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15 July 2014
Orange County Citizens Honored at 2014 Florida Neighborhoods Conference

Sharon Warner received the Mayor's Distinguished Citizen of the Year award at the 2014 Florida Neighborhoods Conference. Warner is the founder of Family & Friends United, Inc.

Several Orange County citizens were honored at the 2014 Florida Neighborhoods Conference for their invaluable contributions in their neighborhoods and communities.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and each of the six members of the Board of County Commissioners recognized an individual in their district for their efforts in helping their neighborhoods flourish.

Sharon Warner received the Mayor's Distinguished Citizen of the Year award. Warner is the founder of Family & Friends United, Inc., a program that started locally more than 20 years ago. The program gives children the tools they need to better deal with challenging situations they may encounter at school and outside the home. Over the years, hundreds of children have participated in Warner’s program and many have graduated from college or entered the military after their time with Family & Friends United.

“Sharon has truly made Orange County her home for life and it is fitting that we honored her at a conference that values and promotes community,” Mayor Jacobs said. “From growing up right here in Orange County’s City of Apopka with her three siblings, to raising both of her children and dedicating countless hours to community service, she has embraced what it is to be a good neighbor and we are grateful for all that she has done to keep our community strong.”

Orange County’s Board of County Commissioners also recognized citizens in their own districts:

District 1 - Betsy VanderLey is the vice-chair of Orange County Planning and Zoning Commission and serves on numerous volunteer boards throughout the community including Orange County’s Affordable Housing Board. She is a business developer, entrepreneur and a successful small business owner.

District 2 - Regina Melvin is the founder of Lockhart Acres Farm, a non-profit community farm that grows fresh food. She has also played a vital role in the Green School Initiative at Lockhart Middle School. In addition to donating a greenhouse and a rabbit, she is also designing and installing a pollinator garden. In 2013, she worked with the residents of Lockhart and Orange County’s Neighborhood Preservation & Revitalization Division to form the People of Lockhart Community Association (POLCA) and became its first president. As president of POLCA, she organized Lockhart’s First National Night Out Event in 2013.

District 3 - Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke and City Commissioner Tony Ortiz.

The Azalea Park Little League is a youth sports organization founded in 1964 by five parents who revitalized the community and the local ball field. Recently, the mural of baseball legend Roberto Clemente was painted over by vandals. The Azalea Park Little League, along with community residents and leaders such as Orlando City Commissioner Tony Ortiz, were able to join efforts and ensure that the mural was re-painted and community spirits were restored.

District 4 - Pastor Abner Adorno has worked closely with the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and the Women and Children’s Shelter by cooking meals, providing personal hygiene supplies and being a life coach. He has also served as the community’s Hispanic liaison for Orange County Public Schools and assisted in establishing an elementary school in the Dominican Republic. For the past two years, along with members of his congregation, he has served District 4 through extensive volunteer work at the District’s Back to School event, the Three Kings Day celebration and community clean ups. He has assisted in distributing over 3,000 gifts for children and other volunteer organizations.

District 5 - Timothy J. McKinney leads a grassroots initiative called the Bithlo Transformation Effort, which is recognized as a model in community health improvement. He has also received various community recognitions including being named one of the 50 Most Powerful People in Orlando Magazine, The Hometown Hero Award by Bank of America and has received a Hearts of Gold award by Orlando Magazine in 2011.

District 6 - As the founder and Pastor of Rising Sun Baptist Church, Pastor Michael Kimbrough continues to provide opportunities for local youth to reach their dreams and goals. He founded the Shine Performing & Creative Art Training Center in 2005 and later founded the Pine Hills Community Performing Arts Center in 2010. He also organized the first Pine Hills Cultural Arts Festival in 2014 and plans to continue coordinating this as an annual event. He has also assisted with coordination of the Stop the Killing Start Living Peace campaign. He volunteers with the Orange County School Board and received the Orange County Parent Teacher Association Volunteer of the Year Award. He is active in both the Pine Hills Council and Pine Hills Safe Neighborhood Partnership.

Additional 2014 Orange County Community Award Winners include:

  • Excellence in Community Building Projects - Forrest Flaniken Bike Festival, Avalon Park Neighborhood Watch
  • Excellence in Innovative Newsletter Production - Spring Isle Community Association, Kelly Willson – Editor
  • Excellence in Leadership - Michelle Wright, Azalea Park Safe Neighborhood Association
  • Excellence in Neighborly Service - Grace Booth, Spring Isle Community Association
  • Clean and Attractive Neighborhood - Rose Boulevard Neighborhood Organization, Manuela Davies – President

The 2014 Florida Neighborhoods Conference, hosted by the Orange County Neighborhood Preservation & Revitalization Division at Loews Royal Pacific Hotel, featured over more than 25 workshops and more than 350 neighborhood and community leaders attended the event. The Conference was held July 10-12, 2014.

“This conference is a great resource and tool for community leaders to help improve their communities,” said Lavon Williams, Orange County Neighborhood Preservation & Revitalization Division Manager.

The annual conference strives to educate and assist citizens on how to revitalize their neighborhoods and make these communities the best places to live. Citizens, community leaders, grassroots campaign organizers and non-profit organizations joined together during the three-day event to share ideas and improvements in their communities.

To learn more about the event, watch News 13 Orlando’s news feature.

A collection of photos from the event are available for use by the media and are located on Flickr.

Jacobs backs reviving Field of Dreams with added oversight

, Orlando Sentinel

3:08 p.m. EDT, April 3, 2014

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said she could support reviving the Field of Dreams park funding program, but would want to additional accountability measures if it comes back.

Talk of reviving the program emerged after an Azalea Park Little League lost its Roberto Clemente mural in February when someone painted over it.

Supporters there viewed the wall painting as a source of pride at an otherwise scrappy set of fields, and the community has since rallied to replace and expand the art work there.

But Commissioner Pete Clarke said that what he saw at the Little League fields in Azalea Park and other parts the county convinced him they could use help, and it might be time to revive a park funding program that died off right before the recession hit. (Read more on that here.)

So Clarke wrote Jacobs to ask that reviving the Field of Dreams program be part of the upcoming budget talks this summer.

Here's Jacobs response:

"Orange County supports a wide range of programs and activities for residents of all ages and we’re committed to providing a rich variety of recreation opportunities.  I’m very supportive of the ‘Field of Dreams’ program, and have asked that a level of accountability be added as part of our consideration to revive this program. But the discussion of this program – or any other specific request – will take place as a part of the upcoming budget cycle.” 


Demings backs Field of Dreams revival in Orange

, Orlando Sentinel

8:39 a.m. EDT, April 1, 2014

Mayoral candidate Val Demings backs reviving a park funding program in Orange County, dubbed Field of Dreams.

The push emerged soon after a Roberto Clemente mural was defaced at Little League fields in Azalea Park, putting a spotlight on that struggling park. (Full story here.)

Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke represents Azalea Park, and said he's convincved that this and other scrappy fields around the county could use help.

Clarke suggested in a memo to Mayor Teresa Jacobs that reviving the Field of Dreams program should be part of this summer's upcoming budget talks. 

After repeated attempts, Jacobs could not be reached for comment on whether she supported reviving the youth field funding program or not. About a decade ago, the program steered nearly $4 million to community fields in Orange, but it ended as the economic collapse unfolded.

Demings's campaign said Monday that "of course Chief [Demings] supports youth sports programs like expanding Little League opportunities in the communities that truly need them."


Colonial Student-Athletes Making A Difference In Local Community

By Jason Byrne / March 25, 2014 2:40 PM , flrunner.com

Spring break is a time that most high school students spend goofing off with friends, headed to the beach, and generally trying to avoid anything resembling work. However, for students at Colonial High--including some 30 track & field athletes--they saw it as the perfect opportunity to give back to their local community.

"We had around 80 (students volunteer) in total, with about 30 being track kids," explained Rene "Coach P" Plasencia (who last year ran for the the State House Of Representatives), "the kids painted all the dugouts, cleaned up garbage, and filled in low-lying areas with clay and dirt to prevent the build-up of standing water when it rains."

The Azalea Park little league complex is less than a mile from Colonial High School, in a neighboorhood where a lot of the students live and play. Coach P was alerted to the deterioration of the park about three weeks ago with an article in the local paper and local television news. Upon mentioning it to his athletes, they did not  hesitate to devote their time and energy to doing something positive to help. Park officials said a major need was to have the dugouts repainted. While they were once covered in beautiful freshly painted murals, including hispanic baseball hall of famer Roberto Clemente, the paint now peeled off on the parts not covered with graffiti from vandals.

"I am a big believer in changing your community from within," said the state champion coach, "I don't think I can change the world, but I know that I can change the direction of a life and together we can change our block... from there maybe we can positively impact our district."

Plasencia was not at all surprised by the enthusiastic response from the student-athletes at Colonial. Under his guidance, the school has built a culture of outreach over the years.

"I knew most of my kids would be excited to volunteer on their first day of spring break. They truly enjoy helping others. The neat thing is that most of my kids don't come from homes that have much, so their time and sweat is all they can give. I try to teach them that no amount of money can ever compare to their own time and sacrifice."

