Naples Daily News Weekend Digest Miss something this week? Catch up on a few of our big stories in this quick digest

On 30th anniversary of Top Gun—Marco man recalls flying Tom Cruise around in a jet

It was a pleasant day in the desert near El Centro, California, when Curtis Watson first met Tom Cruise.

Days earlier, in February of 1985, Watson, then a pilot with the Navy's Blue Angels, had received a phone call from the Navy's Fighter Weapons School, better known as Topgun. The instructor had asked Watson if they could take Cruise for a ride to show the young actor what being in a tactical jet was like. The flight would help Cruise with his character development for an upcoming role he was considering, the instructor had said.

Watson knew Cruise from one of his earlier films "Risky Business" ("I thought it was funny as hell") and was immediately sold.

And so one sunny afternoon, a pony-tailed, 22-year-old Cruise showed up to the air field in El Centro — where the Blue Angels held their winter training — ready to experience the ride of his life.

A year later Cruise would play a swashbuckling fighter pilot in the testosterone-laden movie Top Gun, which was released on May 16, 1986. But what Watson remembers from his brief encounter with Cruise is a very quiet, humble, "nice young man."

Some might even say shy.

"I kind of joked with him because he kept calling me 'sir,'" Watson, 65, recently remembered in his Marco Island home. "I said, 'Tom, my call sign's "Griz." Please call me "Griz."' He would say, 'Yes, sir.' I went, 'Tom, stop it.' "

Bill's Cafe owner feeds homeless daily

She was right on schedule, riding her teal-colored bicycle down Third Avenue North in Naples at 6:40 a.m. Wednesday.

The long bleach-blonde-haired woman — who only identified herself as "Sue" — propped her bike against a wall near Bill's Cafe.

"Good morning, Bill," she told restaurant owner Bill Salley.

"Good morning, Sue," he replied.

It's a daily ritual; Sue sits down at an outside table and Salley brings her hot coffee, iced water and food. Sue will leave without paying and Salley won't mind: She is homeless.

"I've done it everywhere I've worked," he said. "I can't let anyone go hungry."

Fallen, not forgotten: Family, friends, law enforcement agencies honor those killed in line of duty

Collier County Sheriff's deputy Raul "Rudy" Dimas Sr. was somehow always the first on scene.

He always knew how and where to find the bad guys. His gut never lied.

"He knew law enforcement like the back of his hand, and he was fearless," said Cpl. Efrain Hernandez, who worked with Dimas on patrol in Immokalee from 1989 to 1993. "We sometimes walked into some dangerous situations, but he knew what he was doing and could handle anything."

On May 24, 1999, Dimas was driving west on Immokalee Road when he drifted into the eastbound lane and struck the left rear axle of a flatbed trailer with his marked patrol vehicle and died, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Dimas' life and those of 11 other Collier County law enforcement officers were honored at the Law Enforcement Memorial Service at East Naples United Methodist Church Tuesday night. National Law Enforcement Memorial Week is May 15 through May 21.

More than 100 Collier County Sheriff's deputies, local police officers and family members of those who died in the line of duty gathered at the church to share the stories of the 12 men who died and to light a candle for each of them.

New construction on the rise in Immokalee, with affordable rentals and higher-end homes for sale

Like many areas of Collier County, residential development is slowly picking up in Immokalee, where developers are building new homes for low-income renters and for buyers willing to pay $179,900 or more.

Nonprofit Rural Neighborhoods expects to finish construction of 18 single-family homes next month that will be rented to low-income residents in Hatcher's Preserve, north of Westclox Street and west of Carson Road. The homes, targeting lower-wage workers like service or retail employees, will be rented for between $650 and $725 a month to families who meet income requirements. A family of four, for example, must earn $52,500 a year or less to qualify.

Private developer Fl Star Construction also is building eight single-family homes to sale and is planning six more in the Arrowhead area, south of Lake Trafford Road Although they don't have a timeline, their goal is to build on the 229 lots they bought two years ago for $625,000 from a bank that foreclosed on the property of a previous developer during the recession.

While serving two different types of clients, both developers are moving ahead on land where homes were envisioned before the real estate crash halted the projects. Their projects come as Habitat for Humanity of Collier County increases its construction of affordable homes in the area.

The nonprofit built 25 to 30 homes a year after 2008, said Nick Kouloheras, executive director at Habitat. Now, with applications going up during the past 18 months, they are starting to build some more, he said. This year, they plan to build about 35 homes.

Blind Fort Myers raccoon to star on National Geographic

Two golfers bludgeoned a baby raccoon seven years ago on a North Carolina golf course.

The pair road off in a golf cart, laughing, before the animal was taken in and given to a wildlife rehabilitator.

Dorothy Lee would spend the next few weeks nursing the animal back to life, nearly euthanising him on several occasions when she thought all was lost, before deciding that the raccoon, whom she dubbed Trouper, was meant for a greater calling: Educating the public about how to respect wildlife.

"We took a tragedy and turned it into something positive," Lee said from her Fort Myers home this week. "It's not a tragedy anymore, look at him."

The unlikely hero dozed in Lee's arms, belly-up, his lips and chin caked with remnants of lunch — chicken nuggets, peaches and veggies — having succumbed to his regularly scheduled afternoon nap despite a thrilling visit from the press.

"You could march the U.S. Marine Band through here and it wouldn't bother him," Lee, 71, joked.

Trouper will be featured in an episode of the National Geographic show "Unlikely Animal Friends," which airs Saturday at 8 p.m. Crews from the TV channel visited Lee in September where they filmed for a day after hearing Trouper's story.

‘I’m honored’: Patrick O’Connor recognized for helping others with Citizen of the Year award

For all the blessings and success he has experienced, Patrick O'Connor has made it one of his life missions to pay it forward.

The 59-year-old real estate broker is a member of the Community Emergency Response Team and a volunteer first responder. He is a Collier County Honor Flight guardian and president of the Collier County 100 Club, an organization that provides financial aid to the families of fallen police and emergency responders.

Since 1994, he has been part of Santa's Workshop and given gifts to seniors in nursing homes.

And as of Thursday evening, he is the 2016 Collier Citizen of the Year. When he heard his name, O'Connor clutched his chest.

"I'm honored that people in my community would think to remember and honor me," O'Connor said. "I grew up believing that it's a basic human principle to help people in need and right things that are wrong. Give food to those who need food and help those who need help. It's simple."

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