Only 25 tickets left

The 56th annual Sweetheart Ball is set for Saturday, Feb. 6 and the tickets are going fast. According to Fishermen’s Hospital Foundation, who hosts the ball, there are only a few left.

“So far, we’ve sold 325 and we’re putting the cap at 350,” said Kim Gregory, the foundation’s executive director.

After its revival a few years ago, the Sweetheart Ball continues not only to fund the mission of improving the Fishermen’s Community Hospital, but also show the residents of the Middle Keys a very good time. This year, Brian Roberts and the Prime Movers will provide the music and Green Turtle Catering will provide the food and drink. There are five big ticket items that will be sold off during a live auction including a trip to Africa, stays at private homes in the Bahamas and Costa Rica, and also a portrait painting session and hotel stay in New York City.

“Plus, we also have about 100 items for the silent auction,” Gregory said.

In 2015, the foundation raised $15,000 with the silent auction and was also presented with a very generous gift of $500,000 from Dick and Brigitte Blaudow.

The focus of this year’s Sweetheart Ball will be on the “founding families” who helped bring Fishermen’s Community Hospital into existence. Key West filmmaker Quincy Perkins has been charged with creating the documentary that will tell the hospital’s history and the people who made it happen. The larger purpose of the Sweetheart Ball, however, is to raise about $250,000 for new cardiac monitors.

“We’re going to make a short presentation on what they are, why we need them, and then ask the party-goers to raise their paddles to signal financial support,” Gregory said.



Founding families

 Founder; Heir           

• Ruth Ivins; Ruthie Ivins Varner and Nikki Alexandar

• Charlie & Billie Anderson; Beth “Anderson” Cormier

• Verb & Lorene Freeman; Sharon Freeman Bossert

• Alonzo Cothron; Carol Cothron Ross and Sheri Mather

• Tex & Ruth Alice Campbell; Bonnie Campbell Cucchi

• Elmer & Marguerite Aldacosta; Melody “Aldacosta” Kelly

• John Musacchia; Barbara Musacchia

• Brooks & Gip Bateman; Gloria Bateman Davis and Betty Bateman” Chaplin

• Phil & Dorothy Sadowksi and Chester & Florence Sadowski; Mary “Sadowski” Guerin

• John & Silvia Puto; Mike Puto

• John Spottswood; Bill Spottswood and Robert Spottswood

• W.A. Parrish Family; Beth Kunitz

• Herbert Cameron; Lyle Cameron

• Peggy & Pete Cavanah; Scott Cavanah

• Earl & Marilyn Henderson; Ginger Henderson

• David & Charlotte Elwell; Ryan Elwell and Ross Elwell

• Alan & Pat Schmitt; Bruce Schmitt and Brian Schmitt 

The Sweetheart Ball will be held in a hangar at the Marathon airport — a venue big enough to accommodate the crowd of 300 expected.


Bettye Chaplin

Daughter of founders Brooks and Gip Bateman

Bettye Chaplin is known around town as a local historian since she’s seen Marathon grow in her 67 years of living here. “I really enjoy filling inquisitive minds with answers about how things came to be in this wonderful community,” she said. “Fishermen’s Hospital is a big asset to the Middle Keys.”

She said the community needed a hospital in close proximity because so many of her parent’s friends and family “didn’t make it” to the mainland after an accident or heart attack. “Just about everyone in town got involved in one way or another, back then,” she said. “Volunteers stayed on to help for years, even decades.”

The biggest question she gets when it comes to Fishermen’s Hospital, which her dad and mom, Brooks and Gip Bateman, were instrumental in building from the ground up, is why did the community name it Fishermen’s. “Marathon’s fishing industry provided the jobs, money and food for everyone, either directly or indirectly, from 1946 through the 60’s,” she said.  “Fishermen built our first bank, and every skill or service branched within the fishing community, our tourist season was very short, back then, and our fishermen families kept things going, all year long.”

Our founders list is long and I am proud that my parents helped get our hospital started,” she said.

— Kristen Livengood


Sharon Bossert

Daughter of founders Verbon and Lorene Freeman

Sharon Bossert, owner of Keys Boat Works, moved to the Keys when she was six months old, and she was around seven or eight years old when they started building Fishermen’s Hospital. “My mom was very instrumental in helping with the fundraising for the hospital,” she said of her mother Lorene. “She went door-to-door helping collect money to get it built.”

Her dad, ‘Verb’ served on the first board at Fishermen’s. “There wasn’t a lot down here back then,” she said, “but, there was definitely a need for it.”

Bossert’s son Mark was born there in 1972, and her dad spent time there in his later years after a heart attack and other various health issues in his 94 years of life. “It was needed then, and needed even more today,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have it here.”

— Kristen Livengood


Ruthie Ivins Varner and Nikki Alexandar

Daughter and granddaughter of Ruth Ivins

Ruth Ivins, whose name graces the name of the health clinic adjacent to Fishermen’s Community Hospital, was a “ring leader” in the efforts to fundraise the $xxx needed to build the facility in Marathon.

She and her husband, Jim Ivins, a tax appeals court judge from Washington, D.C., made their home in the Middle Keys on Grassy Key with an enormous house, a guest cottage and stand-alone garage. The law firm — Ivins, Phillips & Barker — still exists on Pennsylvania Avenue. ­(Ruth’s saltwater pool became a makeshift home for the original “Flipper” dolphin when a hurricane threatened the Keys.)

Ruthie Ivins Varner, who is her daughter, plans to attend the Sweetheart Ball as they honor the founding famlies. Now a resident of Arkansas, Ruthie said, “I can’t wait to see my old friends like Bettye Chaplin and Ginger Henderson.”

According to former City Manager Mike Puto, Ruth was instrumental in getting the hospital started. She was also an important part of the Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

“Nobody who ever met her could forget her,” said Mark Matthis, a friend and neighbor. “She was an environmentalist before her time and also a very formidable lady.”

— Sara Matthis

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