In addition to the cross country/track & field team, another 50 kids including a large group of girls softball athletes contributed to the effort. That sacrifice of their precious spring vacation time will make a lasting impact for lots of young kids who can walk a little straighter and take a little more pride in their community. But that impact is not limited to the receivers of their labor; the laborers themselves are forever changed too. Coach P knows the community activism and volunteering at a young age is something that stays with the youth as they become adults. It impacts who they become and instills a certain compassion and willingness to serve later in life.

"After so many years of doing this at the same school, it's cool to see how many graduates come back to help out the kids I have now," he said smiling as if a proud parent, "it's not uncommon for a former athlete to come by and drop off a pair of spikes just in case someone needs them or an SAT prep book. Some of them continue to volunteer with us. I have parents whose kids graduated 6 years ago and former students who still volunteer."

Who says this generation is indifferent and selfish? Certainly not these Colonial Grenadiers!


Spotlight: Colonial student-athletes clean up Azalea Park Little League

By Despina Barton, Bright House Sports Network
Last Updated: Monday, March 24, 2014, 10:33 AM

Video Stories


Over 60 Colonial High School student athletes bypassed the first day of Spring Break to help re-vamp Azalea Park Little League Friday.

Painting the dugouts, picking up trash and re-claying the fields were just a portion of the clean-up; as the school plans to adopt the field to maintain and help flourish.

“This little league is right in the same neighborhood that backs up to Colonial High School,” explained Colonial Track coach Rene Plasencia. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to get the school involved and the kids involved and some of the local businesses in trying to grow this little league back up.”

Due to declining volunteer participation and field maintenance the league's attendance has dropped dramatically.

Many of the high school volunteers Friday had grown up playing at Azalea Park and now play for the Grenadiers.

“[Azalea Park Little League] It feeds into so many of our kids and you know even if a lot of the kids don’t end up playing baseball or softball it still gives them some kind of focus as their growing up and gives them great memories it keeps them off the streets there’s a lot of positive things with having a sound and successful little league in your school district,” Plasencia added.

If you would like more information about the Azalea Park Little League and are interested in helping you can visit the leagues page on www.leaguelineup.com.

Click on the video link for the complete story.



As Roberto Clemente mural returns to Azalea Park, more action urged for kids

By Mike Cantone

Roberto Clemente’s mural has returned to Azalea Park, as residents and elected officials celebrated an important milestone in restoring pride and honor to the community. The Azalea Park Little League field is one of the oldest little league fields in Florida at 53 years old, and sits adjacent to Azalea Park Elementary.

Several weeks ago, the original mural was vandalized when it was painted over with black paint. The incident caused significant public outrage and garnered widespread media coverage.

Frente Unido 436 (United Front 436) members were instrumental in demanding action and rallying the community. In fact, former president, Rico Piccard, was a proud supporter of Azalea Park and was always critical of the lack of attention the needs of this park received in the past. “Let’s keep Clemente’s Legacy alive,” said Zoraida Rios-Andino of Frente Unido 436. “We cannot allow anyone to dishonor his memory.”

Artist Héctor Nazario was flown back to Orlando to repaint the new Roberto Clemente mural. The Orange County History Center is setting up a booth with information about Clemente, based on the center’s recent exhibit on the baseball player. Azalea Park is 56% Hispanic, with Puerto Ricans comprising 63% of that, according to census figures.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs joined the Azalea Park community on Saturday as citizens welcomed a new mural honoring baseball legend Roberto Clemente at the historic Azalea Park Little League field. “We are so proud of the efforts of our community to come together and bring back what was lost,” said Mayor Jacobs at the event. “Roberto Clemente broke through barriers and was a man of honor and courage both on and off the field.”

Mayor Jacobs also proclaimed March 15, 2014 as Roberto Clemente and Azalea Park Little League Day in Orange County. Mayor Jacobs was joined by Orange County District 3 Commissioner Pete Clarke Commissioner, District 2 City of Orlando Commissioner Tony Ortiz, and other community leaders during her proclamation of March 15, 2014 as Roberto Clemente and Azalea Park Little League Day in Orange County.

Former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, who is currently running for Orange County Mayor, was also at the event. “Roberto Clemente was a man who broke down barriers to become one of the greatest baseball players of all time, but to those of us who have dedicated our lives to diversity and public service, he was so much more,” Demings said. “His contributions, both on and off the field, are his legacy. The mural at Azalea Park will inspire children to reach for their dreams.”

Clemente spent much of his life helping others, particularly, the children of his native Puerto Rico. He died tragically on December 31, 1972, while taking medical, food, and clothing supplies to earthquake stricken Nicaragua. Clemente’s dedication to community and assisting those in need is akin to Orange County’s culture of service and “neighbors helping neighbors.”

“Roberto Clemente remains an outstanding example of how we should strive to serve our neighbors. He broke through barriers and was a man of honor and courage both on and off the field,” Mayor Jacobs said.

But the mural is only one piece of the puzzle. The community still seeks results and progress.

“Let’s step up and demand that public officials put out for this park the way they put out our millions of tax dollars for downtown interests,” Zoraida Rios-Andino added. “It’s time to step up for our children, if we don’t, who will?”



Azalea Park Little League Play With Pride Of Clemente Mural Once Again

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

By: Grant Gentry


March 18, 2014 | WMFE, Orlando - Tonight Orlando's Azalea Park Little League will once again play in the presence of Roberto Clemente.


Tuesday night's games- the North Orlando Kiwanis Rays v. The Azalea Park Pirates and the Azalea Park Rays v. the Union Park Pirates- will be the league’s first competitive games since a mural of the Puerto Rican baseball great was repainted last weekend.

 Earl Lugo is the community organizer who commissioned the original mural – which was destroyed in an act of vandalism earlier this year.

 Lugo says Clemente is a source of inspiration to the little league players.

 "I mean, those kids, they had some pride,” says Lugo.

 “Everyone wanted to be number 21.  It was incredible, because none of these kids have ever seen this man play.  But because of this mural they’re going on Google, they’re researching, they’re asking questions," he says.

 The mural was repainted last Saturday by New York graffiti artist Hector “Nicer” Nazario.

 Lugo says supporters of the Azalea Park little league rallied around with donations to fly Nazario down and cover the cost of time and paint. 



New York artists repaint Roberto Clemente mural in Azalea Park

Vandals destroyed original mural earlier this year


UPDATED 6:28 AM EDT Mar 18, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. —It was a community party in Azalea Park Monday, complete with live music and Little League games on Monday as residents came out to celebrate the painting of a new mural of baseball player Roberto Clemente. The original one was defaced by vandals early this year.


Video: Roberto Clemente mural will be repainted

New York City spray-paint artists Bio Feliciano and Micer Nazario re-did the mural, not only with the likeness of Clemente, an icon in the Hispanic community, but they also added portraits of Jackie Robinson and New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter.

"Being here, seeing how the community is coming together, it's an incredible sight," said Feliciano.

Nazario painted the original mural in 2011. He was upset when he heard it had been destroyed and hopes the new mural will inspire those who come to the fields.

"I grew up with the history of Roberto Clemente, so I knew what it meant to my household," Nazario said. "So many years later, to paint his image on something, I was like, 'I wanna be part of something like that.'"

The Orange County History Center had a booth at Monday's event and was involved in supporting the fundraising efforts to get the mural repainted. 

The Azalea Park baseball fields are located just east of Orlando Executive Airport. 

Local Hispanic leaders have been lobbying city and county officials to remodel the park, which they argue has been neglected over the years. More than 200 kids play ball there and the local league often waives the fees it charges because many of the kids come from low-income families.


New Roberto Clemente Mural Unites Azalea Park Community, 17 March 2014



New York artists Hector “Nicer” Nazario and Wilfredo Feliciano join Mayor Teresa Jacobs at the Azalea Park Little League’s new mural.

Orange County, FL – Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs joined the Azalea Park community on Saturday as citizens welcomed a new mural honoring baseball legend Roberto Clemente at the historic Azalea Park Little League field.

“We are so proud of the efforts of our community to come together and bring back what was lost,” said Mayor Jacobs at the event. “Roberto Clemente broke through barriers and was a man of honor and courage both on and off the field.”

Mayor Jacobs also thanked Earl Lugo, Azalea Park Little League advocate, for his efforts in bringing his friends New York artists Hector “Nicer” Nazario and Wilfredo Feliciano back to Orange County to design the new mural.

Mayor Jacobs was joined by Orange County District 3 Commissioner Pete Clarke Commissioner, District 2 City of Orlando Commissioner Tony Ortiz, and other community leaders during her proclamation of March 15, 2014 as Roberto Clemente and Azalea Park Little League Day in Orange County. The Orange County Regional History Center staffed the event with young volunteers and provided information about its recent Roberto Clemente exhibit at the well-attended community celebration.

Lugo said the vast support from local officials and the business community has boosted community pride in Azalea Park and its little league.

“The support we received just made me feel incredible,” Earl Lugo said following the event. “I was honestly holding back the tears because it was such an amazing day.”

Several weeks ago, the mural received significant media coverage when it was painted over, unbeknownst to the community and little league organization. Since then, Orange County’s business owners and community leaders have rallied assistance and other resources toward the restoration of the mural.

In March 2002, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners awarded Azalea Park Little League a $125,000 Field of Dreams grant. The league was also awarded a ReNew Hurricane Repair Grant in 2005 for $49,800. In an effort to build community morale, little league coach Earl Lugo recruited Nazario, a spray paint artist from New York, to create a mural of Roberto Clemente at the field in 2011.

