BY SUE ERWIN – The GoFundMe account to help send a Veteran to the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 2016, has grown to nearly $1,000 in the past 16 days. Help is still needed to send Englewood resident John Seelie … to the services in Hawaii.
Gasparilla Inn Golf Course employee Cathy Joel lives next door to Seelie, and the two of them have been friends for a few years. She thought it would be respectable to set up the account to help John return to the site and attend the ceremony.
Seelie was a 19-year-old soldier stationed at Schofield Barricks on the morning of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He not only fought at Pearl Harbor but also at the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II. “I’ve served in several battles, but I think I’m probably one of the last men standing from the Pearl Harbor attack,” Seelie said.
Joel said Seelie is in great shape, and he works out at the Englewood YMCA several times each week. Until he was 88, he would ride his bicycle from Englewood to Boca Grande every other day, stopping for coffee, socializing with the locals and then returning home. Joel is ecstatic that people have been so generous to support her mission.
“I really want to thank everyone who made donations to make this trip possible. I am so grateful to the people in the Boca Grande community who chose to be a part of this,” she said. Joel is currently trying to make efforts with more businesses that might be interested in donating. “The Clyde E. Lawson VFW Post 10178 in Englewood just made a donation to support the project last week,” Joel said.
Mike Cahill met Seelie a few years ago, and the two have become great friends. “He is such a sharp guy, with an amazing sense of humor. We go to ball games together, share a bucket of wings – he always seems to have a new and interesting story to tell,” Cahill said. Cahill took Seelie out for dinner on Veteran’s Day 2015. He took Seelie to Fins in Venice and said it took more than 30 minutes to get seated, because so many people at the establishment wanted to stop and shake his hand and take pictures.
“I asked him to put on his dress whites, because I wanted people to know just who he was and thank him for his service,” Cahill said. Cahill also played an instrumental part in helping John attend the 74th ceremony in Oahu last year. An organization called “The Greatest Generations Foundation” was planning to fund transportation and accommodations for a group of survivors, but it lost the funding for the project. That’s when Cahill stepped up to the plate. He called WINK news, and they did a syndicated story about Seelie. “And they just hit it out of the park. The story aired at 7:05 p.m., and a few minutes later, we had raised more than $2,000,” Cahill said. But this year, help is still needed to reach the goal.
If you are interested in supporting the project, go to gofundme.com/johnseelie or contact Joel at 941-468-8322.