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

Relatives wait for news, hoping their loved ones are only injured in Orlando club shooting and not dead

Nella Blanco waited all day Sunday at an Orlando hotel for any update on her best friend Eddie Justice, who was inside the Pulse nightclub when a shooter opened fire hours earlier.

The 30-year-old texted Blanco around 2 a.m. telling her a shooter was in the club and that he loved her. He also sent a text to his mother: "He's coming. I'm going to die."

Justice's name was not on the initial list of shooting victims. And after a day of waiting, his name wasn't on the list of wounded being treated at nearby hospitals either.

"I'm going home," Blanco said as she walked with friends to their car, "and just wait for him to call me."

Friends and family of the victims and the missing gathered at the Hampton Inn and Suites Orlando Downtown South, about two blocks from the Orlando Regional Medical Center. It was a chaotic scene. People tried in vain to reach loved ones on their cellphones. Others waited for updates from doctors and law enforcement officers.

The best news they could hope for: their loved one was injured and being treated nearby.

At 84, East Naples woman model of health

Gloria Jackson checks the knots she put in her bathing suit straps before a beach walk and swim in the Gulf of Mexico.

It's a fix against stretched-out straps in a favorite suit, the one piece with black and white spots and skirt. At 84, she doesn't mind knots in her bathing suit straps.

A native of Peru, Jackson is religious about her exercise schedule that begins at 5 a.m. She walks her neighborhood in East Naples for an hour and pops a "Body Electric" tape from the famed '80s exercise series in her player. She walks 10 miles a day.

"For me, it's not exercise. It's fun," Jackson said, her salt-and-pepper hair cropped short. "I need to move."

She swims year-round in the Gulf — three days a week — water temperature in winter be damned. She only takes cold showers.

"You have to go in quickly," she said. "You go run and jump in and wave your arms around. Everybody makes fun of me."

Some see her routines as kooky, particularly her midday meal of peanuts and wine. It takes nearly two hours to finish a small bowl of peanuts and four ounces of Chilean red wine.

"My doctor said it sounds crazy but it is working for you," she said. "Keep doing it."

Bonita Springs holds somber flag-retirement ceremony

Adam Prentki Jr. can't bear to see an American flag on the ground.

"I have too much respect for it," said the 83-year-old Korean War veteran, who circled around flames Tuesday following a ceremony to celebrate National Flag Day and to retire unserviceable flags.

Prentki is a member of Bonita Spring's American Legion Post 303, which hosted its annual ceremony Tuesday evening in partnership with the city's Veterans Advisory Committee and VFW Post 4254.

About 50 people gathered to pay tribute the nation's flag, including Mayor Peter Simmons, several City Council members, a troop of Boy Scouts and the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus.

The Bonita Springs Fire Department was on hand in case the fire got out of control.

The service included prayers, the national anthem and other patriotic songs, and words from speakers in the audience while a small fire crackled in barrels 30 yards away.

Grieving families begin to lay to rest 49 victims of Orlando mass shooting at Pulse

The grim work of laying to rest those killed in the gun violence at Pulse — the popular LGBT nightclub in Orlando — has started.

Within 72 hours of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history Sunday, 49 bodies were matched with their names and unfinished lives.

Anguished families received confirmation that, yes, their loved one — their child, brother, sister, spouse — was among the ones who will never come back.

All 49 bodies were released to funeral homes — a "monumental" feat the Orange County Medical Examiner's Office said was accomplished through a tireless commitment to reunite families and ease suffering.

Now, amid the national reeling and debate over why mass shootings keep happening in America, 49 funerals are quietly taking place. Many of the ceremonies are in Orlando or surrounding communities. Some will happen elsewhere.

‘Orlando is not alone:’ Naples gay community mourns Pulse victims, raises money for families

Under dim lights, friends and strangers lit 49 candles to honor each of the 49 lives lost in the massacre.

They sobbed and hugged one another, placed their hands on each other's shoulders.

The names and photos of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay Orlando nightclub Sunday night were projected in a slideshow Thursday night at the front of Bambusa Bar and Grill in downtown Naples.

"This is our community," said Steve Soutner, co-owner of the bar. "Orlando is not alone. We all stand by them, we all stand together. This tragedy affects everyone, no matter who they are."

Pulse and Bambusa are 191 miles away, but the prayers reach.

On Thursday night, about 200 people came to Bambusa to mourn the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting and to raise money for the families. An auction raised more than $2,400, and 25 percent of the bar's take Thursday night will go to victims.

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Rebecca Reis
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