Editor's note: Eight deaths have been linked to Hurricane Wilma in the Naples and Bonita Springs areas. Below are the stories of those who died.
Judy Dursema can't accept that it was how her father was supposed to die.
Eric Carp may have been 92, but he acted a self-sufficient 70. Every morning, he read the newspaper cover to cover by the light of a well-used red lamp with chipping paint. Every bill was paid the morning after it was taken from the mailbox. Every knickknack was dusted. And everything in his body was working, including his pacemaker.
That's why she couldn't understand how her father, who "was not feeble in any way shape or form," could have tripped down a flight of stairs during the storm and died a little more than a week later.
Carp had headed out when Hurricane Wilma was on its way to Southwest Florida. He wasn't the one worried about the storm. He had neatly packed away his wife's death certificate and his bills in a briefcase and closed the storm shutters. He removed the pictures from the wall and locked up the house when he left to check into the Hampton Inn.
It was Dursema, his 60-year-old daughter, who was the worry-wart about hurricanes. Her parents had stayed in their mobile home in Imperial Bonita Estates through Hurricane Charley and, though they came out unharmed and the home undamaged, Dursema never really shook the anxiety.
"Hurricane Charley took 10 years off my life," she said. "I said, 'You cannot do that again.' "
With Wilma on the way, Dursema didn't want to take any chances. She called him incessantly before the storm, insisting he come to stay in New Jersey with her.
But Carp, known for being a homebody, insisted on staying in Florida. He said he'd catch up on his reading at the hotel.
It was the day that Wilma struck Bonita Springs that Dursema got a call from the hospital.
Carp had checked into a room on the third floor. He was coming down the stairs during the power outage when he fell. He fractured his skull, suffered bleeding in his brain and broke six ribs. Carp died Nov. 1, after nine days in the hospital.
"I expected my father to die in his sleep," Dursema said. "He was sharp for 92 years. I always said, 'Dad, if I have to live to be 92, I want to be your 92.' "
BARBARA JEAN HUNTER
Holiday necessities — a giant crock pot, new chairs for the dinner table, a setting of dishware for 10 and loads of gifts for children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — keep showing up at Barbara Jean Hunter's door.
Days before she died on Oct. 25 at age 70, Hunter had been preparing, as usual this time of year, for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
A restaurateur, Hunter lived her life in the spirit of giving, giving love to her family and friends and giving food to strangers.
"She would give anything. It didn't matter what it was and if she had to borrow it from somebody else to give it, she would," said Teri Layton, one of Hunter's five children.
Layton, who followed her mother's footsteps to open Teri's Summer Breeze Cafe in Bonita Springs, said her mother treated every one with equal respect and generosity. She would speak to a millionaire at her restaurant the same way she would speak to the penniless.
"There was not a person she turned away if somebody was hungry," Layton said. "It was not uncommon to have somebody at the back door looking for something."
Hunter, who was born in Naples and later moved to Bonita Springs, started her first restaurant in 1977 on Kelly Road in Naples. She called it the Shady Rest Cafe and there she served up down-home cooking such as black-eyed peas, grits and fried mullet. That Southern-style cooking, minus the mullet, has carried over onto Layton's regular menu.
"We still do things the way my mother wanted them done," Layton said.
For at least a few hours a day on most days, Hunter worked with Layton at the restaurant, until last year.
Hunter suffered from emphysema and, about a year ago, she began to depend on an oxygen tank.
When Hurricane Wilma knocked power out across Bonita Springs, Hunter relied on portable, battery-operated medical equipment that failed her. She was taken by ambulance to North Collier Hospital. According to county records, she died at the hospital.
Layton said her mother believed in love and keeping the family close to each other and close to God. She and her siblings rarely went a day without seeing or talking to their mother.
"She always taught us about love," Layton said. "Her heart was always the common bond that kept us together."
TRAVIS L. HUDSON
William and Judith Hudson had a penchant for alliteration. The couple named their sons Todd, Tim, Troy and Travis — in that order.
The brothers shared more than a common beginning to their first names. Each was an outstanding athlete, excelling in baseball, football and other sports. But none was better than the youngest.
