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Alert issued after blue-green algae blooms found at Lake Minnehaha


Health officials in Orange County have issued a blue-green algae alert for Lake Minnehaha.

On Friday, Florida Department of Health in Orange County officials issued a blue-green algae alert for Lake Minnehaha in response to site visits and water samples taken on Tuesday, February 20 by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The alert is the second this month for the lake.

Algae blooms have the potential to produce toxins that may be harmful to visitors and local wildlife. Health officials are emphasizing the importance of exercising caution when near them and are advising residents and visitors to not drink, swim, wade, or use personal watercraft in waters where blooms are present.

Visitors to Lake Minnehaha should avoid getting algal water in eyes, noses, or mouths, and pets and livestock should be kept away from the waters until the alerts are lifted, according to health officials.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection collects algae samples from reported bloom locations for toxin analysis. Once completed, the results are posted through the department’s website.

To report an algal bloom, visit the Florida Department of Environmental Protection algal bloom monitoring and response webpage.

Charles Smith Elbery


Mr. Charles Smith Elbery was born in Sanford, FL on November 6, 1944 to Charles Smith and Daisy Brown. He graduated from Crooms High School. He later attended Daytona Community College.

For the last 20 years he was a Pest Control Exterminator. For over 20 years he was a member of Anointed Word Family Worship Center where he served in the music ministry as a trumpet player. His favorite pastime was bowling and he was exceptionally good at it. Younger bowlers were defeated by him. He enjoyed this recreational sport immensely.

Charles departed this life on Monday, February 19, 2024. He leaves to cherish his memory his children: Andrea Elbery, LaTanya Elbery, Charles Elbery, Jr., Derrion White, Jamal Elbery, Coneisha Elbery, and Trevon Elbery; and many more family and friends.

A funeral service will be held Friday, March 1, at 10:00 a.m. at Anointed Word Family Worship Center, located at 305 South Highland Avenue in Apopka.

An interment will be on Friday, March 1, at 1:00 p.m. at Restlawn Cemetery, located at 1110 Pine Avenue in Sanford.

Susan Joan Kovacs


Susan Joan Kovacs, affectionately known as Susy, passed away on February 14, 2024, in Orlando, Florida, at age of 75. Born on November 16, 1948, in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. She was the youngest of three children born to the late Peter and Mildred Kovacs.

Susy lived in Clermont, Florida with her beloved cat, Timmy for the last nine years of her life. A proud 1966 graduate of New Milford High School, Susy was not one to sit still post-pomp and circumstance. She waved her pom-poms as a Varsity Cheerleader, swung her hockey stick on the JV Field Hockey team, and served in the tennis club. Her career was just as dynamic, starting at the New Milford Times newspaper and then mastering the art of alumni relations at Yale University for a quarter of a century, retiring as the Alumni Fund Business Manager in 1995.

Susy’s life was a canvas of varied interests. Her passion for art history was no secret; she had enough books to rival a library and her gardens were a masterpiece of Mother Nature’s best work. A needle and thread in hand, she turned ordinary fabric into extraordinary wedding gowns, each bead and sequin a testament to her meticulous craftsmanship. When not creating art, she traded needlework for footwork, gliding across ballroom floors and collecting first-place trophies along the way.

Leaving behind a legacy of laughter, creativity, and determination to overcome any obstacle before you, Susy is celebrated by her daughters, Michelle (Bierbower) O’Donnell with husband Daniel, and Shannon (Bierbower) Tanner with husband Justin; Michelle and Shannon’s brother, Justin Bierbower and his wife Lauren: her adoring grandchildren Shayla, Shannon, Kelsey, and Austin; her nieces Kathy Davin and Cindy Cleveland (Kovacs); and her nephews Chip Davin and Ricky Kovacs.

She was warmly greeted at the gates of heaven by her parents, her sister Judy Davin, brother Richard Kovacs, and ex-husband-turned-cherished-companion, Bob Bierbower

Disturbed performing in Orlando on Monday

Tickets are still available to see Disturbed during its Take Back Your Life Tour in downtown Orlando this week.

The band will perform on Monday, February 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the Kia Center, which is located at 400 W. Church St. in Orlando. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Disturbed is a heavy metal band whose debut album, The Sickness, was released in 2000 as a commercial success due to the singles “Down With the Sicknessand Stupify.” The band then released the albums Believe, Ten Thousand Fists, Indestructible, and Asylum, all of which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The band later released The Lost Children, a compilation album containing previously unreleased songs. In June 2015, they released their sixth album, Immortalized, and followed it up with the albums Evolution and Divisive.

With over 17 million records sold worldwide, six RIAA certifications for their albums, including 5× platinum for “The Sickness”, singles from all eight albums reaching the top ten of the Mainstream Rock chart, and two Grammy Award nominations, Disturbed ranks alongside Slipknot and Godsmack as one of the most successful rock bands of the 21st century.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Disturbed webpage.