Clemente spent much of his life helping others, particularly, the children of his native Puerto Rico. He died tragically on December 31, 1972, while taking medical, food, and clothing supplies to earthquake stricken Nicaragua. Clemente’s dedication to community and assisting those in need is akin to Orange County’s culture of service and “neighbors helping neighbors.”

The Azalea Park Little League field, at 53 years old, is one of the oldest little league fields in Florida, and sits adjacent to Azalea Park Elementary.

A variety of photos from the event are available for use by the media and are located on Flickr.



History Center Supports Fundraising Efforts for New Roberto Clemente Mural 03/15/14

The Orange County Regional History Center is assisting with efforts to repaint a mural of Hall of Famer and Puerto Rican baseball icon Roberto Clemente. The 20-foot mural painted for the Azalea Park Little League was destroyed by vandals last month. Earl Lugo, who is leading the fundraising effort, is having the fundraiser Saturday, March 15 at 12:00 p.m. at the Azalea Park Elementary School field. “I would like to take this horrific situation and turn it into a community block party. The support that we got from our community is overwhelming and we need to give them a humongous thank you,” said Lugo. New York artist, Hector “Nicer” Nazio, who painted the mural back in 2011, has been asked to come back and repaint it. “We were all really upset. We wanted to find a way to try and reach out and help . . . [Roberto Clemente] is a hero to the Puerto Rican community, but he’s a hero to the Orlando community at large,” Emilie Arnold, Exhibit Researcher and Traveling Exhibit Coordinator told WESH.

The History Center held an exhibition honoring Clemente in 2012, which featured biographical highlights, baseball statistics, rare photographs and firsthand accounts from the people who knew Clemente best. “We had such a great amount of response from our exhibit; we want to share this experience again as Roberto Clemente means so much to many people,” said Michael Perkins, Curator of Exhibits.

The History Center will have a tent set-up at the event at 12:00 p.m. Perkins says there will be some graphics from the exhibit and various hands-on activities for the public to participate in. “Children can design their own baseball pennant or also color a picture of Clemente. We’ll have 5×7 cards where people can write their comments about what Roberto Clemente meant to them as far as a cultural figure and post them on our board.”

Clemente held 12 consecutive Gold Glove Awards, four batting crowns and 3,000 hits. He was an outstanding baseball player and a dedicated humanitarian. Tragically, Clemente’s life ended at age 38 in a plane crash in 1972; he was flying relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.

Anytime you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t do it, you are wasting time on this earth.

-Roberto Clemente

The Orange County Regional History Center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. General admission is $15; seniors (60+), students, and military with I.D. $13; and children ages 5-12 $12. Historical Society Members and children ages 4 and under are free. Parking is available at the adjacent Orlando Public Library garage on Central Blvd. For general information, call (407) 836-8500 or visit www.thehistorycenter.org.


Roberto Clemente mural returns as Azalea Park swells with pride

Stephen Hudak for The Orlando Sentinel 1 month ago

When the mural of Roberto Clemente is finished at the Azalea Park Little League fields today, "The Great One" will have company.

New York City spray-paint artists Hector "Nicer" Nazario and Wilfredo Feliciano are adding the portraits of Jackie Robinson and New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter to the walls kids will see whenever they come to play on the grass fields, just east of Orlando Executive Airport.

The mural of Clemente, an icon in the Hispanic and baseball communities, was defaced by a vandal earlier this year.

Azalea Park boosters, angered by the vandalism, turned the mural-painting into a community party Saturday with Little League games on the fields and a DJ spinning records.

The smoky aroma of chicken pinchos, Caribbean kabobs, hung in the air over the park like a lazy pop fly.

Kids with mitts watched the artists on scaffolds; their parents snapped pictures with cellphones. Nearly all were too young to have ever seen Clemente play in person, but they knew of his legacy: a star who died in a plane crash trying to help others more than 40 years ago.

"He's Puerto Rican like us," said 9-year-old Jacob Pollock, who plays on the Blue Jays with his sister, Angela Mercado Pollock, 11.

The first Latin American player elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Clemente died on New Year's Eve 1972 while on a humanitarian mission to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

He was known as "The Great One" in Pittsburgh, where he played for 18 seasons.

"I'm feeling very proud," said Jessica Delgado, wearing a black-and-gold "21" jersey, the number worn by Clemente and her son, Kenny.

The re-painting of Clemente's image brought a crowd to the youth fields.

Julio Aviles, 53, carried a 2006 box of Wheaties cereal bearing Clemente's likeness. He posed with the box and the mural artists. "It was despicable what happened," he said of the vandalism. "But this is bigger, better -- a chance for all these kids and some of their parents to learn who this great man was, a chance for them to be inspired to be great like him."

Jimmy Bussart, 45, who has coached and volunteered at the park for 16 years, no longer has children in the baseball program. But he tended to neat rows of chicken pinchos while the artists sprayed a coat of pride onto the block buildings that house the little league park's bathrooms.

"Jeter for the young kids, Clemente and Robinson for the dads," Bussart said, clicking his tongs. "We all need somebody to look up to."

Known as "The Captain," Jeter is a 13-time all-star, a five-time World Series champion and a former American League Rookie of the Year, but best known for his clutch play in the biggest games. In 2009, he was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the major-leaguer for sportsmanship and community involvement.

Robinson, who died in 1972, broke baseball's color barrier in 1947 when he started at first base for the then-Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first black man since the 1880s to play in a major league game. He won the National League Rookie of the Year Award and, two years later, became the first black player to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

He endured racial slurs, taunts and threats gracefully.

On April 15, the anniversary of Robinson's major-league debut, all players on every team wear number 42.

While his teammates watched the artists, 8-year-old Trayvon Mason recited facts about Clemente and Robinson. He quoted almost exactly a famous line attributed to Branch Rickey, the Dodgers president who signed Robinson to break the color barrier. "Jackie Robinson asked Mr. Rickey if he wanted someone afraid to fight people who called him names, but Rickey said he needed someone who had enough guts not to fight back."

Trayvon's mom, Kiah Arnold, smiled. "He reads a lot," she said.

Local Hispanic groups have pushed elected officials to help fund the Azalea Park field, where 200 children play ball. The league often waives all or part of the sign-up fee for kids, many of whom come from low-income families.

Community-based group United Front 436 last week urged Orlando police to keep investigating to find the vandal.

shudak@tribune.com or 407-650-6361. ___

(c)2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com


New Clemente mural to rise, unite Azalea Park

March 14, 2014|By David Damron and Stephen Hudak, Orlando Sentinel

Vandals may have destroyed a wall painting of Puerto Rican icon Roberto Clemente at Azalea Park's Little League field, but they also united a community that today plans to celebrate a new mural of "The Great One."

"I was really saddened," said the baseball Hall of Famer's son, Roberto Clemente Jr., by phone Friday. "But obviously, with the whole movement, and how this negative act has pulled together the community, it's fantastic.

"It never ceases to amaze me how people react to Dad," he said.

Local organizer Earl Lugo has rallied to bring two New York City artists to Orlando, who will replace the mural that was painted over last month.

At noon, the public is invited to take part in what has grown into a festival of sorts built around that resurrection, one that's slated to have Spanish and grilled food on hand, along with music by popular disc jockey Tony Touch.

Residents discovered the defaced mural four weeks ago. Orlando police said they opened an investigation after a report was filed by the principal of Azalea Park Elementary School, where the painting once stood.

Lugo, who in 2011 brought his friend Héctor "Nicer" Nazario to Orlando to paint the original mural, said support and donations have poured in since news spread that the first one was defaced. That painting had become a point of pride at a field known more for its neglect, he said.

The legendary Pittsburgh Pirate, who died in a plane crash in 1972, built a passionate fan base when he played, yet he has remained an especially compelling figure to the Puerto Rican community. He was a rare ballplayer who was equally admired for his humanitarian work. But for many Hispanics, he occupies that semi-sacred space that Jackie Robinson occupies within the black community.

Clemente's defaced mural has also triggered Hispanic groups to press local officials to help clean up the Azalea Park field's broken fences, lack of water fountains and broken-down bathroom. Others are still pressing for results in an investigation into who destroyed the wall painting.

"It is still an active investigation, and details cannot be discussed to protect the integrity of the investigation," said Orlando police spokesman Luis Martinez.

Lugo, who grew up in Bronx, N.Y., as a Yankees fan, said Clemente was important to Puerto Ricans not just on the island or in Pittsburgh where Clemente played his whole career, but everywhere.

"Clemente meant pride to me," said Lugo, who never saw the Hall of Famer play in person. "In my neighborhood, no matter whose house you went to, you saw two pictures on the wall. One was Jesus; the other was Clemente."

ddamron@tribune.com or 407-420-5311 or Twitter @dadamron



Azalea Park to Celebrate New Clemente Mural

Orlando Latino, 3-14-14

María T. Padilla


The fields at Azalea Park will once again sport a mural of baseball legend Roberto Clemente that is bigger, brighter and better than the one vandals recently destroyed.
Folks will turn out Saturday to not only celebrate the new work by artist  Héctor Nazario, known as "Nicer," but also to support the volunteers and financial contributors who made it possible.
The Hispanic community let out a cry of astonishment February after vandals painted the Clemente mural with black paint, a crime that remains unsolved. But that crime will be brushed over this weekend as the community comes out to share in the rebuilding and reorganization of the park with the help of the Nazario, Don Cerenzio, Earl Lugo, the Orange County History Center, and DJ Tony Touch, among others. 
"It’s been pretty crazy," said Lugo, former president of the Azalea Park Little League who is now the league's spokesman and director of sponsors. "It’s awesome. I can’t wait. I'm happy with the turnout as well as the final product. This is my personal project," said Lugo, who raised $10,000 for the league this season.

