Meet Cindy Lee Kelly, a lovely lady I met totally by happenstance. She was moving into her new home, and living on a fixed income trying to furnish it through the Facebook market place. I was selling a cute little chair she was interested in but needed to wait until she had more funds. We chatted briefly and something told me, she needs this chair. I asked her what else she needed and I was able to get her a desk, chair and lamp from a friend who was moving. When I arrived at her home she had a neighbor ready to help and three ladies hauled the furniture into her home she calls ‘Kelly Castle”! I felt like we were supposed to meet, I was drawn to her energy and we sat and drank tea and shared stories and I made a lovely new friend and one of the sweetest smiling faces in Naples!
At the age of 50, Cindy had a stroke that left her legally blind. It was a life-altering event that led her on a path of illness, loss, pharmaceutical dependence, and agoraphobia. She spent seven years alone in her home just waiting to die, until she almost did. Motivated to regain her health, she utilized several different healing modalities, becoming educated to practice several herself. She shares her journey, wisdom and inspirations through her writing, public speaking and on the social media outlets. Her tale of sudden illness compounded by a prolonged recovery is informative, educational, pertinent, uplifting, often witty, and always highly motivating. She is available for speaking engagements, either in person or electronically.
Please tell us a little bit about you and your family. Naples has been my home since 1979 when I moved here from northern Ohio. I have two daughters, eight grandchildren, two great-grandsons and a great-granddaughter is expected to be born any day now. My work career includes tenures at two of Naples longstanding institutions, Collier County Public Schools and Swamp Buggy Inc/Florida Sports Park. I was employed for a short time at Port of the Islands while it was transitioning from Remuda Ranch. At the time of the stroke I was co-owner of All About Air, a local HVAC business.
Please tell us about your current business/career. What do you love most about what you do? My formal work career literally ended overnight when I was a fifty year-old business owner who had a stroke. When I began healing from the stroke, I began writing about my experience. I have gone through a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual transformation during the journey and I share what I have learned via my social media posts, videos and a podcast. My hope is to inspire other people who may also be trying to heal. I love what I do because I love encouraging people, I love writing and I love speaking. My current self-made vocation is not a job or a career, it’s my calling, and the reason why I am still alive.It’s rather an awesome responsibility that I am honored to accept.
What are a couple of your favorite restaurants in our community?
A: This is a tough question because I have not been out in our beautiful town for dinner much in the past 14 years since the stroke. I did have the opportunity to dine at 21 Spices by Chef Asif and the The Rooster recently. I love the people and the food there. My all-time favorite place in Naples is Naples Beach Hotel. I have a plethora of fond memories there, and I am very sad that it is being demolished.
Q: How long have you lived or worked in our community? Where are you from originally?
A: I moved to Naples in 1979 from Elyria, Ohio where I was born. A few of my places of employment are: Naples Beach Hotel, Port of the Islands, Collier County Public Schoold at Vo-Tech and Manatee Middle School, Swamp Buggy Inc and Florida Sports Park, as well as co-owner of Gardner & Kelly and All About Air. When my children were very young, I had a home day care and several small cottage industries which afforded me the opportunity to be home. One was selling new and used goods with my parents and children at the flea markets located at the two drive-ins we had back in the day, one on Davis and one on 111th Ave N and at Del’s 24-Hour Store. It was a three-generational activity that my entire family enjoyed, and looking back it’s the job I am most grateful for because of the time we all spent together, which is way more valuable than money.
Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in our community?
A: There are too many! Doris Reynolds, Maria Stone, Lorenzo Walker, Panache Desai, and Jack Kern just to name a few but the one person that I admire the most in Naples is OB Osceola. He embodies the characteristics that I highly value in humans, and his life has been one of overcoming injustices. He’s a respectable man and that interests me.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
A: I would go back to Ireland because I didn’t know which area my family was from the first time I visited. It would be fun to see exactly where they lived, and to find any relatives who are still there.
Q: What is your favorite movies? TV shows?
A: One of my favorite movies is The Help because it portrays an ugly truth about humans in a very eloquent and heartwarming manner. My favorite TV show is ELLEN because kindness and laughter are vitally important to me.
Q: What advice would you give to people?
A: It’s all temporary.
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
A: Meeting at least one of my great-great-grandchildren.
Q: What is go-to band when you can’t decide what to listen to?
A: Music is life and it was my work life back in the day so I don’t know if I can narrow it down to one, but if I had to choose I would say the music of my talented grandsons, Jordyn, Dylan and Taylor Edmonds.
Q: What current or former local business makes you the most nostalgic about our community?
Q: If you could choose anyone that is alive today and not a relative; with whom would you love to have lunch? Why? And where locally would you meet for this lunch?
A: I would love to meet Ellen DeGeneres for lunch at any one of our fine restaurants to discuss a concept that I have for an app that will change the world.
Q: What is your favorite thing or something unique about our community?
A: I love alligators.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
A: Living happily by following my passions in the twilight of my life.
Q: (Even for friends and family) What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
A: It wasn’t until I had the second stroke that I discovered I had a first one.
Q: What is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
A: The Everglades.
Q: Favorite month? favorite holiday? and best single day on the calendar?
A: My birthday, April 3 is all of the above.
Q: What would you rate a 10 out of 10?
A: The beach.
Q: Who inspires you to be better?
A: Everybody who is trying.
Q: What is one or two of your favorite smells?
A: I love the smells of burning sage and the aroma of the cannabis flower.
Q: What 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
A: Home is where the heart is; follow your heart and you will always be home.