Community grants veteran’s wish to go fishing

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

(Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.)

For immediate release: Feb. 24, 2022
Contact: Karen Parker, 386-754-1294

Suggested Tweet: Community comes together to grant last wish for veteran/retired police officer. @MyFWC @OzelloKeys @seafoodsellerandcafe #fishing #Florida #boating

Photos available:

Community grants veteran’s wish to go fishing

It began with a visit to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Crystal River Field Office and resulted in a community coming together to fulfill the wish of a fishing trip for a retired police officer who is also a military veteran.  

Cathy Browning, along with her husband, Dennis, wanted to know what licenses would be required to go fishing. Her father, Ralph Kroeck, is in hospice care and wanted to take one last fishing trip. FWC law enforcement staff decided to make the trip a special experience for the family.

FWC Officer Brandon Ulrich took on the task of setting up the fishing adventure.

“The family originally planned on taking Cathy’s dad out to the barge canal to fish but, because he’s confined to a wheelchair, we didn’t think that would be the best location,” Ulrich said. “I contacted a friend of mine, Gary Bartell Jr., the owner and fishing guide at Ozello Keys Marina. Gary offered to use his large airboat to host the trip for the family. We set it up for Feb. 16.”

Multiple fishing guides from Ozello Keys Marina also scouted the area prior to the fishing trip to make sure it would be a success, according to Ulrich.

When the family arrived at the marina, there was another surprise waiting for them. Members of American Legion Post 166 from Homosassa were there to greet the family and salute Kroeck to thank him for his military service in the Air Force.

Along with Cathy and Dennis, Kroeck’s granddaughter, Rebecca Machuca, had also travelled to Florida to join in on the fishing trip.

“Gary and I took the family fishing out of Ozello Keys Marina,” Ulrich said. “They caught different species of fish including spotted seatrout, red drum and sheepshead. Upon returning to the dock, Jimmy Stoltz, the owner of Seafood Seller and Café in Crystal River, prepared lunch with the fish they had harvested.”

FWC Officers Association provided T-shirts, FWC challenge coins, snacks and drinks for the family during the trip.

“Officer Ulrich, American Legion Post 166, Gary, Jimmy and the guides at the marina all came together to make this day one that the family will always remember,” said Capt. Rama Shuster, area supervisor. “The family was overjoyed that the trip was a complete success, and that Mr. Kroeck was able to catch quite a few fish.”

As the family ate, Kroeck told stories about his past fishing adventures and reminisced about his military days.

“This is the happiest I’ve seen my grandfather in a long time,” Rebecca said. “I simply don’t have the words to thank everyone enough.”

Bookmark and Share