Jeff Lytle: Life springs from tragedy for grieving mother, friends

Happy mother-daughter times in 2006 for Susan Marie Nuckolls and Mary Ellen Dutcher. Submitted photo

Happy mother-daughter times in 2006 for Susan Marie Nuckolls and Mary Ellen Dutcher. Submitted photo

Photo with no caption

By now Mary Ellen Dutcher’s pain is well-known.

She lost her only daughter in a highly publicized traffic incident in August. While riding after midnight with her boyfriend in his topless, doorless Jeep, Susan Marie Nuckolls, 32, died soon after she hit the pavement on Livingston Road north of Pine Ridge Road. The official investigation says her boyfriend reported she either fell or jumped out, and he declined further comment to a reporter a month later amid questions by Dutcher and Nuckolls’ friends. With no other witnesses, the case is officially closed.

The dual cloud for Dutcher, 63, now has as much of a silver lining as it can get — a ray of new life. When doctors declared her daughter’s brain-stem injuries irreparable, Dutcher was there at Lee Memorial Hospital to do what her daughter wanted to be done. As a pre-registered donor, her organs are credited with saving five lives and enhancing a sixth.

The Tampa-based LifeLink organ-tissue donor program says Nuckolls’ heart went to an 18-year-old man; both lungs to one 31-year-old woman; her liver to a 53-year-old man; kidneys went to females ages 27 and 14; and one cornea to an 81-year-old of undisclosed gender.

“She has enriched the lives of others,” Dutcher says, “like a circle effect.” Dutcher says she would like to meet someday with the recipients, which LifeLink says is allowed only by mutual agreement after about a year.

Dutcher says the many friends of her daughter, a waitress at lots of Naples-area restaurants — including Buca di Beppo, Riverwalk, Tommy Bahama’s and the former Pier 41 at Tin City — since moving here upon graduation from high school in Chicago 14 years ago, have formed Friends of Susan. Their mission is to promote even more organ donations.

For more information or to sign up, go online to or call (800) 262-5775.

* * *

Move over, red-light cameras. There is another vehicle rule-enforcement policy these days featuring angry residents, proud proponents and a private contractor.

Metal boots — clamps applied to tires and wheels rendering the vehicle immobile — are spreading through private neighborhoods.

“I am absolutely irate and disgusted,” says Joe Stanganelli, who has lived at North Naples’ charming Bridgewater Bay since it opened about five years ago. “It is truly absurd. It terrorizes the community.”

He fires back with a Web site called, which needles leaders and includes a satiric game on how to get along: “Your goal is to live in the community without ever getting the boot, a certified letter or spoken down to.”

He says the security company, Whitestone Group, is too aggressive and insensitive to working families who have kiddie gear in their garages, making their vehicles vulnerable to violations of the ban on commercial vehicles in driveways and parking any vehicle on grass, endangering sprinklers. One was busted for parking on only an inch or two of grass — as chronicled in an NBC-2 video story posted on my correspondent’s Web site. An official with Whitestone says he cannot be sure without checking photo files, but that vehicle might have been jacked up and moved closer to the driveway just for TV.

Stanganelli likens boot advocates to people who use plastic seat covers at home or in their cars to keep everything just so. The president of the homeowners association and the neighborhood property manager, on the other hand, say they’re only trying to keep Bridgewater Bay nice and orderly. Besides, they say, residents agreed to the rules before they bought their homes — and were reminded by mail of those rules when Whitestone was brought aboard in August.

Whitestone manager and vice president Jason Clark says his company is patrolling in marked cars for all kinds of safety and code matters — and booting — in about 25 neighborhoods in Collier and Lee. He says the company keeps the entire $160 per boot fee, which Bridgewater Bay officials note is lower than the $260 plus storage fees for tows and beats chasing across town for retrievals. Plus, booted vehicle owners can appeal to a neighborhood review board.

Bridgewater officials say they’ll wait and see how the booting goes, which can even snare vehicles with expired tags if parked in community common areas.

“There are people who are on both sides of the issue,” says Bridgewater neighborhood manager Hank Scholz. “Let’s just say that.”

Just like with the red-light cameras.

Jeff Lytle is editorial page editor of the Daily News. His e-mail address is Call him at 263-4773. Check his blog at

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.