Travis Hudson shot up to about 6 feet, 5 inches, a good height for a basketball guard/forward and a baseball pitcher. He played both sports, along with golf, at Belvidere (Ill.) High School.
HURRICANE WILMA: ONE YEAR LATER
- PODCAST: Hear in-depth reports about the costs associated with Hurricane Wilma and the Alligator Alley truck, bus crash.
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"He could just grab something and do it," said Troy Hudson, 33, himself an accomplished football linebacker and right guard at the college level.
Travis' best sport was baseball. His fast ball moved at a blinding 93-96 mph, and he complemented that speed with curve balls, sliders and knuckle balls. He pitched at Rock Valley Community College in Rockford, Ill., and Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.
Afterward, he tried out with several pro teams, including the Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers. But when his options fizzled in late 2004, the boy with the electric arm decided to start his life anew in Florida.
At a gas station, the owner of Cheyenne Asphalt, based in Brooksville, spotted Hudson's out-of-state plates and offered him a job, Troy Hudson said. Travis Hudson, now 25, moved into an apartment with a friend in Tampa.
The Florida Department of Transportation tapped Hudson's company after Hurricane Wilma to clear debris off Interstate 75 between Miami and Tampa. As usual, Travis Hudson was happy to help in a trying situation, Todd Hudson said.
"He would be doing the same thing up here if something had happened to our area," he said.
Troy Hudson last spoke to his youngest brother a day or two before his death.
"He was looking forward to coming home for the holidays," he said.
On Oct. 28, at 7:36 a.m., Travis Hudson was moving traffic cones in the emergency lane of I-75 near mile marker 107 in Naples. A 1998 Pontiac Grand Am driven by Jose Benitez veered into the emergency lane and hit Hudson in the back, according to Florida Highway Patrol reports.
Benitez, 1044 Luray Ave., Naples, was charged with failing to drive within a single lane. Investigators don't know why he left the roadway.
In the picture that appeared along with his obituary, Hudson is shown with his right upper lip twisted upward in a smile that calls to mind Harrison Ford's in the "Indiana Jones" movies. It's a friendly expression, just as most he came into contact with remember.
"He knew so many people," Troy Hudson said. "One guy summed it up: 'Travis didn't have acquaintances. He had friends.'"
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She didn't have much.
The belongings Mary Howell collected in the 65 years of her life fit into an 8-by-8 room hooked to an Immokalee flophouse.
But what she did have, she shared.
Howell dragged her cable TV into the Santos Corner yard for other residents to watch. She collected cans so she'd have spare change for friends who needed it.
She baked cakes and cut slices for others. She fed stray cats.
"She was just this little plain Jane lady," said Brenda Garcia, a 58-year-old Immokalee bar manager and Mary's friend for 30 years.
The pair met waiting tables soon after Mary — who was born in a dinky Arkansas town that now has fewer than 100 people — moved to Immokalee, Brenda said.
She reared her five children on her own, she said.
"She never wanted nothing, she just wanted enough to get by. She won't be forgotten here."
They lived together for a time and worked together, and one of Mary's daughters calls Brenda "Mom." Santos Corner residents called Mary "Momma" too.
Hurricane Wilma sucked the roof off her room on South 3rd Street. She tried to escape as the storm raged around 7 a.m. Oct. 24 with other residents. She was struck by falling debris.
When authorities arrived at 11 a.m., she was dead. Garcia, who considered Howell one of her best friends, had a bad feeling during the storm and ventured to Santos Corner around 7:15 a.m.
"There were hundreds of people like if there was a show or something," she said.
Then she saw her friend. Her body, covered with a blanket, was on the concrete for seven hours until authorities could take her away, she said. One of Mary's daughters stayed with the body.
Mary hopped from stints as a waitress, convenience store attendant, cab driver and working at the tomato packing house in her decades in Immokalee. When she drove a cab, if folks didn't have enough cash for a ride, she'd accept what they could pay, her friends said.
She could be a loner but would pull out a milk crate at the flophouse where occupants congregate to socialize when she felt inclined. She couldn't read or write very well but tried to improve with crossword puzzles and word searches.
She liked to learn. In her room, she had books on slavery and medicine, with some sections underlined. Mary loved puzzles, complex ones. They were stacked on a shelf above a small table.