Ups and Downs at Azalea Park


Lugo hopes that more people will make the Azalea Park fields and Little League their personal mission.  Azalea Park, a neighorhood situated off Semoran Boulevard in east Orlando, is the oldest Hispanic enclave in Orlando, the area where Hispanics first settled when they migrated to Orlando.

The community dates to 1940s and was originally built for returning World War II soldiers and their families. The Azalea Park Little League was formed during this period.
Starting in the 1980s and accelerating in the 1990s, however, Hispanic families gravitated to the area, drawn by  its affordable housing and close proximity to Downtown Orlando, making it the area's first Latino barrio. Today, Azalea Park is 56% Hispanic, with Puerto Ricans comprising 63% of that, according to census figures. 
The area and the park have had their ups and downs throughout the years.  White flight. A methadone clinic that community activists forced to close. Neigborhoid blight. The baseball fields –there are five in all, situated next to Azalea Park Elementary School– also suffered from abandonment, drug activity and crime. 


It enjoyed a moment in the spotlight during the mid-2000s, when it qualified for $90,000 in public funding through Orange County's Field of Dreams project, to counter the damage from hurricane Charley, among other things. 

Building a 'Field of Dreams'

People like Lucy Fagello and Ana Peña, then president and vice president of Azalea Park Little League, respectively, put up fencing, sidewalk and irrigation, as well as fixed the lighting, concession stand and dugouts, among other things. 


"Eso fue un gusto, una alegría, un gozo ver el parque así," said Peña, during a recent tour of the fields. It was a joy, happiness, enjoyment to see the park like this. "Y la gente, al ver el cambio, también se alegró."  And the people, at seeing the change, also were happy.
But Field of Dreams turned into a nightmare in 2007, when the Orange County Commission cut off funding for the project, citing a tight budget.  Things went downhill from there, culminating in last month's vandalism of the Clemente mural that generated an outcry for the forgotten park. 

Greater Awareness


" If there’s one good thing that came from this is that there is greater awareness of the Little League at Azalea Park," said Don Cerenzio, a State Farm insurance agent who has supported the league for 10 years, including making a "substantial" contribution to bring artist Nazario to Orlando to repaint the mural of the Puerto Rican baseball giant. 

Cerenzio added there will be new unspecified security measures in place to prevent a similar crime from happening again. He's also looking into helping the league obtain grant money and will be at the park Saturday to sign up more private sponsors as well. 

Lugo is also meeting with officials from the City of Orlando, Orange County and Orange County schools to obtain more support for the park. 

  "This will be our field of dreams," Cerenzio said.

Previous Sponsors of Azalea Park 
(in alphabetical order)

Banco Popular 
BrightHouse Networks
Don Cerenzio
Nelquan's Barber Shop 
Orange County through the Field of Dreams project
Quinco Baseball Academy

Saturday at Azalea Park

What: Artist Héctor Nazario will repaint Roberto Clemente mural. There will also give out gifts and music by DJ Tony Touch. The Orange County History Center is setting up a booth with information about Clemente, based on the center's recent exhibit on the baseball player.  
When: March 15, noon to 5 pm
Where:  Azalea Park fields, 1 Carol Ave., Orlando 



Azalea Park’s defaced Roberto Clemente mural continues to inspire controversy

Promises of replacing baseball-park painting aren't enough for some

By Shannon Scheidell

Published: February 26, 2014

School board responds to requested renovations in Azalea Park

Roberto Clemente, of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is a respected figure in the world of Major League Baseball, especially for Azalea Park’s Puerto Rican community. So why would someone paint over his portrait on a Little League field mural? No one knows who the culprit is, but the move has inspired some finger-pointing between advertisers, the city of Orlando and school officials.

Carlos Guzman, the president of the Puerto Rican Leadership Council, is seeking retribution for the vandalism of Clemente’s mural, and he is furious at the lack of legitimate responses he’s received. He sent a letter to Mayor Buddy Dyer, City Commissioner Tony Ortiz, OCPS chairman Bill Sublette and school board member Daryl Flynn, among other officials, asking that they remodel the facilities at Azalea’s Little League Park. “The community would like to have a positive answer from you within the next 10 days,” he wrote.

In a letter in response to Guzman’s request, Luis Martinez, director of multicultural affairs for the office of the mayor, wrote, “The Orlando Police Department is conducting an investigation regarding this incident. … They are working in a collaborative effort in order to also address the park’s fields.”

During an OCPS meeting on Feb. 19, responsibility was taken into the hands of the school board, with additional support from Commissioner Clark and Little League board members.

The park has been neglected for years and will get a facelift around mid-March, according to Flynn. “I look for the mural to be repainted soon, so that the inspiration of Roberto Clemente returns to remind these Little Leaguers that they, too, can aspire to do great things.”

The park, at 53 years old, is the oldest Little League field in Florida. It is considered a landmark to many, as the blood, sweat and donations from locals in the community have kept it running. Anthills have pockmarked the landscape, and weeds have taken over the field. With its broken fences and scarred concession stands, the dugout may seem an eyesore to some, but people in the community look upon the space with the knowledge of its history.

Joel Piñeiro, who went on to play for the Baltimore Orioles as a pitcher, found his feet in Azalea Park. Joe Oliver, from the Cincinnati Reds, once played in the field. Clemente himself has ties to the park, as his mural gave inspiration to children to follow their own dreams of escaping a run-down town and making it big.

Earl Lugo, former coach and president of Azalea Park Little League and friend of artists Hector “Nicer” Nazario and Wilfredo “Bio” Feliciano, said he’s asking for donations to fly the artists in from New York to repaint the mural.

“Clemente is going back up. We saw the effect it had and we want to give back to everybody a little more. The public will be amazed,” Lugo said.

But it’s not enough for Guzman, who said he won’t rest until he receives acknowledgement from every member of the board that the park will be given the attention it needs, guaranteed.

In an email in response to Martinez’s letter, Guzman wrote, “Thank you for your email. I must insist in receiving a direct reply from all the elected officials to whom I directed my email to, including Mayor Dyer, who is the elected official that heads the city of Orlando government and represents most of the families affected by this issue.”



Vandalized mural will return to Little League ball field

Mural of Roberto Clemente was covered with black paint

UPDATED 7:26 PM EST Feb 14, 2014

By Matt Grant

ORLANDO, Fla.A mural of Puerto Rican baseball icon Roberto Clemente will reappear after being destroyed by vandals.

The New York-based artist who created the original mural will return to repair what had become a source of pride for an east Orlando community.

After an outpouring of support, the original artist said he'll come back to repaint the mural and make it bigger and better than before.

"It's tragic, it really is, that it's gone," Orange County Regional History Center representative Emilie Arnold said.

Arnold said vandals didn't just destroy the mural, but they stole a piece of the community.

"We were all really upset. We wanted to find a way to try and reach out and help," Arnold said.

The History Center held an exhibit honoring Clemente two years ago. He was the first Latin American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"He's a hero to the Puerto Rican community, but he's a hero to the Orlando community at large," Arnold said.

One of the exhibits was a photograph taken of the 20-foot mural painted for the Azalea Park Little League, which was destroyed by vandals earlier in the week.

"I was completely shocked," artist Nicer Nazario said.

Nazario spent hours making the mural in 2011.

"It was supposed to be a mural that kind of brought the children and the parents together," Nazario said.

Nazario said he'll return to repaint it, making it bigger and more colorful than before.

"The power of the people and the power of imagery can't be muffled," Nazario said.

The president of the Azalea Park Little League resigned Friday but would not say why.

About $2,500 has been raised to pay for Nazario's flight and supplies.

Byron Clercx of the University of Central Florida's School of Arts and Visual Design said his students were heartbroken about the mural's destruction and have offered to help bring the new one to life.

"We have talented, caring, empathetic students who would like to be involved ... in any way, shape or form we can be involved. I think that's what we want to do," Clercx said.

State Rep. Darren Soto was also saddened to learn of the vandalism.

"I was deeply saddened to learn about the mural of Puerto Rico's favorite baseball son, Roberto Clemente, was painted over," Soto said. "This mural was an icon for our East Orlando neighborhood, but as with many tragedies, we will rebuild. Please reach out to Azalea Park Little League on Facebook to donate."


Roberto Clemente mural painted over because someone or someones are awful

By Grant Brisbee @mccoveychron on Feb 13 2014, 11:31a, www.sbnation.com

We just don't know who, yet. Quinco sounds like a villainous corporation from an '80s movie, though.

Well, someone's being despicable. Keep the torches oiled and the pitchforks waxed. The details are fuzzy, though:

A mural honoring Puerto Rican baseball icon Roberto Clemente has been painted over, destroying what was a source of pride for Little Leaguers and parents at a rebounding Azalea Park Elementary School ball field.