Valerie Brannon


Valerie Anne Brannon of Winter Park, FL died on February 18, 2024, following a courageous fight with lung cancer. Valerie was born in Binghamton, NY on December 31, 1957.

She is survived by her husband of 40 years Michael, her son Mason, and her brother David Sevara. Valerie graduated in 1981 with her BA in Psychology from UCF. She was a dedicated co-owner with her husband in running their custom home building company for many years prior to her retirement. Valerie loved spending time with her family and friends in the outdoors and was a devoted mother and wife.

She had many dedicated years of competitive cycling, running, and triathlon. Valerie developed a true passion for wildlife, our national and state parks, hiking, birding, and photography. She brought great joy to those around her through her ability to see and capture the beauty of God’s creation that encircles all of us.

A memorial service will be held at the First United Methodist Church of Winter Park at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on Friday, February 23, 2024. Reception to follow at the Winter Park Racquet Club.

Florence D’Agostino Ross


Florence D’Agostino Ross of Winter Park, Florida passed away on Tuesday, February 13, 2024 at the age of 98. She was born on January 20, 1926 in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Florence was a loving mother, devoted wife, astute businesswoman, emphatic patriot and community servant. She loved and cared for her family and her country. Her parents and grandparents came over from Italy and from them is where she inherited the love and gratitude for her country. The values that Florence learned from her parents such as a strong sense of patriotism and love of family is what she carried over and taught in raising her own family. Florence and her whole family are well known Central Florida as her parents built the Villa Nova in 1948.

She worked as a hostess at the Villa Nova where she had many fond memories and experiences. She enjoyed meeting all the famous and intriguing people, but one of the most touching moments while working there was when she hosted dinners for Vietnam POWs and their families. She served on the board of the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center for 2 years. Florence loved the mountains so much, she moved to North Carolina where she lived for 25 years until she came back to Central Florida to be with her children.

Florence is survived by her children, Cheryl (Robert) Jorjorian, Bradford (Heidi) Cox, and David (Angela) Cox; Sister, Anna Belitz-Powers; 15 grandchildren and great-grandchildren; many nieces and nephews and other family and friends to cherish her memory.

58-year-old missing out of Osceola County


The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office is asking the public for help to locate a 58-year-old man who was declared missing.

Steven Michael Sipio was last seen in the area of Celebration Place in Kissimmee, according to a statement by OCSO.

No details were provided as to when he was last seen.

Sipio stands 5’11” tall, weighs 210 pounds, has brown hair and brown eyes.

Law enforcement authorities say Sipio may be driving a white 1999 Ford pickup with FL tag BH49IU.

If you have any information about the whereabouts of Steven Michael Sipio, contact the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office at 407-348-2222.

Cathryn Flowers Ritchie


Cathryn Flowers Ritchie, age 73, passed away quietly on Sunday morning February 11th, 2024, after a long bout with dementia and kidney failure.

Cathryn was born in Torrance, California in 1950 to George and Eva Flowers. She was one of three children, with her older brother, Craig, and her twin sister, Marg. The family moved to Ontario, CA and Colorado Springs, CO. Cathryn is survived by her brother, a retired chemistry professor who lives in Albany, GA, with his wife Debbie and their youngest daughter Lydia. Cathryn graduated from Covenant College in Chattanooga, TN and Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, MO with a Master of Arts in Counseling and Religion.

She recommended these schools at every opportunity and adopted the college’s hymn, “All for Jesus!” as her favorite, and her life’s goal. Alanna and Scott also went to the college. She also studied briefly at L’Abri in Greatham, England, the study center founded by Francis Schaeffer, one of her heroes. Another of her heroes was John ML Young, a professor at Covenant College and former missionary to Japan and China. Her heroes, and others at both Covenants, showed such exemplary hospitality to Cathryn that she determined to do the same for others, a commitment she joyfully kept throughout her life.

After graduation, Cathryn served as chaplain at Missouri Baptist hospital, then at St. Luke’s school of nursing, both in St. Louis. At St. Luke’s she was simultaneously the student Counselor, financial aid officer and recruiter, visiting high schools in and around Missouri. She was a deacon and the singles group coordinator at her church, Fellowship of the Lamb. She met her husband-to-be at Fellowship of the Lamb in 1981. Steve Ritchie, an engineer from California, was on assignment in St. Louis. They met with only five weeks remaining before his return to California. A couple months later, Steve returned to St. Louis for their wedding, and they moved to Costa Mesa, California where their two daughters, Caitlin and Alanna, were born.

Then they moved to nearby El Toro (now called Lake Forest), where they had two sons, John and Scott. At the same time, Cathryn and Steve were involved in establishing Aliso Creek Presbyterian Church (PCA). Cathryn became a Creative Memories (scrapbooking) consultant, while homeschooling all four children. She joined Steve on a missions trip to Uganda, teaching pastors’ wives and doing a Vacation Bible School for the children. The family moved to Oviedo, Florida in 1997, where Steve continued his engineering work and they joined St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church (PCA).

