Roxcy Bolton, women’s rights crusader, dies at Coral Gables home

Roxcy Bolton, one of Florida’s prominent crusaders for women’s rights, died Wednesday at her Coral Gables home. She was 90.

U.S. Rep. Ileana-Ros Lehtinen, R-Florida, said on Twitter that Bolton died about 5 a.m. Wednesday.

George Navarette, the director of Miami-Dade County’s public parks, later confirmed her death.

Bolton was a woman who could not be intimidated or ignored. She faced down politicians and police departments in the name of women’s rights.

“I think about the rape treatment center, the first in the country, and when we marched down Flagler Street,” Bolton once told Local 10 News. “I went to get the permit at the Miami police station and my, did they laugh.”

But no one can laugh at her accomplishments.

From her home in Coral Gables, Bolton raised three children and a community’s consciousness.

“It was the best of times here and the worst of times,” she once remarked.

Over the span of three decades, Bolton founded the Miami-Dade County chapter of the National Organization for Women, the nation’s first rape treatment center at Jackson Memorial Hospital (later renamed the Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center), Miami Women In Distress, the Women’s Institute at Florida Atlantic University and Miami-Dade County’s first neighborhood crime watch.

“Roxcy O’Neal Bolton was a pioneer for equal rights for women,” Jackson Health System said in a statement. “Her legacy will live on through the Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, which was founded in 1974 as the first center of its kind to help victims of rape and sexual assault. Since then, the center has provided emotional and medical services to more than 70,000 people. Throughout her lifetime, Roxcy Bolton made a profound and long-lasting impact in Florida, Miami-Dade County and at Jackson Health System. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her family.” 

In 1990, she came out of self-imposed retirement to fight for women who were fired from Howard Johnson hotels.

“I will go before every group that I can speak to,” Bolton told reporters in 1990. “I will do everything that I have to do to ask the people of this community to boycott Howard Johnson’s.”

Two decades earlier, Bolton demanded that a South Florida department store open its “men’s only” dining room to women.

Bolton led the effort to create Women’s Park, which opened in 1992 as a tribute to past and present women leaders in South Florida, and was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984.

She was honored in August 1999, when her home was designated a historic landmark, receiving the first state marker ever placed on private property.

Bolton, then 73, reflected on what her life had been.

“As the tide ebbs, we always reflect,” she told Local 10 News at the time. “We want to make everything right. I want to be a better person. I have no regrets, trust me, no regrets, I did it my way.”

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Recent University of Miami graduate killed in airboat accident

A recent University of Miami graduate was killed Saturday in an airboat accident in the Florida Everglades.

Elizabeth Goldenberg and four other people were ejected from an airboat Saturday morning in the Everglades Wildlife Management Area, about 12 miles west of Krome Avenue, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Robert Klepper said.

Goldenberg, 22, died from her injuries at Kendall Regional Medical Center.

“Definitely it’s a shock for the community and it’s heartbreaking. I can’t imagine what the parents are going through,” Henchi Fellig, whose husband is a rabbi and university chaplain, said. “She was just, like, that girl who walked in a room and lit up the room.”

The other passengers on the airboat were identified as Steve Gagne, 52, of Miami, Dana Goldenberg, 20, Renee Flax-Goldenberg, 54, and David Goldenberg, 54, all of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.

Fellig and her husband, who run UM’s Chabad, were with the family at the hospital and will be at the funeral Tuesday in Goldenberg’s Pennsylvania hometown.

“(It’s) heartbreaking,” Fellig said. “I can’t imagine what her parents are going through.” 

Goldenberg served as vice president of the Theatre Action Group at the University of Miami, from where she graduated days earlier.

The group shared a post about her death on Facebook, praising her involvement.

“Ellie was an incredible woman, who among many other amazing accomplishments served tirelessly as a TAG board member every year that she attended the University of Miami,” the Facebook post said. “She graduated this year, serving as our vice president of TAG. The hours and thought she put into every event and every single piece of this organization (is) unmeasurable. … We love you, we miss you and we thank you for everything.”

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Coral Gables police chief says officer should be fired for spying on resident

After an eight-month investigation, the Coral Gables police chief is calling for the firing of a police officer who is accused of spying on a resident.

Maj. Theresa “Terri” Molina is a career officer with 23 years of service, but now she’s at risk of losing her badge.

The allegations against her stem from a commission meeting last September when Coral Gables resident Maria Cruz said her constitutional rights were violated when Molina took photos of her on her phone while she was texting commissioners.

“I looked around and I found a police major was keeping track of what I was texting. Are we under surveillance here?” Cruz asked.