(Coach) Lugo sponsored a childhood friend and noted New York City muralist to craft the mural in 2011.

On Wednesday morning, it was painted over.

That would be a gorgeous, gigantic mural on the side of a concession stand in an Orlando ballfield. It was commissioned specifically to inspire the local youths, and we're not talking about a coach heading out to the wall with a marker and some Spirographs, seeing what he could work up.

When Lugo recruited a childhood friend — professional graffiti artist Hector "Nicer" Nazario — to paint the large-scale, red-and-black mural, the community rallied around the project. Nazario has been a leading figure in the Bronx-based mural group known as TATS CRU, whose graffiti art has evolved through the years into notable commercial and community work.

The Clemente mural had been up for just over two years before someone gave the orders to paint over it. No one knows exactly why. The league doesn't know. The city doesn't know. The baseball academy in charge of renovations doesn't know.

Suggestion: Find an intern. There's always an intern or staffer to blame.

Whatever happened, it's awful. Click over and look at that mural! Those bastards. I want one on the side of my house, but they couldn't keep one on a snack shack.



Roberto Clemente mural will rise again after destruction sparks anger, support

February 13, 2014|By David Damron and Carolina Salazar, Orlando Sentinel

A new, bigger mural honoring baseball icon Roberto Clemente will rise again over Azalea Park's Little League after someone rolled black paint over one honoring the Puerto Rican humanitarian at a local ball field.

That's what supporters, a league official and fans from as far away as Kentucky vowed after news of the mural's destruction spread beyond this working-class Hispanic community.

"We're going to get our mural back, and it's going to be bigger and better," said Earl Lugo, who sponsored the first mural. "The ball is rolling."

A nearby insurance salesman who has supported the league was stunned by the defacement and pledged to help pay to bring the original artist, Hector "Nicer" Nazario, back to Orlando.

"I couldn't believe what I was reading," said Don Cerenzio, who said Clemente was a childhood hero when he grew up in New York City.

"It broke my heart."

With the help of Cerenzio and others who can help pay for travel and paint costs, Lugo said that the artist Nazario, a childhood friend, already had agreed to come back to do another mural for free.

"My heart dropped," said Nazario, who plans to return next month to paint something "grander." Clemente's humanitarian work made him a real hero, Nazario said, so one goal of the mural was to spark conversations between children and parents about who he was.

"Kids nowadays don't have someone like that to look up to," Nazario said.

Residents discovered the defaced mural Wednesday. Orlando police are investigating after a report was filed by the principal of the Azalea Park Elementary School, where the mural once stood.

"It has been completely painted over by an unknown suspect," the police report stated. The principal "could not place a value on the cost to replace the mural ... as it can not be repaired."

That reality struck one Clemente fan from Kentucky as "senseless." David King, a Louisville resident, wanted to help pitch in to replace the mural because the Hall of Fame baseball player was his first hero when he was a child.

When Clemente died in a plane crash delivering earthquake-relief aid to Nicaragua, King wrote a childhood letter to his widow — his first letter to someone not named Santa Claus.

"I've always believed that in many important ways Clemente was to Hispanics, and Puerto Ricans in particular, what Jackie Robinson was for the black community," King wrote in an email. "I think his image as an icon of the community and the sport are well-earned, richly deserved and worth preserving."

The director of the University of Central Florida School of Visual Arts & Design agreed and was reaching out to the community to offer student help with some type of additional public-art project to respond to the vandalism.

"As a baseball fan, and having some personal and professional experience with community development and public art, I was saddened to hear of the loss of this iconic neighborhood mural," said Byron Clercx in an email.

Offers of help also came from the Orange County Regional History Center, which hosted a 2012 Smithsonian exhibition titled "Beyond Baseball: The Life of Roberto Clemente."

"Our whole department was just devastated," said Emilie Arnold, a center official.

State Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, also urged his Facebook friends to offer donations for a replacement, adding that, "as with many tragedies, we will rebuild."

Carlos Guzman, president of the Puerto Rican Leadership Council, said that group wants to see what police turn up before responding to the incident.

"We can't take action when we still don't know what happened — if it is an act of racism or if it is an internal dispute," Guzman said.

Guzman, who once suggested changing the name of Colonial High School to Roberto Clemente High, said that the field where the mural stood is an "orphan" park that school and local officials don't look after very well.

Late Thursday night, Guzman emailed an open letter to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other government leaders, in which he asked for coordinated government "efforts to remodel the facilities and make the required budget appropriations for a sufficient dedicated maintenance program every year."

In the letter, Guzman said he awaited a "positive answer" from civic leaders in the next 10 days.

casalazar@tribune.com or 407-540-4004. ddamron@tribune.com or 407-420-5311 or Twitter @dadamron.



Roberto Clemente mural defaced at Orlando school

Author: Daniel Dahm, Managing Editor of ClickOrlando.com, ddahm@clickorlando.com

Published On: Feb 13 2014 09:10:46 AM EST   Updated On: Feb 13 2014 01:39:46 PM EST

Mural honoring baseball player vandalized


Police on Thursday continue to investigate after vandals defaced a mural at an Orlando school.

The Roberto Clemente mural at the baseball field at Azalea Park Elementary School was painted over, prompting the investigation. 

Clemente is a Hall of Fame baseball player who died in a 1972 plane crash while delivering aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.  The mural of the Puerto Rican star, created in 2011, served as a symbol of strength and pride in the community. 

The Azalea Park Little League board fears the vandalism could have been done by a disgruntled donor whose team was recently kicked off the field.  Local 6 reached out to the donor but has not heard back.

"You can see that the mural has been selectively painted over. It's not like they painted the building. This was an intentional (act) over that specific graphic," said neighbor Todd Catella, who lives a block away.

Catella said he wanted to see the mural -- or what's left of it.

"It is very sad that this is happening," he said.  "For the community, this was a point of pride, a special painter did this about a special baseball player,"

The well-known artist who painted the original mural was flown in from New York and has already been contacted about restoring the painting, but the nonprofit Little League organization has to raise money for his return.

The artist has contacted his lawyer over concerns that the vandals violated copyright laws. 

Two men in a brown pickup truck were seen painting over the black and red figure, but have not been located.

Orlando police say detectives have not determined if a crime was committed.


Youngsters in tears, community outraged as Clemente mural is defaced

Sam Gardner

FOX Sports

FEB 13, 2014 1:00p ET

A Central Florida community is outraged and perplexed after an unknown painter defaced a beloved Roberto Clemente mural at a local Little League complex.

The mural at the Azalea Park Elementary School field, about five miles east of downtown Orlando, depicted the Hall of Famer and Puerto Rican baseball icon along with the saying, “Our Field of Dreams.” It was painted in 2011 by New York graffiti artist Hector "Nicer" Nazario, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

“That was our field of dreams," baseball coach Ramiro Rivera told WFTV. "That was the person we looked up to. And to be defaced like that out of nowhere is really a shame."

According to the Sentinel’s report, a parent from Azalea Park Elementary, the student population of which is nearly three-quarters Hispanic, was dropping his kids off at school Wednesday when he saw two men painting over the mural, which was on the side of the concession stand.

The parent alerted the group that manages the park, but a day later, there is little clarity as to why the mural was being painted over.

Some have blamed the cover-up on a group called Quinco Baseball Academy, which helped refurbish the field in exchange for free use of the facility, however, Quinco official Todd Adams told the Sentinel that his group had no hand in the mystery touch-up and said that some Quinco ads at the field had been painted over, too.

Instead, Adams pointed the finger back at the league, suggesting that it may have been tied to a dispute within the board over what was and was not allowed to appear on walls and dugouts at the park.

"Absolutely not," Adams told the paper when asked if Quinco was responsible. "We're upset about it, too. Some wires may have been crossed."

League officials disagreed, however, and voted Wednesday to ban anyone affiliated from Quinco Academy from the field while the league and local police investigate the issue.

The Orange County School District owns the field, but not the concession stand that housed the mural, and told the Sentinel that it, like the league and Quinco, had not ordered a crew to paint over the image. And while it’s still unknown who made the call to paint over the mural, it’s clear that it was a source of pride for the league and many of its players.

"I have kids crying about this," league vice president Ramiro Rivera told the Sentinel. "It's affected a lot of people. It's outrageous."


Roberto Clemente mural painted over

Posted: Feb 13, 2014 8:54 PM EDT Updated: Feb 20, 2014 8:54 PM EDT

By Jackie Orozco, Reporter



Their inspiration is gone, and neighbors can't understand why it happened.

Black paint now covers a mural of the hall of fame Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente.  He is a symbol of pride and success for many, especially for the Azalea Park Little League.   The mural was created in 2011.

"It's very shocking," said Felix Martin.  "It was surprising. I live right across the street. I didn't see anything and to hear it from you guys first, we were like, 'Really?'  And we walked outside, and there it was, painted over."

The Azalea Park Elementary School principal notified police about the vandalism.  The Orange County School District owns the baseball field but not the concession stand where the mural was painted.  No vandalism charges have been filed.

"I hope they do catch the guys and make them pay for it, so it can get painted over again. It was a nice addition to the community," said Martin.


