Veterans Affairs

It takes a lot more than a bumper sticker to support the troops, says a crusty ex-Marine and best-selling author

Atop the old rolltop desk sits a photo of him with Orson Welles; on another shelf, a photo of Winer, legs crossed, playing an instrument that looks like a clarinet made from a gourd, charming a cobra out of a basket.

Atop the turntable, under a cracked frame, is a letter dated January 24, 2005, thanking Winer for his service to Israel aboard the Malla. It is signed by Israeli Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz.

Upstairs, in his computer: the unfinished manuscript about the Cyclops. He thinks he knows what happened to the lost ship, but he is not certain, so the account of its final days will be his first novel. After decades, he has about 500 pages.
Richard Winer's boat is named for his best-selling The Devil's Triangle
Colby Katz
Richard Winer's boat is named for his best-selling The Devil's Triangle

"You'll find that as you get older, you procrastinate," he says. "'I can't be bothered with this, I can't be bothered with that.' I have too many irons in the fire. I just don't have the time anymore. I've got to cut some things loose."

He has given some thought to what his legacy will be, when he finally joins the ranks of the departed. One frontrunner for his estate is the Wildlife Care Center, a clinic not for dogs and cats but for the multitudes of unnamed animals — birds and reptiles and whatnot. There was a spell, some years back, of commuting to Tampa to ogle and haggle over railroad cars, when Winer would along the way see injured turtles. He would stop, pack them into a chest of dry ice he kept in his car, bring them home, repair their shells with fiberglass, and nurse them back to health in a terrarium. "People called me a turtle nut," he says. "I didn't care. I thought I was helping some of God's little creatures. Nobody else cared. The worst thing about that was when I'd pull over to get one or see one struggling across the road and, wham, a truck comes along and crushes it before I can reach it."

He still takes animals to the Fort Lauderdale wildlife clinic, a turtle here, a snake there. The prospect that such a clinic somehow could relocate to Sailboat Bend does not thrill his neighbors, Winer says, but he could give a damn. He vows that if he gets any guff, he may stipulate that his house be provided to a family of welfare recipients — specifically, whichever single mother on the county dole has the most children.

"And there's not a thing they can do about it," Winer says, delighted at the prospect that his upstart neighborhood will in either case have one last act of charity by which to remember him.

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