The Saddest of Goodbyes

Doug Little, Me, and  Captain Jeanne Bell, Aboard the Naiad

The saddest of goodbyes are the ones we don’t get to say. Monday morning, Captain Jeanne Bell was taken from us in a sudden and completely unexpected way. In an instant, an aneurysm no one suspected existed cut short a life that made an enormous difference in our world. Jeanne touched hundreds and hundreds of people during her years aboard the Naiad, and her loss has devastated her friends, family, and most of all, her husband, Doug Little. I think everyone who knew, admired, and loved her is still in shock, not ready to accept that she has left us. I know I am.

At some point, I will write a longer post about all the things Jeanne Bell taught me, and everyone who ever took a tour on the Naiad. For now, I just want to say that Jeanne was not only my friend, but the person who first planted the idea in my head that a book about an eco-tour boat owner would be fun to write. Many of you know that she and Doug were my inspiration for Maggie and Gunn in Swamp Ghosts, and that without their love and support, things would be very different for me today. I am so thankful they came into my life when they did, and I will miss Jeanne Bell every day of the rest of it.

The St. Johns River has lost a staunch friend, and the world is a sadder place without our Captain Jeanne. Somewhere, she is watching to be sure we always remember the things she so willingly shared with us. I ask that my friends here take a moment to contemplate how much difference one person can make in the lives of others. Please hold Doug in your heart, as he makes his way through the days ahead.

Thank you!

37 thoughts on “The Saddest of Goodbyes

  1. This is a very sad post and one that must have been hard to write. Blessings to her husband, you and all who held her dear. I will leave you with this – “If people we love die, then they are lost only to our ordinary senses. If we remember, we can find them anytime with our hundred secret senses.” The Hundred Secret Senses, by Amy Tan

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Lydia. It’s a loss for SO many people, but most of all for her husband, Doug, who needs all the prayers and well wishes we can send him. He’s a terrific guy, and I’m so sad for him.


    • Thanks for that, Linda. I appreciate if very much. Still in shock, here, though having to run around like crazy to get battened down for Matthew. Praying central Florida isn’t devastated by this one. Praying for Doug. Praying for everyone and everything, today. Probably we ALL need some prayers coming our way.


  2. Marcia, What a shock…so sad. 😰 I hope Doug is okay. I’m sure he is devastated.

    I was a student of Doug’s when he taught a photography class at Stetson. I’ve taken five trips on the Naiad, and one was with you. I scheduled that one because Doug had said the main characters in Swamp Ghost were inspired by Jeanne and him. He did confess that the characters were younger and didn’t quite look the same.😻

    I called the funeral home, and they said a service will be held Oct. 14th at 11:00 am. If possible, I would like to be there.

    Being the same age as you, I appreciate all you do now–writing and encouraging others with their work!

    I live in Mount Dora and the last time I was downtown I visited the town’s bookstore: I told one of the owners about you and wondered if she would be interested in you doing a presentation. She has hosted several author visits. She said the talks are scheduled on either a Saturday or Sunday from 1:00-3:00. If you are interested, call Chrissy or Elena: 352-735-1950 or email them. Of course you will love Mt.Dora, but I’m sure Mt. Dora will love you.😍

    Jeanne was such special person. I’ve always been in awe of her and her knowledge of everything on the river from the river itself to the plants, the birds the wildlife, etc. I will so, so miss her and those trips on the St. Johns.

    Always Anne McKinney

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember you, Anne. (The Lady in Purple, right?) I can’t tell you how heartbroken I am about this. Thank you for the information on the funeral. I would like to be there, as well, if at all possible. Doug and Jeanne were so wonderful about sharing my book with their passengers, and selling them from their ticket booth. Their support meant the world to me, and I always made sure to include some slides of them and their tours in my presentations. We had developed a very nice reciprocal promotion relationship on top of our friendship, and it’s going to be very hard to adjust to this loss. Most especially for Doug. My heart breaks for him!

      Thanks so much for the referral to Barrel of Books. I will definitely contact them, as soon as I’m sure my house hasn’t blown away in the hurricane. I love Mt. Dora! It would be fun to do a presentation over there. If you can, would you email me the information on the funeral home? I’d appreciate it very much.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and for understanding just what a loss this is. The river “community” will never be the same.