Molina’s attorney said his client admits to taking the photos, but claims that she did it because she suspected that “something improper was going on.”

But that claim isn’t sitting well with Cruz.

“She should have known better, and this should be the end of her career,” Cruz said.

City Commissioner Vince Lago said there’s nothing illegal about residents texting commissioners and said he agrees with the chief’s recommendation.

“In my opinion, it was an assault on a public speech and a person’s ability to speak their mind,” Lago said.

Molina has been suspended with pay for eight months, essentially sitting at home collecting her more than $140,000 salary.

The police chief’s recommendation will be discussed at the commission meeting on May 30. 

Ultimately, the city manager will make the decision, but it is possible for commissioners to overturn it.

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Former mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli wins Coral Gables mayoral seat

After more than a decade away from politics, Raul Valdes-Fauli took the mayoral seat again in Tuesday’s election.

The former mayor beat out political rival Commissioner Jeanett Slesnick.

With all 23 precincts reporting, Valdes-Fauli received more than 51percent of the vote, while Slesnick received nearly 49 percent.

Valdes-Fauli was mayor from 1993 to 2001. 

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Second Equinox Fitness Club shooting victim dies, police say

A second victim in a shooting at a Coral Gables fitness center has died.

Equinox Fitness Club issued a statement Sunday on its Facebook page that gym manager Marios Hortis died after being shot multiple times Saturday at the Shops at Merrick Park.

Miami-Dade police later confirmed the gym’s statement. 

The shooter, identified as former Equinox Fitness Club employee Abeku Wilson, 33, was fired from the gym Saturday because of workplace violence and was escorted off the premises, Miami-Dade police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said. He then returned to the fitness center and fatally shot Janine Ackerman, 35.

Hortis, 42, was also injured in the shooting and later died at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, Zabaleta said. 

After shooting the two victims, Wilson fatally shot himself, Zabaleta said. 

“There is nothing I can say to lessen the searing pain we all feel at this terrible moment,” Equinox Fitness Club executive chairman Harvey Spevak wrote on its official Facebook page. “Yesterday’s tragedy at our Coral Gables location has impacted everyone in the Equinox family. Our team members, Janine Ackerman, Coral Gables general manager, and Marios Hortis, our Coral Gables tier X manager, were beautiful souls lost way too soon. We send our love and condolences to their families and friends. We also wish to thank the entire Equinox community for its outpouring of support and kindness in the wake of this senseless tragedy.”

In a separate statement, signed by Spevak and the gym’s chief executive officer, Niki Leondakis, and chief operating officer, Scott Rosen, the loss of the two gym employees is described as “too profound for words.”

The statement said that Ackerman had been working for Equinox for nearly two years. 

“She was a kind and caring soul, a person we all loved and will deeply miss,” the statement said. “Her memory will never be forgotten.” 

Hortis worked at Equinox for six years. 

“His generous spirit and warm demeanor made him an always welcome presence in our world, and that will sorely be missed,” the statement said. 

Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg released a statement Sunday about Ackerman. 

“Our deepest condolences to family and friends touched by the violence at a Coral Gables fitness center on Saturday,” Rosenberg said. “We are especially sad that an FIU alumna, Janine Ackerman, was among the fatalities. Janine earned her master’s (degree) from the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in 2008. She stayed in touch with classmates and vice provost and professor Steve Moll, who followed her career and spoke with her regularly. She was the general manager at the Equinox. Senseless violence has claimed yet another life full of promise. Please keep Janine and her family in your prayers.” 

Ackerman attended FIU after graduating from Michigan State University, where the New Jersey native received an athletic scholarship to play field hockey.

Moll was her academic adviser at FIU and said Ackerman was a “rare” student.

“There are one or two dozen people in your career who become your friend,” he said. “She was one of those rare, special people.”

Moll said Ackerman maintained a 3.9 GPA in school, and helped coordinate student volunteers at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, a job that she “nailed.” 

The pair kept in touch over the years, and when Moll learned of Ackerman’s death, his world stopped. 

“I went to the bathroom and cried,” he said. “She is two years older than my daughter. It was like losing a daughter. You never want to go through that. When she became your friend she was the best person ever.”

Moll said it’s hard for him to talk about Ackerman in the past tense. 

For now, he’s holding onto memories they shared together, like the time she gave him a ride in her BMW. 

“She said, ‘Let me drive,’ and she fancies herself a qualifying race car driver,” Moll said with a laugh. “Which caused this old guy to hold onto everything in the car. She said, ‘I brake quickly, so you have to get used to it.’ She was the best.” 

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