Howell didn't drink or drug, friends said, though many in that block of Immokalee do both.
About 20 people gathered for her Immokalee funeral last week under heavy rain, said Barbara Garcia, 63, who isn't related to Brenda but is her friend.
Barbara knew Mary 15 years, maybe more, she said. She'd like to think God was crying during the service that was only 20 minutes long.
"That kind of devastated me. I think she deserved more," Barbara said, of the service. "She was a wonderful person."
She wanted to sing "Amazing Grace."
In the corner of Mary's room were pictures of her children and grandchildren. And a not-yet-sent greeting card to one of her grandsons.
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GEORGE W. SMITH
George Smith died in his blue jeans.
Smith, who died at 67, cut a legendary figure around Lake Okeechobee as a bass fisherman whose innovation forever changed the sport, friends say. He also was a Florida cracker in the truest sense.
"He was one heck of a fisherman, hunter and world-class sportsman," said Mary Ann Martin, owner of Roland and Mary Ann Martin's Marina in Clewiston (a setting that figured largely in the climax of Carl Hiaasen's novel "Basket Case"). She has known Smith since 1980.
Smith, born in Fort Myers in 1938, was easily recognizable in his trademark jeans, baseball cap and short-sleeved, snap-button shirts. He also smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day.
He went to Naples High School, where he was the football team's captain, Smith's wife, Carol, said in an e-mail interview. The couple married in 1963.
Smith ran a land-clearing business called Smith's Tractor Services and had other ventures, but "he basically worked so he could hunt and fish," said Jed Edwards, 32, of Naples, who befriended Smith through his father.
On the morning of Oct. 24, Smith was looking at the damage Wilma dealt to his 70th Street Southwest home when he clutched his chest and collapsed.
"Our home did not get too much damage, but the yard (was) a mess due to the amount of tree limbs that came from the oak trees. ... George had gone out to the back yard to check on the debris when he fell to the ground. I was on the back porch and saw him fall and ran out to see what was wrong," Carold Smith wrote.
She called a neighbor, who tried to revive Smith with CPR. But it wasn't enough.
History will probably remember Smith as the creator of a bait that transformed the sport of bass fishing, Martin said. His invention involved taking two large stainless steel blades that resembled willow leaves and attaching them to a lead weight.
It became known as "Okeechobee spinnerbait."
Smith cast his new bait into the water and let it twirl to the bottom. Up to that point, most bass fishermen would reel in their bait immediately after it plopped beneath the surface. Bass, particularly large ones, couldn't resist Smith's bait.
"He won more bass tournaments on that spinner bait...," Martin said. "He would pump that spinner bait up and down on the bottom and just kill the big fish."
Her then-husband, Roland Martin, also Smith's friend, quickly adopted the bait in his own tackle box. Martin, a longtime bass-fishing kingpin, now hosts a fishing show on the Outdoor Life Network.
Smith never earned a cent off his invention but never seemed to mind.
"I think he just wanted credit," Mary Ann Martin said.
Smith was happiest when he was outdoors. He owned a swamp buggy and an airboat.
Whether hunting turkey in the Everglades or moose in Alaska, "there was always a party when George was around," Martin said.
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DENIS C. GROHALL
If Denis Grohall's heart hadn't given out when it did, his death would have attracted little notice outside the world of his friends and family.
Grohall, a retired warehouse manager for DuPont's paint division, was a bull of a 66-year-old. He was 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and weighed 270 pounds.
About an hour past noon on Oct. 27, he was trimming grass in his back yard with a weed whacker when he collapsed and died on the spot.
The next day, Dr. Manfred Borges, Collier County's deputy chief medical examiner, suggested in an autopsy report that Grohall had died from "probable arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease." In other words: a heart attack.
Grohall hadn't seen a doctor in about eight years, the report went on. He had never experienced heart problems before, but his family was prone to heart disease.
A combination of post-storm stress and exertion from clearing hurricane debris contributed to Grohall's sudden illness, the medical examiner wrote. Authorities placed his name on a growing list of Hurricane Wilma's victims.
A week later, the large pile of sheared branches lying on the curb in front of his home had turned brown.
