Nocatee community honors local WWII veterans with presentation

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On Nov. 10, Nocatee Crosswater Hall Director David Ray invited local historian Scott A. Grant to give a presentation for Veterans Day week. Almost 200 Nocatee residents attended to hear about an incident when German forces attacked a ship off the First Coast during World War II.

Grant detailed the German U-boat attack on the SS Gulfamerica, which killed 19 men four miles off the coast of Jacksonville Beach within view of thousands of beach and boardwalk visitors.

Grant then segued into the tale of Nazi spies who landed a few months later in Ponte Vedra Beach and their mishaps, which led them to the electric chair.

Ray and his Nocatee staff handed out three plaques to celebrate the lives of WWII veterans living in their community: Frederick Hoerl, U.S. Coast Guard second class petty officer 1942-1946; Jean Whitley, U.S. Navy PHOM2-C 1944-1946; Joseph D’Aoila, U.S. Navy.

“Nocatee hosts over 250 events and activities each year for our residents,” said Ray. “However, this event was special as we were able to honor our WWII veterans living in the community while learning about the local impacts from an historic time. Scott Grant continues to deliver interesting and informative historical presentations that are always a resident favorite.”

Don Prince, a veteran who fought in Korea, brought a footlocker full of original newspapers from World War II for guests to view.

“I thought it was very interesting,” he said of the presentation. “I think he touched quite a few folks in there. A number of them had a few different versions of the stories that they got to match up to the facts Scott presented.”

After the presentation, 12 guests reached under their seats to find out they had won door prizes. Grant gave away his latest book, “The Merchant of Death is Dead: True Stories of the Progress of Humanity,” and signed the books for the winners.

Grant’s book is available at amazon.com/Merchant-Death-Dead-Progress-Humanity/dp/1797730975/ref=sr.

In the book, Grant shares some of his favorite columns. Stories in the book include those of inventor Alfred Nobel, writer Zora Neale Hurston, football player Deacon Jones, surgeon John Snow, adventurer Annie Edson Taylor, visionary Benjamin Franklin, swimmer Gertrude Ederle, clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger, General James Doolittle, golfers Johnny Miller and Jack Nicklaus, athletes “Bullet” Bob Hayes and Mack Robinson and First Lady Frances Cleveland, plus events such as the discovery of the South Pole, Nazi spies landing on a North Florida beach and economic bubbles through the years.

Grant studied economics and history at Cornell University before working on Wall Street. He later earned a law degree from Rutgers University. Over the last 14 years, he has been a regular columnist for two newspapers and has perfected several history presentations.

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