Roberto Clemente mural painted over in Azalea Park

Little Leaguers, Hispanic community upset

February 12, 2014|By Carolina Salazar and David Damron, Orlando Sentinel

A mural honoring Puerto Rican baseball icon Roberto Clemente has been painted over, destroying what was a source of pride for Little Leaguers and parents at a rebounding Azalea Park Elementary School ball field.

Earl Lugo has coached there and wanted youngsters from his working-class neighborhood to know the Hall of Famer who died in a 1972 plane crash while delivering aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. Lugo sponsored a childhood friend and noted New York City muralist to craft the mural in 2011.

On Wednesday morning, it was painted over.

"Our kids, they go to fancy parks to play in the city, but we've got this mural," said Lugo, choking up with emotion. "It would make us stand out. It would make us proud."

Some had speculated that a disgruntled sponsor covered up the mural. But Todd Adams, an official at Quinco Baseball Academy, which has helped revive the field in return for the use of it, said the academy is just as outraged.

Adams said Quinco ads were painted over recently, too. He speculated that the mural may have been the victim of an internal Little League board dispute or confusion over what was allowed to appear on the walls and dugouts of the park.

"Absolutely not," Adams said when asked whether his company painted over the mural. "We're upset about it, too. Some wires may have been crossed."

Adams said he talked to his own paint crews Wednesday to confirm they were not involved.

But the Azalea Park Little League Board was not convinced and voted Wednesday night to ban Quinco and anyone affiliated with the academy from the field. The board also learned that police are investigating after someone filed a complaint earlier in the day.

"I have kids crying about this," Ramiro Rivera, a league vice president, said earlier Wednesday. "It's affected a lot of people," Rivera said. "It's outrageous."

An area resident who was dropping off his children at the school saw two men painting over the mural and alerted a group that manages the park with volunteers.

"I thought it was a joke," said Alex Diaz, whose children play there. "But when I returned from dropping off my children, it was obvious that they were doing something bad."

The Orange County school district owns the field but not the concession stand that the mural was painted on. A school spokeswoman said the district had not ordered any paint crews to paint over ads or the mural and would not because the district does not maintain the fields.

When Lugo recruited a childhood friend — professional graffiti artist Hector "Nicer" Nazario — to paint the large-scale, red-and-black mural, the community rallied around the project. Nazario has been a leading figure in the Bronx-based mural group known as TATS CRU, whose graffiti art has evolved through the years into notable commercial and community work.

To many Hispanics, Clemente was their version of Jackie Robinson, the man who broke baseball's color barrier for blacks. Clemente suffered similar discriminatory treatment, especially early on, but succeeded so well on the field as a Pittsburgh Pirate that he became the first Latin American-born inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

For Puerto Ricans in the Azalea Park neighborhood, Clemente was a heroic historic figure.

"Everyone talked about this mural all the time, because it has been part of our history," Diaz said.

Staff writer Susan Jacobson contributed to this report. casalazar@tribune.com or 407-540-4004. ddamron@tribune.com or 407-420-5311 or Twitter @dadamron.



Mural of Pittsburgh Pirates great Roberto Clemente defaced in Azalea Park

Posted: 5:33 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, wftv.com


Photos: Roberto Clemente mural vandalism



Authorities are looking for the vandals who targeted a mural of Roberto Clemente on the side of a ballpark facility in Azalea Park.

Overnight, someone painted over the mural, which showed Clemente on one knee in his Pittsburgh Pirates uniform.

Residents said they can't imagine why someone would want to destroy the painting.

For years, volunteers have worked to improve the Azalea Park Little League field. In 2011, New York graffiti artist Hector Nazario painted the Clemente mural, but it was gone when neighbors woke up Wednesday morning.

"It's very hurtful. That was beautiful. And he was a great man, too," one resident said.

"Mainly Latin community, that was our field of dreams," said baseball coach Ramiro Rivera. "That was the person we looked up to. And to be defaced like that out of nowhere is really a shame."

The mural was part of a community effort to bring the ball field, which had fallen on hard times, back into something everyone could be proud of.

For a community with a huge Hispanic population, the addition of Clemente's image was intended to be a symbol for the kids who would play ball at the field that any of them could become great.

"When you have kids looking up to role models, Roberto was that kind of hero, the perfect American hero," said Carlos Guzman, president of the Puerto Rican Leadership Council.

Officials intend to file a police report and hope whoever did it will be caught.

Nazario was one of the first graffiti artists in New York City to cross over into mainstream art. He's been commissioned to paint for designers and advertisers and has even had his work shown in museums.


Knights Gets Involved with Azalea Park LL Opening Ceremonies 2012

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF's baseball team will help take part in the Azalea Park Little League's Opening Ceremonies this Saturday to help players celebrate the start of a new season. The Knights will participate in a clinic with local little leaguers as well during the day, which takes place at Azalea Park on 1 Carol Avenue in Orlando from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Spring 2011:
Members of UCF Athletics will be at numerous little leagues' opening days during the spring to kick off the season in the community. Even though the baseball team will be at the South Alabama Classic this weekend, several of the Knights' players will be in attendance at Azalea Park this Saturday to assist with the clinic.


Graffiti artist, Héctor “Nicer” Nazario, supports Azalea Park Little League.

Graffiti artist supports Azalea Park Little League.

Even the weather helped out: last Saturday New York artist Héctor “Nicer” Nazario came to Central Florida to paint a large-scale mural of baseball hero Roberto Clemente at the Azalea Park baseball field.

This is part of a on-going campaign to clean up the field, which has fallen in disrepair. Last year “El Sentinel” wrote a series of stories on what the community is doing to help out the Azalea Park Little Leagues, a 50-year-old organization. Since then, several community leaders and elected officials have been trying to support these efforts.

Orlando City Commissioner Tony Ortiz stopped by to meet Nazario. Our freelance photographer Geisha Barazarte took pictures of the mural, you can check them out @ El Sentinel facebook page.
A professional graffiti artist completed his mural of baseball hero Roberto Clemente at the Little League ball field in Azalea Park this Labor Day weekend.

As Sentinel reporter Matt Palm wrote last week, Hector “Nicer” Nazario, of New York City, painted the mural at the request of his friend Earl Lugo, the Azalea Park Little League coach. Lugo has been working to get the field cleaned up. The mural of Clemente, the Puerto Rican Hall of Famer who died in a 1972 plane crash while delivering aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims, took four hours to paint, Lugo said.

“I think to have his face really big at the entrance of that park will represent his honor and make these kids feel important,” Lugo said before the mural was completed.


2011 Orlando Sentinel Article "Graffiti artist will brighten kids' Little League field"

Graffiti artist will brighten kids' Little League field
August 31, 2011|By Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel

Earl Lugo, a coach in Azalea Park Little League, believes in heroes. He wants the youngsters from his working-class east Orange County neighborhood to believe in them, too.

So Lugo recruited a childhood friend — professional graffiti artist Hector "Nicer" Nazario — to paint a large-scale mural of baseball hero Roberto Clemente at the Azalea Park baseball field. The Puerto Rican Hall of Famer died in a 1972 plane crash while delivering aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. His humanitarian efforts earned him a Congressional Gold Medal.

"I think to have his face really big at the entrance of that park will represent his honor and make these kids feel important," said Lugo, 43, who grew up in Bronx, N.Y.

Saturday's mural painting will be a high point in a campaign to clean up the field, which has fallen into disrepair.

Nazario, 44, has made a name for himself in his hometown of New York City as a spray-painting mural artist. Though he has worked on movie sets and music-video productions for artists such as Beyonce and John Mayer, he is known on the streets of the Bronx and beyond for painting memorial murals to young victims of violence.

During the 1990s, as crack cocaine fueled the murder rate in New York, Nazario and his fellow artists known as the TATs Cru, painted hundreds of such murals.

Work such as the Azalea Park mural is important, because it lets him give something to the living, Nazario said.

"I want kids to see things can be achieved," he said. "You can go places."

Helping children in need is even more important to him now: Last year his 22-year-old son, Bleu, was killed in a random shooting in New York.

"I see him in other kids' faces," said Nazario, who is developing a program in New York that mixes grief therapy and art. "That's probably the best way I can honor his memory."

Many of Azalea Park's 200 or so Little Leaguers need a helping hand, Lugo said. More Azalea Park residents live below the poverty line than the national average, according to Census Bureau statistics, and Lugo said their struggles remind him of his own youth.

"That's where I come from," he said, "playing in abandoned buildings as a kid."

Having good friends and role models can help make up for a lack of material things, Nazario said. He and his fellow artists give talks to children at community centers in the Northeast.

"We try to explain to them that we came from nothing, but we were so enriched with friendship," he said. "When I got older and someone said, 'You came from a poor neighborhood,' I thought, 'I was poor?'"

Nazario has worked with corporations such as Coca-Cola and Reebok. He has exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution and across Europe. He recently returned from a charitable trip to Israel, where he and others affiliated with Artists 4 Israel painted murals of colorful everyday scenes on bomb shelters.

He said he'll always find time to help out children's causes, especially those that help them develop emotionally.

"The stuff we're painting on the streets is the modern-day version of Goyas and Monets," he said. "We bring art and color in their lives."

Lugo hopes the Clemente mural brings hope and pride into the lives of his young players, who range in age from 4 to 16. He thinks Clemente, who was 38 when he died, will strike a chord with the kids in his predominantly Hispanic neighborhood.

