Andrea Doria sinking: Boca Raton man survived sinking, rescued children

Jerry Reinert stands next to the white shirt he wore in July 1956 while helping survivors of the Andrea Doria. (Post photo/Bruce Bennett)
Jerry Reinert stands next to the white shirt he wore in July 1956 while helping survivors of the Andrea Doria. (Post photo/Bruce Bennett)

Last night, July 25th, marked 60 years since the sinking of the Andrea Doria.

The fatally-injured Andrea Doria lies on her side, shortly before disappearing beneath the waves. (Post file photo)
The fatally-injured Andrea Doria lies on her side, shortly before disappearing beneath the waves. (Post file photo)

At age 21,  Jerry Reinert, who now lives in Boca Raton, nearly died in the sinking of the fabled Andrea Doria passenger ship, after it collided with

another liner off Nantucket at 11 p.m. the night of July 25, 1956.

Instead, he became an accidental hero that foggy night – and a changed man.

“The worst had already happened and I survived,” he says.

Read about how the events of that night on the cold dark waters of the Atlantic taught Reinert a lesson he’s never forgotten: “Boca Raton hero rescued children off sinking Andrea Doria 60 years ago”

Our interview with Boca Raton’s ‘Countess’ on her 100th birthday

photo countess henrietta de hoenle
Countess Henrietta de Hoernle with the 2012 National Philanthropy Day Centenarian Lifetime Distinction Award. (Lauren Lieberman/LILA photo)

Henrietta de Hoernle, known as Rita to her bridge friends and ‘The Countess’ throughout Palm Beach County, died Friday in hospice care at a hospital in her adopted hometown of Boca Raton, the Glick Family Funeral home confirmed Sunday. Funeral arrangements are pending for the woman whose 100th birthday was feted by the city with “Countess Appreciation Day.”

When Hoernle turned 100 years old in 2012, she estimated she had donated more than $40 million to her chosen causes since she and her late husband, Adolph, moved to South Florida in 1981.

We recall our interview with The Countess when she turned 100. Here is an excerpt from the 2012 interview:

Palm Beach Post’s Barbara Marshall: “What do you hope people remember about you?”

Henrietta de Hoernle: That I was a generous person, that I loved people and that I was willing to help.

What really gets my goat is seeing people having yachts, big apartments, chauffeurs and limousines and all that. That money could have been spent more wisely on people who need it, especially now.

There is a feeling that’s indescribable when someone comes up to you and says, “you saved my daughter,” “you saved my son.” People stop me in the streets and say, “you do such wonderful work.”

Read the entire interview here: “The Countess at 100: ‘Give while you live so you know where it goes”

 

National Nude Day: Remembering this nude beach in Palm Beach County

In honor of National Nude Day today, we are dialing the wayback machine to the late 1970’s, to revisit North Palm Beach’s former, though unofficial, clothing optional beach.

In 1980, a silhouetted couple(left) took a nude stroll on Air Force Beach, now MacArthur State Park. (Post file photo)
In 1980, a silhouetted couple (left) took a nude stroll on Air Force Beach, now MacArthur State Park. (Post file photo)

At the time, a nearly two-mile stretch of untouched beach hammock in North Palm Beach was known as Air Force Beach.  Then part of insurance billionaire John D. MacArthur’s vast north county holdings;  today it’s MacArthur State Park. 

The name dates back to the Korean War in the early 1950’s when the county’s beaches were segregated but the Air Force needed a place to train black and white servicemen together, according to the Palm Beach County Historical Society. The fly boys chose this beach, which at the time was a remote spot on the north end of Singer Island.

A 1980 view of Air Force beach, now MacArthur State Park, looking north. (Post file photo)
A 1980 view of Air Force Beach, now MacArthur State Park, looking south toward condos on Singer Island. (Post file photo)

MacArthur, who at one time owned most of northern Palm Beach County and plenty of Martin County as well, bought the land but didn’t develop it or care who made the long, hot trek through the sea grapes to visit it.