Elsewhere at his Waterways of Naples neighborhood, which lies between Naples and Immokalee, the damage mirrored that at his own house. A few tree branches rested where they fell; a few concrete shingles had gone missing here and there.
The inside of Grohall's house was filled with fresh bouquets of flowers. Grohall's wife of 41 years, Anita, struggled to come to terms with a death so sudden and its possible link to an event beyond anyone's control.
"How do you prove it was hurricane related?" she asked rhetorically. "I really can't say because I don't know how stressed he was in Argentina" — where, days earlier, the couple had watched one of their grandsons get baptized — "and then he had to clean up around here."
Denis Grohall sported a beer belly. His ample gut was shaped, at least in part, by selling fans cups of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Miller and other beers at Milwaukee County Stadium for more than a decade.
If the Milwaukee Brewers or Green Bay Packers were in town and playing at night or on the weekend, Grohall was there, Anita recalled. A diehard Packers fan, he stayed on the job as much to watch his favorite team as for the money it paid. The Packers used to play two or three home games a year in Milwaukee.
"He was very outgoing," Anita said. "He had a lot of customers."
When the couple retired to Naples three years ago, Denis busied himself raising orchids on his back porch and delivering flowers for Blossom Haus Floral shop in Naples.
Anita Grohall, 62, said what she will miss most about her husband is "his companionship. He was my friend. It was probably two months out of the whole time we were married that we were apart."
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His classmates called him "the professor."
With salt-and-pepper hair, Shokrollah Shafiee, 55, looked the part. The A-student helped the 10 students in his night nursing classes with their homework.
He helped them study.
Since January, he had attended night nursing classes at Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology in East Naples while working full-time.
His scholarly reputation seeped into his spiritual life. He was known as a man well-versed in the Bible at the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall in East Naples.
Shokrollah, an Iranian, went to religious talks, or services, in Spanish because he wanted to learn another language, a congregation elder said.
He died Oct. 26 when a 7-foot, roughly 1,500-pound concrete column dangling from a Dumpster in an East Naples golf community crushed him, Collier sheriff's reports said.
Hurricane Wilma knocked the Dumpster's retaining wall. The company Shokrollah worked for was contracted by Naples Heritage Golf and Country Club development to fix the Dumpster.
"Help! Help!" a handful of residents chatting near their garages heard a worker with Shokrollah yell before noon that day.
Shokrollah was pinned under the column. Residents tried CPR. But they never found a pulse.
They said they did the best they could to save him.
And that's what they told Shokrollah's brother, who lives on the east coast, when he came to see the spot in this peaceful community where his brother died.
Shokrollah moved from Miami to Naples in the mid-1990s after splitting up with his wife. They had no children together.
He had high moral standards, friends said. One year, he donated 70 hours a month to knock on doors and recruit others to Jehovah's Witnesses. He gave $85 a month to religious organizations, records show.
"He was a good man," said John Waight, a congregation elder at the East Naples Kingdom Hall. "He was one of our learned individuals."
He studied the Bible and kept to himself, Waight said.
"He wasn't a social person. You had to twist his arm to come to dinner," Waight said.
Shokrollah told his Lorenzo Walker practical nursing instructor, Fran Brotherton, that he wanted to be a nurse to help people. He was extremely gentle with elderly patients that students bathed, fed and gave medications.
"He was very patient, very calm and very kind," said Brotherton, instructor of the class that met almost five hours nightly. "I know the students will miss him very much."
He would have graduated in February.
KATHLEEN ROSE McFADDEN
Naples police responded to the death of Kathleen Rose McFadden, 68, on Oct. 27. She was staying at a condo owned by her 43-year-old daughter, Kathleen M. McFadden, on 546 Third Ave. S. in downtown Naples. Her daughter has lived in Naples less than a year.
A generator was left running in the garage and she died of carbon monoxide poisoning, police reports say. A woman who identified herself only as another daughter at 546 Third Ave. S. said her mother had arrived in Naples a few weeks before.
The rest of the McFadden family was planning to join them on Thanksgiving.
Kathleen Rose McFadden lived in Stone Harbor, N. J., a town of about 1,000 residents, records show.
Relatives declined further comment.