"He did so much for kids, worked so hard for youth," Lugo said. "All the coaches here try to be role models. [Clemente] can be a role model for them, too."

mpalm@tribune.com or 407-420-5038

2011 Businesses help victimized little league

A local little league that was victimized earlier this year is getting a helping hand from area businesses.

The Azalea Park Little League had copper stolen from its field lights, threatening to leave the games in the dark.

Not only did one business fix the lights, but Sunday, helped give the fields a much needed face lift.

The Azalea Park Little League was created 50 years ago.

So the fields are showing their age, and the economic downturn hasn't helped.

"Things haven't been good for us," said league president Chris Manley. "Buildings have been falling apart. Paint is chipping, getting old."

Manley said the little league is considered self-sustained.

"It gets very little government help, if any. So it's all donations," he said.

But donations slowed with the economy. So getting the money to maintain the fields have been tough. Sunday, Quinco Electrical stepped up to the plate.

"Our heart went out to this organization when we heard the story," said Quinco Electrical Spokesperson Nicole Webb.

The company already helped the league earlier this year.

Quinco fixed the field lights after someone stole copper out of 17 light poles.

It's a job that would've cost $19,000 -- Quinco did it for free.

This weekend, Quinco teamed with Sherwin Williams and donated more than a $1,000 in paint.

People painted the buildings and dugouts around all six fields.

Then repaired fencing and picked up trash.

"It's going to be awesome to see the kids' face go 'wow look at our park," Manley said.

The improvements will be displayed on a large scale in June.

For the first time in years, Azalea Park is the chosen site for this year's district All Star Tournament.

"The other leagues are going to see it too," Manley said. "Maybe this will spark some people's interest into stepping up and helping out."

The Azalea Park Little League is a 5013c organization. It relies on sponsors, donations and concession sales to cover costs.

2011 Orlando Sentinel Blog

Artist Hector ‘Nicer’ Nazario to brighten Orlando Little League field
posted by Matthew J. Palm on September, 1 2011 2:20 PM

Here’s a cool story I wrote for the print edition of the Orlando Sentinel today. Hector “Nicer” Nazario is a well-known graffiti artist who uses spray paint to create murals. He works in commercial enterprises, such as music videos, movies or corporate campaigns, but also does a lot of charitable work.

Luckily for a bunch of Little Leaguers in the east Orange County neighborhood of Azalea Park, he’s also a childhood friend of one of their coaches, Earl Lugo.

Lugo invited Nazario down from New York City this weekend to paint a mural of Roberto Clemente at their ragtag baseball field.

Lugo pointed out to me that plenty of folks are working hard to improve the condition of the field, such as Board vice president Chris Manley, Eddie Turner, Zerlina Swarthout, Tiffany Manley and Rosie Vargas.

And others have helped cover the cost of Nazario’s trip: Peter Favier at the Airport Holiday Inn donated a room; Scott Louie of The Paint Yard in Texas donated the paint Nazario will use.

So it really is a team effort — just like in baseball.

Chris Manley, A "Champion in our Community"!

Champions in our Community with David Maus

Who do YOU feel is a CHAMPION in YOUR community?

CHRIS M.-Azalea Park Little League
I would like to nominate Christopher Manley. He does outstanding things for the community he gets up early morning almost every day to clean up Azalea parks little league. When I ask him for something he always says alright I'll be there in a few. He puts others before him self all the time. Sometimes he is at the little league from like 6 am till 10 at night trying to fix it up. If someone can't pay to play he will pay for them with his own money sometimes just so a kid can play baseball. He is a role model to me and so many kids. Please pick him because he really think he is Champion in Azalea Park !!

CONGRATULATIONS to our very own Chris Manley for being a "Champion in our Community"!!

WJRR Champion in our Community


2011 CFNews13 Article "Good Samaritan steps up to the plate to help copper theft victims"

Good Samaritan steps up to the plate to help copper theft victims
By Amanda Evans, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, January 06, 2011

An Orlando little league will be back on the baseball diamond after a good Samaritan steps up to the plate to pay to get their fields fixed.

News 13 first brought you their story on New Year's Eve after thousands of dollars worth of copper was stolen from Azalea Park Little League.

After we did the story, local radio station WJRR 101.1 FM was talking about what was done to the fields.

Jim Koerner heard the story and said he had to make it right.

"I feel happy because now we're going to be able to play under the lights and see the ball," said Julio Manley, a little league player.

For 9-year-old Julio, that's all he can dream about and why Koerner is his new hero.

Koerner sat down with Julio's dad, Chris Manley, who runs the little league, to write a check so they can get back on the field.

"These kids if they don't have baseball, then what are they getting into? Koerner said. "When I was a kid, it was just getting into trouble."

The kids could no longer play night games because someone stripped the copper from the park, leaving them without lighting.

Koerner said as a dad of four and a self-made businessman, when he heard the story, he also heard his calling to give back.

"A lot of kids were devastated, and I was glad we were in a position to step in and get the ball rolling for them again," Koerner said.

It's a gift for the league and the Manley family.

"Good people exist. Good people exist," Chris Manley said.

The donation will help the team fix the lights and get a new security system to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Without the lights, Manley was going to have to cancel more than half of the games.

But because of the kindness of one man, he can tell his son game on.

"Our boys are gonna play ball," Manley said. "They're going to be able to get under the lights. It's a big deal for these boys because they feel like superstars."

The team has asked Koerner to throw out the first pitch of their opening game.


2010 "Copper theft leaves little leaguers in the dark"

Copper theft leaves little leaguers in the dark
By Nick VinZant, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, December 31, 2010

Thieves stole thousands of dollars worth of copper from the Azalea Park Little League fields.

Now, the team might not be able to play many of their games.

The fields were ready to go and Julio Manley was ready to play.

But he won't get the chance nearly as often.

With the lighting system ruined, night games are off.

"Now if next thing, you know, if I have a night game, I won't be able to see to hit the ball," Julio said.

Little League Manager Chris Manley discovered the theft Friday morning.

He said the thieves pulled the copper wiring from 17 different light poles on two different fields.

Early estimates put replacement costs at more than $3,000. It's a sum Manley said his league can't possibly afford.

They spent all their money on the new lights as a way to save money on electricity.

"The park is falling apart, Manley said. "We don't have a lot of sponsorship due to the economy, so we are scratching barrels trying to make it better."

With the lights damaged, Manley said the league will have to adapt.

Since practice begins when parents get off around 6 p.m., many practices will have to be canceled, and games will be moved to the weekends.

"It really hurts that someone would do this to kids, Manley said. "I know that times are rough, but what we do here is keep kids off streets."

Manley is hoping whoever stole the copper will return it.

Orlando police are investigating the theft.

If you have any information, contact CrimeLine at (800) 423-TIPS.

2010 East Orlando Sun Article "From Nothing to Something"

Three seasons ago, Carmen Herrera’s 11-year old son Armando begged his mom to try out for little league. Today he plays third base for the Mets on the Azalea Park Little League team and his confidence has soared like a homerun shot.

"I came from nothing to something," said Armando, who admits he used to be shy.

"The coaches are role models; they teach the boys respect," Armando’s mother said.

Coach and manager Earl Lugo has worked with the Mets since his son started t-ball five years ago. Lugo has rallied support for the community to provide more resources for his team and the league, which struggles financially.

"Within three miles, we have a largely Hispanic community with some parents looking for work, many single parents and families with multiple siblings," said Lugo.

He has engaged Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Councilman Tony Ortiz to prevent the five ball fields from closing due to projects such as the Azalea Park Elementary School renovation.

Lugo’s wife, Bernice, is the team mom and organizes fundraisers to help with expenses.

"We’ve had raffles and carwashes; I can even see a festival or event with booths set up on the fields, but we need more support to do that. We have a vision for our kids," she said.

Team families bring food to help stock the concession stand. Parents fill plastic baggies with homemade ice cubes to make icepacks because the ice machine has been broken for almost two years.

The league charges an $85 registration fee, which covers some uniform expense and insurance costs. The parents fundraise for trophies and to help families buy shoes, belts, gloves, pants and protective gear. Family members volunteer to umpire and coach the league, which receives no city or county funding.

The league now celebrates its 50th year playing on land once owned by the Brosche Dairy farm and donated to OCPS expressly for little league.

Rick Ferrell remembers Opening Day 1964 when he was 9 years old and 15 teams hustled on the field to Sheriff Dave Starr’s welcome. The former Azalea Park Little League player describes the experience as ‘fantastic’. His mom worked the concession stand and his dad coached. Decades later, he rides his bike to the field where he used to play and watches the next generation take the field.

A.J. Reis, an honor student at Colonial High School, hopes to secure a baseball scholarship at a Florida college and to major in sports medicine. He plays first base on the varsity team and credits little league with shaping his life. "It helped me stay out of trouble, it was like my second home," said Reis.

After school when he doesn’t have a game, he works the concession stand at the Azalea Park Field, serving up the league’s famous cheese fries. Reis’ mom served as league president for many years and both his brothers play baseball including his little brother Adam, who he describes as "better than all of us".

Chris Manley, vice president of the Azalea Park Little League, would like community businesses and leaders to help with services, repairs and resources such as pest and weed control, lawn care, an updated lighting system and the repair of the ice machine.

