weekly page—even though she’d since moved to Pensacola. Such was her love for all of her family.


Sources: The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville Magazine, Alec Newell, WJXT

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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