Some probably apocryphal stories say the crusty billionaire relished a skinny dip himself, including one once with a visiting Walt Disney. (Other stories say that MacArthur and Disney did strip down to swim once, but the incident occurred in a rock pit while the men were scouting property. Other versions of the story say the men jumped in the Intracoastal in their boxer shorts. In the 1960’s, Disney was considering buying a portion of MacArthur’s Palm Beach County holdings to build a large theme park. He and MacArthur couldn’t agree on terms and well, we all know what happened next.)

But when it came to his beach property, MacArthur had a laissez-faire attitude over who visited his beach or what they wore – or didn’t wear – while they were there.

It became common knowledge among visitors walking the path to the beach that a left turn led to the beach’s clothing optional area while a right turn led to a more conventional beach experience.

By the late 70’s, Air Force Beach had a reputation as one of the nation’s biggest nude beaches, something MacArthur seemed to relish.

Not so the local authorities, who periodically arrested naked swimmers and sunbathers.

Want more naked truth in honor of National Nude Day? See archived Palm Beach Post stories on SunSport Gardens, the nudist camp and community in Loxahatchee, including a 5K run held at the facility as well as columnist Frank Cerabino’s take on naked running

In this 1980 photo, police officers escort a couple arrested for nude swimming after the two put on their clothes. Although they were charged with disorderly conduct, the man (second from left) doesn't seem to take his arrest seriously. (Post file photo)
In this 1980 photo, police officers (far left and far right) escort a couple arrested for nude swimming after the two put on their clothes. Although they were charged with disorderly conduct, the man (second from left) doesn’t seem to take his arrest seriously. (Post file photo)

After MacArthur’s death in 1978, the State of Florida bought the land. Naturists and even the strait-laced MacArthur Foundation reportedly asked the state to set aside a clothing-optional portion of the beach.

The State of Florida stripped that idea from park plans, setting off years of cat-and-mouse skirmishes between park rangers and scampering nudists.

In 1982, the year the state park opened, a ranger stands near a sign warning beach goers that nudity will no longer be tolerated. (Post file photo)
In 1982, the year the state park opened, a ranger stands near a sign warning beach goers that nudity will no longer be tolerated. (Post file photo)
In May 1982, mounted park rangers armed with billy clubs prepare to patrol a scheduled nudist rally. (Post file photo)
In May 1982, mounted park rangers armed with billy clubs prepare to patrol a scheduled nudist rally. (Post file photo)

For years afterward, there were periodic requests that the state reassess the idea of allowing nudity at the park’s north end, but the idea was apparently never seriously considered.

A couple enjoys the beach near a sign proposing a nude beach at the park's north end. (Post file photo)
A couple enjoys the beach in 1988, near a sign proposing a nude beach at the park’s north end. (Post file photo)

However,  a few hold-out nudists can occasionally be found together in the altogether at the dune line at the park’s far north end, usually surrounded by a homemade privacy barrier.

But the most shocking part of the Air Force Beach saga isn’t that people regularly took off their clothes there.

The astounding part of the story is how close Palm Beach County came to having nearly two miles of ocean-to-lake land clothed in concrete.

The bare facts are these: The Palm Beach Post archives contain a 1980 survey from an area engineering firm, revealing a developer’s nakedly avaricious plans for a subdivision of 594 homes, a beach and racquet club and pool complex to be built on the undeveloped land, including 107 proposed homes for Munyon Island in the Intracoastal Waterway.

“The site is one of Florida as it was created by nature,” the firm’s senior vice-president was quoted as saying. “We propose a single-family development which will enhance the…property.”

If the state, encouraged by Palm Beach County, hadn’t stepped in, a wild and beautiful stretch of beach in Palm Beach County and one of the country’s most productive sea turtle nesting sites would have become private, “enhanced” with concrete, lawns and tennis courts.

That would have been a naked shame.