by Gene Benedict
November 29, 2017
Fred was missing for too long. No one had seen him or heard from him in several days. He was noticeably missing. I went to his house at Seventh and “G” a couple of times. Officer Ron thought about breaking the door down. That was a couple of weeks ago, give or take.          

Fred, Fred Brendel, is off and on, of questionable health. He at one time had several businesses in Central Florida, most in and around Ocala. The stress took its inevitable toll on his health. He was in the process of ridding himself of these stresses, a process that can be long and slow, when he had several small strokes, one major stroke, and a heart attack, all in a few months.


Fred has a dear friend who lives in Marion Oaks, the other way from Ocala. Mike, Mike Philbrook, we call him Miguel, drove the 160 mile round trip several days a week to ferry Fred to doctors and to hospitals, and sometimes just to check on him. In time, Fred pretty much spent most of his money on attempts to improve or at least stabilize his health. At one point he was taking ten separate medications.

Against the will of his doctors, Fred took matters into his own hands, dismissed the doctors, reduced his medications drastically, and moved back to the Cedar Keys to live what life he has left and to enjoy. Mike helped him immensely.         

That was nearly a year ago. Now Fred has a suntan, he has his body back, and he sometimes walks with a cane and rides around on an electric scooter. He is enjoying life and laughing a lot. So now you know why we were so concerned when he was missing for so long.          

Fred was okay. He was driving his friend, Mike, to a hospital in Boston for some hopefully life extending experimental surgery. It was Fred’s turn to help Mike. He came back on the bus which in his words was the “only way I could.” He told no one around here what he was up to.         

I talked to Mike, who is well known in Cedar Key, a couple of weeks ago. He was excited about the surgery and scared at the same time. Mike has a hereditary condition that hardens and narrows the blood vessels around his heart. Mike has had four heart attacks and bypass surgery but his condition yet worsens. “I’ve got half a vein keeping me alive.”

Mike and Fred, nearly simultaneously, heard and read about a procedure in which some DNA is injected into the heart tissue that has, in some cases, resulted in the growth of new blood vessels to take over. Since the procedure is experimental, the hospital is providing free services.

Mike, 51, has been selling precious heirlooms to get some cash for living expenses and for the trip up and back. He can no longer work. He lives on a VA allowance. He will be in Boston for three months or more. Surgery is next week.          

Mike’s story was featured Thanksgiving Day in the Ocala Star Banner. Fred asks that anyone who can help please contact Fred or Big Sun Volunteers, S.E. Fort King Street, Suite C, Ocala, 34471. Use Mike’s name.          

So when I said Fred was missing he was truly “missing in action,” an action of a labor of love. Knowing what has been done for Fred and what is now going on with Mike, I was more than willing to bring their story to you. Fred is a good man and a good friend. And Mike can use all the support he can get.          

So that was sort of a heavy trip through Cedar Key looking for trouble. I bet for next time we’ll have an altogether different look at Trouble in Cedar Key.

Copyright © by Gene Benedict 29 November 2017