"Our focus is services in exchange for advertising," said Manley. He pointed to buildings and a field that needed attention. "If the field looked better, more kids might join us," said Manley, who says baseball protects kids from bad influences that try to lure them at a younger age. His teams carry on the tradition of fields, which have turned out major league and World Series players.

David Rodriguez understands the power of baseball. His brothers, father and grandfather played baseball in Venezuela, and his son now plays first base for the APLL Yankees.

"Baseball is a strategic game that teaches sportsmanship," Rodriguez said."With a little bit of care, this place could be awesome."


2010 Article "Azalea Park does not want an out"

Azalea Park does not want an "out"
Alsy Acevedo, The Sentinel

February 20, 2010
For five decades the heart of the Azalea Park community has been beat to the rhythm of baseball.

Parents and grandparents who played in these diamonds still visit the fields to see the younger generations involved in Azalea Park Little League.

Saturday the 27th of February, many will come to celebrate the golden anniversary of the organization.

Mark Leclerc, Jr. Mionr Defenders coach, remembers the heyday of that league.

"I played Little League in College Park in the 80s and Azalea Park Little League was the best. It had the best equipment and parks, and I always looked forward to come and play here," recalled Leclerc.

Standing amid the Jr. Minor Field, where the teams are made up of children from 7 to 8 years old, Leclerc laments the current state of the park.

"It has changed much in 30 years. You can see the deterioration," Leclerc said at the end of a practice, pointing in the darkness to the park broken fences and uneven terrain.

Children that make up the team awaiting their turn to bat say they wanted a better park and uniforms.

"We need light," said Julian Rivera, age 7, when it was his turn.

At 6:30 p.m. weekly practice was over. They played an hour.

"It takes money," said Ramiro Rivera, father of Julian. "The kids can not practice because the lights can not turn on because there is no money to pay the bill."

Every month the league has to pay at least $ 1,500 for electricity consumption, said Mike Bates, president of the Azalea Park Little League.

"I went to OUC [the Public Utilities Commission Orlando] three or four times and they have treated me well, but I say that with all that is happening [in the economy] they can not help us," said Bates, who has insisted on being given a discount.

The group charges $85 for each child, plus contributions from six small businesses that sponsor the teams, besides the money by way of raffles.

We also rent fields to other teams to practice during the week and games on Sundays. The cost is $40 per practice or game.

Bates Landscaping Inc. donates cutting the grass.

"My brothers and I grew up here and played in this league. We do this for the children because we do not want to be left without ammunition," said Bates, who is a supervisor in the landscape maintenance company run by his brother Jimmy.

Still, the electricity bill is a burden that consumes almost all its funds.

"Many of the structures are 50 years old and are falling apart," said Chris Manley, vice president of Little League, during a tour with The Sentinel for the park.

Parts of the wooden structures of the concession stand, the meeting room and storage room are rotten.

In 2005, the Azalea Park Little League received a contribution of almost $ 90,000 grant program of the Orange County Government known as Field of Dreams (Field of Dreams).

Commissioner Mildred Fernandez served as a liaison between the county and the parents who requested the money.

"It is important to mention that our Hispanic children are the most involved in that league," Fernandez said, referring to the district that is largely Hispanic.

The funds were intended to mend fences, roofs and dugouts which deteriorated after the 2004 hurricanes and were vandalized by gangs who used the park to sell drugs.

It renewed the sidewalk, placed 10 seats with canopies to protect fans from the sun, an irrigation system, speed bumps in the parking lot and park lights for Junior Minor Field, where the Defenders practice.

"Currently there is an agreement for use of facilities between the School Board and the Azalea Park Little League. This agreement is the result of funds received from the League Field of Dreams grant," said Kathy Condrey, paralegal department real estate management Public Schools Orange County (OCPS, in English).

The agreement provides that if OCPS - which owns the land that Azalea Park Little League plays on - alter these improvements within the first five years of completion, Azalea Park Little League will have to reimburse the county the money.

That agreement expires on June 6, 2011.

Azalea Elementary School Park, adjacent to the parks, will begin an expansion project at the latest early this fall, said Principal Jim Leslie.

"As far as I understand the ball park will remain intact and continue to be available during and after completion of construction," he said.

Lindsley "Lin" Wright, communications officer for OCPS construction, confirmed that construction will not disrupt the use of the parks.

At press time, The Sentinel had failed to interview Nancy Robinson, representing the school district.

Robinson met with several politicians who are trying to reach an agreement to transfer or sell the land to the city or county, as both have departments that could be responsible for the improvements and park maintenance.

"He who belongs to OCPS limits us to us," said Tony Ortiz, Councilman Orlando. "I made an approach to OCPS because I want us to sit down to discuss how we can resolve the situation of the park. I know that is not in my district and is so emaciated.

You may contact through Alsy Acevedo aacevedo@orlandosentinel.com or 407-540-4004.

2005 Azalea Park Little League Fall Festival/Fundraiser

•Azalea Park Little League Fall Festival/Fundraiser -- 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The festival will include music from 102 JAMZ, food, games, a haunted hayride, a haunted house, and a costume contest. Wristbands can be purchased at the concession stand for $10 in advance or $12 the day of the event. Tags on the wristband will pay for the games, hayride and haunted house. For directions or more information, call (407) 590-3307.


2006 APLL Concession Stand Break-in

By Issac Stolzenbach

Sept. 29, 2006 2:55 P.M.: Some time between 9 p.m. Sept. 28, when our 51-year-old complainant closed the Azalea Park Little League concession stand on North Carol Avenue, and 2 p.m. Sept. 29, when she returned to reopen it, unknown suspect(s) ravaged the establishment. Officer Adams arrived to scrutinize the scene. His investigation revealed that the unknown suspect(s) “used a hacksaw to cut through the chain and open the metal gate. The person(s) then used a piece of metal to pry the door off its hinges to gain entry into the concession stand,” reports state. It appears the suspect(s) took off with the $35 lock and the $10 chain, because they were not at the site; estimated damage to the door is $500.

Due to the maliciousness of this heinous crime, a crime scene technician was dispatched to investigate. He checked for latent prints and retrieved fingerprints from the door and the hacksaw that was left behind. The complainant told police that she did not authorize anyone to force the door open and she wanted to prosecute and would testify in court, reports say. The case was forwarded to investigators.

So what did the perp(s) steal? According to police, “Once inside the concession stand, the unknown person(s) removed approximately $5 worth of miscellaneous candy.”


Pasquale "Pat, Cappy, Dad, Grandpa" Cappabianca

Published in the Orlando Sentinel on June 18, 2013

Cappabianca, Pasquale "Pat, Cappy, Dad, Grandpa" of Winter Park and Orlando, passed away peacefully at his home with his family by his side at the age of 87 on June 14, 2013. Survied by his wife, Sherri. In addition by his six children, Madelaine(Charlie), John (Tina), Patricia (Cliff), Gina (Allyn), Marie (Mike), Bart(Karen). 15 Grandchildren, 10 Great Grandchildren, and 10 Great, Great Grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Yolanda, of 42 years. He came to America with his mother and brothers from Italy which is how he had two birthdays. Born February 4, 1926, recorded March 14, 1926. He was a United States Navy World War II veteran. From Brooklynn to Long Island, N.Y. he was transfered to Orlando with Gruman which was Martin Marietta here in Orlando. He opened his first Shell Gas Station "Cappy's Shell", Semoran Blvd. shortly after. He was a winning manager and President of Azalea Park Little League then to Dover Shores. He opened Cappabianca's Italian Restaurant to great reviews from the "Mystery Diner" and other devoted customers. His Children would like to thank Deenise,all the nurses, and Hospice for his care. A Celebration of his life will be held and if you would like to join his Children please call 407-709-4107.


2002 Funeral Notice for Verna Lee (McCallister) Adams

Verna Lee (McCallister) Adams

ADAMS, VERNA LEE (MCCALLISTER), 74, of Dogwood Drive, Orlando, died Thursday October 31, 2002 at Florida Hospital East in Orlando. Mrs. McCallister Adams was a homemaker. Born in 1928 into a family which reached back five generations in to Kissimmee's history through the Tyner's and John's families on her mothers side. She moved to Orlando in 1938, graduating from Orlando High School in 1946. She worked briefly as an operator for Southern Bell before settling down to raise her growing family. She actively supported the formative years of the Azalea Park Little League, she was also a member or the Women of the Moose Lodge #766 in Orlando and in her later years she was active in the research of family history that could be passed down to new generations and generations to come. She is survived by he husband Daniel (Web) Adams;sons, Dan W. Adams, Jr., both of Orlando, Claude A. Adams, Oviedo, Robert H. Adams, Santa Cruz, CA, Ben L. Adams, San Jose, CA; sisters, Mabel Conner, Orlando, Evelyn Albers, Deland; grandchildren, Daniel III, Joshua, Jesse and Jenise; brother-in-law, Buford Adams; sister-in-law Marie Beattie; and daughter-in-law Carol Adams. Graveside services will be conducted on Wednesday, November 6, 2002 at 11AM at Chapel Hill Cemetery with Reverend Tim Vaughn of the First Baptist Church of Tuscawilla officiating. Arrangements under the direction of Osceola Memory Gardens Cemetery, Funeral Home and Crematory, Kissimmee. 407-847-2494.