Don’s Rambles: Family Value

An Adventure in Which a Former Mayor Continues to Seek the “Soul” of his Hometown

This month’s ramble takes me on a personal journey on a family mission which is a reflection of the day-to-day life experiences shared by many of my neighbors. I am meandering to my mother’s home on nearby Giralda Avenue, where she lived for the last half century until her recent death at the age of 101. This outing reminds me of the lyrics to one of my parent’s favorite 1940’s songs: “Gonna take a sentimental journey, gonna set my heart at ease, gonna take a sentimental journey, to renew old memories….”

Many of us have (or have had) parents and grandparents living close by. Their presence plays an important role in our families’ daily lives and produces an important tone of generational depth to the human fabric of this community — something missing in most 21st century suburbs.

Coral Gables’ municipal personality is comprised of a combination of lush vegetation, handsome historical structures, and numerous households with extended familial ties within the same neighborhood. This isn’t a new phenomenon; the founding of this city was not the work of just one man but the product of the efforts of a whole family spread across several generations.

Family Value

Anne Leidel Slesnick in front of her historic 1948 home with members of her family.

Growing up as a member of the Country Club of Coral Gables, I was, over many years, able to participate in social and athletic activities with my grandparents, parents, wife, and children. It was a source of bonding experiences which strengthened our family ties. We were surrounded by other families consisting of several generations of what were known as “Gableites.” Many of these folks had been residents of the City Beautiful all their lives, some having served in positions of public service (e.g.: mayors, commissioners, judges, police chiefs, fire chiefs, etc.). Such a societal mix helped make Coral Gables a special place in South Florida.

Even those residents who did not have extended family members in the area quickly became part of each other’s close-knit circle of friends. People like Ed and Kay Fahringer, Mona Casey, Judy Friedman, Harry and Mary Perrin, and Evelyn Budde shared one another’s company and companionship.

Civic clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Elks, and the JC’s were flourishing while inspiring enduring ties to the community. Houses of worship have always held a special place in the life of the Gables and members of various parishes effectively created their own neighborhoods, bound together by their shared religious beliefs and customs.

Despite our community’s growth and changing demographics, the same family environment still exists, even if to a lesser extent. It is possible to daily encounter families golfing, playing tennis (or pickleball), swimming, shopping, praying, or dining throughout the city. Just visit a church or synagogue, Riviera Country Club (if you’re a member), special events like the Winter Farmers Market, Caffe Abbracci, Venetian Pool, Publix, or any of our numerous public parks. And it is encouraging for the future of a community based on family values that the influx of a Hispanic population has introduced a culture that welcomes intergenerational living.

These uplifting thoughts and memories took center stage in my mind as I reached the front porch of Mother’s residence — a house constructed just after World War II, added last year to the city’s “Register of Historic Places” just months before her death. Yes, we are so fortunate to live in this wonderful place that still clings to its residential neighborhood environment where families are valued and meaningful relationships are cherished.

This column appears monthly by Don Slesnick, who served as mayor of Coral Gables from 2001 to 2011. If you wish to reach him with suggestions on where he should next meander in search of the city’s soul, email