  3. Oh Marsh, I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. This post had me going for Kleenex because I feel for you and I know what it’s like to lose a friend suddenly too. This was a beautiful tribute to a dear friend, and I’ll bet like you said, she’s looking down at you all now, steering you all to remember how precious life is. My condolences and heartfelt thoughts for you and her husband. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Deb. Jeanne will be much missed. I still have that feeling you get that something is really just a dream, and you’ll wake up soon. But learning to deal with loss is probably the hardest lesson we each must learn, and the first step is accepting it. Working on that. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • It seems you know the steps. And accepting can only come after you’ve grieved, then time becomes the healer when acceptance comes, we find that piece of our heart where we tuck in the love for the lost loved one and learn to deal. I know this Marsh, I’ve been through it too many times. Take your time, cry as much as you need to and let nature and God take care of what comes next. ❤


  4. I am sorry to read this Marcia – and yes her family will be in my prayers as will you and all of her friends. Not to take away from the grief her family obviously is suffering but sometimes the friends seem to be forgotten. She will always hold a special place in your hearts and I know one day the memories you all share of her will bring you comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My thoughts are with all of you – I know exactly what you mean about feeling like it’s a dream and you are going to wake up soon. Such a terrible shock to lose anyone that suddenly, particularly someone with whom you’ve been so deeply involved. Take care, hugs from across the pond.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Debby. The sense of shock and disbelief hasn’t worn off, yet, and it’s a hundred times worse for my friend, Doug. As he said, he’s lost his soul mate, his wife, his best friend, and his business partner, all at once. It’s heartbreaking to think of what he’s going through. I’m glad he has a strong network of friends (me, included) to try to help him through the days ahead. And thanks for the hugs. It means a great deal to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey Marcia,
    I have been unable to stop thinking about Jeanne every since I heard about her passing. She had so much knowledge in her that she shared with all of us that were biased enough to know her. And in my heart that is how she will love on. Please give Doug my love and I’m so sorry for his and your loss. We all were privileged to have known her.


    • I corrected them in my mind as I read, Dian. What you felt was more important than any typo. And I know that Jeanne touched many, many people, as she did you. She will live on for all of us. (And love on , too. 🙂 ) Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ve heard from Doug several times, now, and know he has a ton of friends helping him get through this. I’m so grateful for each and every one of them. And he knows he can count on me, too. We’ll get him through.


  7. So very sad. As you said, the unexpected departures of friends and loved ones is the toughest because there’s no chance to say good bye. I’m so sorry for you loss, Marcia. It’s a beautiful thing that her spirit — and that of the love she shared with her husband — continues on in your pages.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ned. I know you, of all people, understand exactly how it feels to lose a friend who’s gone way too soon. There is a Jeanne-shaped hole in my heart, but I count myself blessed to have known her for the time I did. She made a difference in this world, and no one can ask to do more than that with the life they are given.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I believe that as well, Ned, and aren’t we lucky to have known a few? Some people go through their entire lives without realizing this. (I’m actually contemplating writing a stand-alone novel addressing angels among us. Been talking about it for a week with my beta readers. Of course, it will be fiction, but then again, what is fiction but a distilled version of the truth?)

          And speaking of inspirational people, I have your latest book smiling down at me from the shelf right over my computer.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. There have been maybe a half dozen people who have made an indelible mark on my life through the years. One of them now has Parkinson’s and is deteriorating rapidly. We will most likely lose him within the year. It is hard to watch someone so loved waste away but it is equally harsh to have someone dear to you ripped away suddenly. My thoughts and prayers are with you!


  9. I have read all of your comments and was very touched by all of them . I have known Doug for many years and only met Jeanne shortly after She and Doug were married.
    She was indeed quite a lady. You are all correct. We shall all miss her very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Bernie. I only met Jeanne and Doug a few years ago, but as an ardent birder and nature lover, we had an instant connection, and I grew to feel very close to them. A trip on the Naiad was always something to look forward to, and the one thing that does my heart good now is that Doug has decided the very best way to honor Jeanne’s memory is to continue their tours on the St. Johns. I am, in fact, going to have a chance to go out next Saturday, on a special Meet the Author tour, and I’m looking forward to it. (Hope you saw my post about the tour, and about the new SJR website.)

      I have absolutely no doubt that Jeanne is looking down on Doug, proud and happy that the tradition of sharing one of Florida’s greatest resources is going to continue.

      Welcome to The Write Stuff, and I hope you’ll stop by often. Any friend of Doug’s . . . as they say! 🙂 (I believe Doug has mentioned you to me recently?) Wishing you the best in 2017!


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