The phrase, “Let me continue to serve you…” is written on the back of Bernard Anthony Diggs business card and it sums up his philosophy toward both life and business perfectly.
Bernard is a Realtor leading the New Diggs Team with Florida Homes Realty & Mortgage. But what sets him apart is the fact that he is also a Soldier, having served in the United States Navy Active Duty from 2001-2006, and as an Active Reservist from 2007 through the present. “I joined the U.S. NAVY to make a difference for my country and to serve. I am proud of the people who served before me, those that have served alongside, and all who will serve after me.”
Working as an Aircrew member flying P-3 airplanes Bernard traveled the world through deployments. It is a valuable asset to military personnel seeking to buy or sell their home to have someone who understands the unique situations they face. Having lived the life of a soldier he understands how challenging it is to move frequently. He understands what military families are going through and how hard they work for our country. Like Fathers & Mothers who sacrifice time with their families and parents who stay home alone with the children while one spouse is deployed. Bernard himself was not there when his own daughter was born because he was serving our country.
As a Realtor, he has made it his mission to help families relocate seamlessly. He has a passion for helping families find new homes or sell existing homes in St. Johns & Jacksonville. Bernard has assisted countless military men and women in finding new homes. Sometimes this means working with military clients who are not even in the country and have only their spouses to rely
It requires him to look out for them in ways that go beyond the typical real estate service. He often works directly with local builders to ensure a smooth transition for soldiers and their families moving into the community, often going the extra mile.
When asked about a story that really moved him he tells about a recent couple he worked with to find their dream home. After a ten-month long search, they finally found the perfect home and a surprise marriage proposal was planned on the final walk through. Of course, Bernard was thrilled for the couple and was there to help make it happen, and even video the moment for them.
Another couple purchased a new construction home but the home had some major last minute issues that needed to be addressed prior to closing. Bernard arranged for the builder to cover the unexpected costs of a temporary place to live while the home was completed. Needless to say, the family was grateful.
He also gives back to his fellow brothers and sisters in the military by providing educational workshops at both NAS Jax and Mayport basses where he provides valuable information about the home buying process. He is actively involved in the non-profit organization Hope for The Warrior, an organization that provides comprehensive support programs for service members, veterans, and military families that are focused on transition, health and wellness, peer engagement, and connections to community resources.
Bernard’s Broker James Angelo of Florida Homes Realty and Mortgage is his mentor, providing invaluable life and business lessons. James has taught Bernard how to use past success and failures to shape him in the future. James has guided Bernard’s thinking to push beyond what is in front of him, and reach for limitless success. James has been a tremendous mentor, friend, and counselor aiding Bernard’s rapid accomplishments in real estate. Through his direction Bernard has become one of the top selling real estate agents at FHRM, which consists of over 500 realtors. Traveling around the world through deployments has allowed Bernard to build an understanding and respect for diverse populations and cultures which has proven beneficial to his real estate business.
He is happily married to his wife Niegen who he says is his hero. “Watching her as a mother is a true inspiration of power, strength, and sacrifice that continues to encourage me”.
Bernard enjoys his time off playing basketball at his community court, reading business and real estate best sellers, listening to Ted Talks, but mostly supporting the Jacksonville Jaguars by attending all season games! Although his house is located in St. Johns and his clientele consists of families from all surrounding communities, a piece of his heart and business drive remains for our service men and women who pay the ultimate sacrifice in serving our country.
by Lori King-Kocsis
The day begins for Marie Lund with her morning walk, a mile each day. She walks slowly around the block with friendly neighbors keeping an eye on her. Ever since her eyesight began to wane her walks have become shorter but walk she must, she’s been walking daily since she could stand. Starting somewhere around 99 years ago.
Born on March 27, 1916 as Marie Zalinsky, she was raised on a farm in Sagamore, PA, a small coal mining town. Unbeknownst to Marie at the time, she would live to see sixteen presidents sworn in, the Great Depression, WWI and WWII, airplanes advanced into commercial flights and the seemingly impossible became possible when man landed on the moon.
Marie was a good student, practical and adept at math, she was advanced from 6th to 8th grade. Her Eastern European heritage (Poland) had a strong influence throughout her years. When she was 14 years old, just out of 8th grade Marie went to work in Philadelphia at the DuPont Mansion as a live-in maid.
A self-taught seamstress, Marie became sought after for her work and sewed outfits for the clergy. After awhile, she tried to keep her seamstress abilities a secret so “people wouldn’t keep asking me to make things!”
Her time at the DuPont’s ended after she married Charles Lund. She introduced Charles to the DuPonts’, he became their butler and they began a family. Her seamstress and cooking skills came in handy while she raised 7 children. Walking everywhere, she never had a license, never owned a car; there were days when Marie would walk for hours.
