Dora Walters wrote the news. She broadcast the news. She photographed the news. But she still can’t get used to one part of the news business: being the news.
More than 100 of Walters’ closest friends gathered Tuesday, Jan. 29, at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts, a Division of Ringling College of Art and Design, to celebrate her retirement from the Longboat Observer.
The newspaper’s founders, Ralph and Claire Hunter, hired her in 1987, but her career in journalism spanned more than six decades.
Observer Group Editor/CEO Matt Walsh spoke about Walters and her thirst for the news. He recalled how, after buying the paper from the Hunters in 1995, he sat with them to review their list of staffers.
When they reached Walters’ name, they warned him:
“She’s a tough one.”
He remembered how Walters looked at him with suspicion in the early days. He realized that he had to prove himself to a “consummate journalist,” such as Walters.
“Dora Walters was the Observer in the name of the newspaper, the Longboat Observer,” Walsh said.
Walters demanded more assignments than the newspaper’s 20-something-year-old reporters and was always the first on the scene during a hurricane.
“Not even a big huge, monstrous dump truck could stop this woman,” Walsh said.
He was referring to Walters’ 1998 trip to Mount Dora, when a dump truck nearly crushed her inside her Honda on I-4. But a few days later, Walters was back to work.
Longtime friend Virginia Sanders presented Walters with a certificate of friendship on behalf of herself and her cat, Hoodypoo VI.
Walters looked out at the crowd and told them the reason she stayed for 26 years: “You,” she told them.
She could tell the story behind each one — some good, some bad.
She recounted a few of her favorites.
She remembered meeting a resident (she doesn’t remember her name) who was part of the original cast of “My Fair Lady.”
She looked out at the crowd, which included H. Terrell “Terry” Griffin. She read his first book, “Longboat Blues,” when it was still in a notebook, at Tiny’s of Longboat Key. In January, Griffin published his seventh book. Last year’s novel, “Collateral Damage,” featured a character named Dora Walters.
She remembered her interview with Leo O’Neill, the late husband of Village resident Kip O’Neill. He was the president of Standard & Poor’s. She didn’t know much about S&P, but she got an interview with him. He had the story framed and told her he enjoyed his interview with her more than his interview with Dan Rather.
Mayor Jim Brown read a proclamation:
It proclaimed that the town was fortunate to have Walters for 26 years.
It proclaimed that Walters covered more potlucks than anyone could imagine and that she was the only unofficial member of every church on the Key.
It proclaimed that Walters provided a historical record of the residents and visitors to Longboat Key in her factual reporting of countless meetings.
Then, he proclaimed that Jan. 29, 2013, would be known as “Dora Walters Day.”
Click here to view photos from Dora Walters' retirement party.
An Open Letter
Thank you, thank you, thank you — for sharing my special day with me and for many more years of sharing the highs of your lives and the not-so-highs of your lives with me.
All of you made these years so very special to me. I assure you I’ll do my best to keep on exploring.
P.S. Do you think I should write that book? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.