Shell Point Honors the Ingenuity of a Future Generation

The Next Thomas Edison?

photos by Chuck Durrell

One of the outstanding geniuses in the history of technology, Thomas Edison earned patents for more than a thousand inventions, including the incandescent electric lamp, the phonograph, the carbon telephone transmitter, and the motion-picture projector. So it stands to reason that an important part of Fort Myers’ famous Edison Festival of Light celebration be a Science Fair and Inventors Fair. The Thomas A. Edison Regional Science Fair began in 1958, and the Inventors Fair was added to the education mix in 1988. This year’s competition took place on January 29, 2005, at Harborside Convention Center.

These Shell Point residents participated in judging: Gil Keeley, Janet Bendall, Chuck Durrell, Martha Ryckman, Mike Klein, and Laymon Miller.

This year, Shell Point Retirement Community joined forces with the Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center to take part in the annual Thomas A. Edison Regional Science and Inventor’s Fair for the first time. Shell Point and the Dubin Center created two new awards called the “Great Idea Awards.” The winners of each of these awards would receive a prize of $100. The awards were based on a set of criteria for the science project and invention that “best focused on issues related to seniors, and either noted the positive aspects of aging, or dealt beneficially with an issue related to aging.”

Next, a team of Shell Point residents were asked to judge the entries, which were on display in the Harborside Convention Center. The Shell Point resident judges, Chuck Durrell, Laymon Miller, Martha Ryckman, Mike Klein, Gil Keeley, and Janet Bendall, have retired from all walks of life. Bendall, an ex-school teacher who still works with youngsters as a volunteer at the Brightest Horizons Daycare center, remarked, “I was very impressed with the young people who presented projects at this fair. Even the elementary age students had thought through their problem to come up with a solution for which they made a model.”

“The fair was very well organized,” the judges agreed. “These students have exhibited on a local level and some of the winners will go on to the state level. Some of the other judges at the fair included college students who had won when they were in elementary or high school and wanted to return to help the next generations.”

Approximately 500 entries from grades K-12 were shown in the Inventors Fair, while the Science Fair had 300 entries from grades 6-12. “It was interesting to see how the very young students were able to work on simple projects, which will lead to the thinking and reasoning skills needed to work on more advanced projects in years to come,” said judge Martha Rykman, also a retired school teacher.

Judges Gil Keeley and Mike Klein were both “amazed at the capabilities of the students and impressed with their in-depth knowledge of the subjects.” They agreed that some of the projects “really hit home for people our age.”

Len Jennings of ABC7 and Lynn Schneider of Shell Point Retirement Community present the Great Idea Award to Kenny Cabana for his “Med-Alarm” invention in the Inventors Fair

The Inventor’s Fair winner of Shell Point’s “Great Idea” award was Kenny Cabana, whose project, a med-alert, was a solution for his grandmother’s problem of forgetting to take her medications at the right times. With the help of his dad, Kenny inserted a small alarm clock in the lid of a medicine bottle, which could be set for the proper times for his grandma to take her medications. Shell Point judge Laymon Miller, retired sound and vibration engineer, noted that, “There were lots of innovative ideas that originated with a problem. I was very impressed with the students’ ability to communicate their ideas to us.”

All the judges were impressed with the Dubin “Great Idea” award winner for the Science Fair. A junior at Canterbury School, Stephanie Hon, tackled the subject, “The Effects of Intracerebroventricular Passive Immunization of the Deposition of Beta-Amyloid and the Occurrence of Perimicrovascular Hemorrhages.” Her grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, so testing an innovative way to treat this memory-robbing disorder was an inspirational topic for her and the perfect subject for the Dubin Center’s award. Hon injected plaque-fighting antibodies into the brain fluid of mice infected with Alzheimer’s, thus reducing plaque buildup without causing bleeding.

Shell Point judge and photographer Chuck Durrell summed it up when he said, “It was a wonderful fair. I enjoyed seeing (and photographing) the enthusiasm of the students as they talked about their projects. I’m amazed at the amount of work involved!”

Lynn Schneider presented the Shell Point and Dubin “Great Idea” awards to the winning students at the formal presentations, held a week after the event. “I was excited to become a part of this great event,” said Schneider. “It’s so gratifying knowing that the next few generations are already working toward solutions for not only their parents and grandparents, but for their own generation, as well. I look forward to Shell Point and the Dubin Center turning this into an annual affair, where even more residents can take part in awarding the prizes that will encourage these students to expand and continue their studies.”

Couple Donates Gift in Honor of Immigrant Parents

Two Million Dollar Gift Brings Campaign Goal in Closer Reach

Andrew and Gurine Larsen, Ralph Larsen’s parents, came to New York from Norway.

FORT MYERS – In 1915 Andrew Larsen, a young man in his early twenties, left his home in Norway to start a new life in America. Andrew signed on as a ship’s cabin boy to work his way across the Atlantic Ocean. He passed through Ellis Island, along with thousands of other immigrants seeking a new life. Little did he know that his life would have an enormous impact on future generations of Americans.

Last month, Ralph S. Larsen and his wife, Dorothy, made a contribution of two million dollars for The Pavilion’s Heart of it All campaign, in honor of Ralph’s parents, Andrew and Gurine Larsen.

The Larsen story is an inspiring reminder of the American Dream and the opportunities that exist in this country to achieve great things, no matter who you are or where you come from. When Andrew Larsen arrived in America, he settled in Brooklyn, New York, and went to school where he learned to be an electrician. A few years later he met a young Norwegian woman named Gurine, who was visiting her sister in New York. The couple married and raised five children in Brooklyn, where they lived most of their lives. Ralph Larsen was their youngest child. Ralph served in the Navy for two years after high school and then attended Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, where he received a degree in business administration.

Following graduation in 1962, he joined the manufacturing training program at Johnson and Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He started on the third shift as a manufacturing trainee and, during the course of the next 38 years, moved up the ranks to Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

This is a true American success story; however, if you ask him about it today, he modestly downplays it. “My parents instilled in all of us a tremendous work ethic,” said Ralph. “They were very hardworking, committed Christians, and they set wonderful examples for their children. Most importantly, they encouraged us to live a life of faith and integrity.”

Ralph’s personal commitment to living a life of integrity blended well with Johnson and Johnson’s corporate credo, which outlined the values of the company. “Essentially it laid out the principles by which the company ran its business,” said Ralph. “J&J required that we serve our customers as well as we know how, that we treat our employees with dignity and respect, and that we be good citizens. If we did those three things well, then the shareholders would earn a fair return.”

Ralph and Dorothy Larsen

Ralph Larsen retired from Johnson and Johnson in 2000, but he and his wife continue to stay active. Ralph works on a variety of major boards including General Electric, Xerox, AT&T Wireless, and as a Trustee with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Dorothy serves on the board of trustees for Messiah College. Ralph and Dorothy have three children and five grandchildren. They currently reside part-time in Naples and have a residence at Shell Point. The Larsens came to know about Shell Point through Ralph’s sister, Mildred Braaten, who lives at Shell Point.

It was this personal connection to The Pavilion that made the Larsens aware of the opportunity to make a gift that would help so many people. “We were very impressed with the loving care of the staff at The Pavilion and wanted to support that effort,” said Ralph.

The Larsen gift will be an important addition to the Heart of it All campaign, which will contribute to the well-being of hundreds of people in years to come. “We have been wonderfully blessed over the years,” said Ralph. “Now it is important to give back some of what we have been blessed with, in ways that will help other people.”

Return to 2005 News and Stories.