Cathryn also continued Creative Memories, started a group of friends called Bagel Buddies, sang in the church choir, joined a writer’s group called Word Weavers, wrote poetry and became an International Home Stay coordinator: finding homes for students from other countries so they could know American Christians up close and experience a family’s hospitality. Cathryn cared for perhaps 150 of these students in her home for periods ranging from a few days to over a year.

In recent years, with advancing dementia, when Cathryn had lost all ability to operate her cell phone or a TV remote, she amazed one of her hospital nurses, saying “I remember you from when I was here a few months ago with my stroke.” The nurse, knowing of her dementia, said “No, I don’t think we’ve met.” Cathryn proceeded to remind her of several details of her, and her husband’s, recent life from that earlier conversation. The nurse, wide-eyed, replied, “I guess we did meet.” When she could no longer converse, she would gain instant rapport with a tech or doctor or nurse by sincerely observing, “You are very beautiful!” or, “I love your hair!” or, “That’s a beautiful bracelet!”

Cathryn is survived by her husband Steve, who retired in 2022, and their children: Caitlin lives in Orlando, loves to cook, make jewelry and art projects, and has been helping at home as a caretaker for Cathryn alongside Steve. Alanna Salussolia lives in Jacksonville as an SEO and marketing consultant, with her husband, Michael and their daughter, Lucy. John works for Amazon, and lives in Bowman, Ga, with his wife Rachael and their children Hannah, David, Jonathan, Caleb, Leah, Sarah, Jacob and Annalee. Scott lives in Chiba, Japan with his wife Misaki, teaching English and singing, playing and composing music in a rock band.

Kaye Browning Chastain


Dr. Cindy “Kaye” Browning Chastain, 80, of Windermere, passed away on February 21, 2024, with her daughters by her side.

She was born in Pontotoc, Mississippi, on March 23, 1943, and is the daughter of the late Linton Brantley and Mabel Pauline (West) Browning. Kaye graduated from Pontotoc High School, where she was a cheerleader and elected Miss PHS her senior year. Until the end of her life, she maintained strong friendships from her childhood and educational years. Earning a degree in Vocational Home Economics from the University of Mississippi, Kaye was recruited by the Orange County Public School system directly out of college. At Ole Miss, she was a member of Delta Gamma Fraternity.

Her continued activity in Delta Gamma also included her daughters, Alison and Amanda. Kaye regularly attended national DG conventions and was recently honored with her 50-year membership pin from the Fraternity. She was a devoted mother while working full-time and simultaneously earning her master’s in education from Rollins College and her doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University. Her long and distinguished career with OCPS included serving as a county administrator and the Director of Winter Park Tech and Orlando Tech.

She was an active member of First Baptist Church of Windermere for over 50 years and extended her love of education to her church establishing the FBCW daycare and serving as a leader of the Girls in Action program. Kaye relished her time with her devoted church Sunday School class. Kaye enjoyed her membership with Florida Citrus Sports, remaining a die-hard Ole Miss Rebel fan her entire life.

In her retirement years, she also enjoyed her membership in the Bloom and Grow Garden Society, making frequent visits to her hometown in Mississippi, and spending time with her beloved grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 44 years William (Bill) Russell Chastain and daughter Amy Ellen Chastain. She is survived by her two daughters, Amanda Chastain Gufford (Jennifer) and Alison Chastain Brackins (Patrick); and four grandchildren, Courtney Catherine and Brantley Porter Gufford, and Russell Jackson and Reese Chastain Brackins, all of Orlando. She is also survived by her brother Ron Browning of Destin and son-in-law Charles Gufford of Orlando.

Services will be held Monday, February 26, at Family Church-Windermere Campus, 300 Main Street, with a viewing at 10 a.m. followed by an 11 a.m. service. Memorial donations may be made to Delta Gamma Fraternity or Windermere First Baptist Church. Arrangements are being handled by Woodlawn Funeral Home & Memorial Park.

Orlando man riding motorcycle on sidewalk killed after slamming into car


A 25-year-old Orlando man riding a motorcycle along a sidewalk was killed after a vehicle turned in front of him while attempting to enter a driveway.

The fatal accident took place near the intersection of Simpson Road and Boggy Terrace Drive in Kissimmee on Thursday, February 22, at around 4:14 p.m.

According to a report from the Florida Highway Patrol, the motorcyclist was riding a Honda motorcycle eastbound on the south sidewalk of Simpson Street, just east of Boggy Terrace Drive.

A 27-year-old Orlando man driving a 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer eastbound on Simpson Road attempted to make a right turn onto a residence’s driveway.

As a result, the front of the motorcycle collided with the right side of the Lancer. The impact caused the car to be pushed in a northeasterly direction on the sidewalk.

The motorcyclist was transported to UCF Lake Nona Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.

The driver of the Lancer was not injured in the accident.