“Home Smelled like a Bakery”
Coming home from school the Lund children were greeted with the smell of fresh baked goods. Marie’s seven children each had their personal favorites. From chocolate chip cookies to orange chiffon cake, the list of goodies that she made throughout the years was long.
When asked if there is a type of food Marie enjoys the most, a simple, “Food is food” was her answer with the added comment “some things are better than others.”
Unsure what to expect on this year’s birthday celebration, it’s doubtful that 100 candles will be put on the cake. On her 95th birthday Marie wanted to see what 95 candles looked like on a cake, apparently it was impressive enough to set off the smoke detectors.
Tai Chi for Marie
Marie began taking Tai Chi a few years ago at The Players Senior Center in Ponte Verde. Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing. Tai Chi has helped Marie, “Stand firmly on my feet, it steadies you and does the trick.” Her teacher, Dennis Sheils, had many pleasant thoughts about Marie; her tenacity, her faith and strength. “Marie goes with the flow,” he says with a smile. Though her movements are slower due to her eyesight she is an inspiration to her classmates.
Marie’s Advice on Living 100 years
Diminutive in stature and brief with her words, Marie had a few things to say about life and if she has a magic pill or secret to living 100 years. “Be truthful about everything you say. Then you won’t have to worry about what you’ve said. It’s always the truth”.
Even though her eyes are clouded from macular degeneration, you can still see the hazel they once were. She never spoke of her aches or her diminishing eyesight and continues to read daily on a machine for the blind. When asked how it feels to be 100 years old Marie said, you just “imagine each day at a time”.
It also seems that walking, and now Tai Chi has played a big part in keeping Marie healthy and grounded.
Is there a magic pill or secret? “No secret” is Marie’s succinct reply. A true “Salt of the Earth”, Marie has lived her life with a steady hand, a strong heart and feet that are planted firmly on the ground.
by Debbie Gaylord
with cover photo by Mindy Kerr of Nature's Child Photography
Not long after Frank and Bonnie Dvoravic became the new owners of Rivertown Fine Wine and Spirits in May 2006 Bonnie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a disease that is one of the nation’s deadliest cancers and has only an 8% survival rate.
The two experiences, fulfilling the dream of owning their own store and Bonnie’s life-threatening illness, have become forever merged in a strange way but with a happy ending. Bonnie beat the odds. She says it was a miracle of sorts when they found the cancer during a routine exam for a stomach ailment. She had surgery immediately and after nine years has recently received an all clear from her doctor.
The couple have decided to do something positive to mark both occasions and give back to the community with a silent auction to benefit Pancan, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. The event will run throughout the month of May and will include amazing gift baskets, golf sets, and specialty items like a giant Crown Royal pillow perfect for a man cave as well as wine tastings and live music. The PANCAN organizational goal is to double the survival rate and raise $200 million by 2020. Funds will enhance existing programs and allow Pancan.org to invest in revolutionary new research efforts to help those battling pancreatic cancer.
Frank and Bonnie moved to the Switzerland area from St. Petersburg in 1997. His work at the corporate level in the wholesale wine and liquor industry allowed them to travel around the world and visit some of the most amazing places including golfing at St. Andrews in Scotland and Pebble Beach in California.
They loved traveling but one experience changed everything and made them rethink their lives. They were scheduled to take a business trip to London and the date was September 11, 2001. As they left Jacksonville, they recall being a little miffed that Air Force One caused a slight delay as it delivered President George Bush for an event at a local school. The flight finally took off and they arrived safely in England the next day, only to learn of the Twin Towers tragedy and that their daughter who was a student at NYU at the time, was stuck in New York City.
Not long afterward, Frank realized after twenty-six years he wanted to leave the corporate world. He always dreamed of owning his own store. So he and Bonnie took the plunge and purchased Rivertown from an old friend.
It was 2006 and life was good. The store’s original location was a bit closer to -1-95 in the Tropical Smoothie Café plaza but after ten months Frank decided to move to its current location in the Publix plaza. Two days after signing the contract for the new location, Frank and Bonnie learned she had pancreatic cancer and her surgery was scheduled. While Bonnie recovered from surgery Frank moved into the new location and has been there ever since.
Even through an early rocky start with Bonnie’s illness and the national economic crisis not long afterward, Frank and Bonnie have enjoyed a success that is the result of a simple formula. Where ever he goes people seem to know and love Frank and many of his customers are on a first-name basis. Bonnie and Frank built Rivertown by developing close loyal customers. As Frank says, “We give old fashioned customer service”. Like the time Frank went out of his way to find a special Italian wine I was hoping to try. Or their 100% satisfaction guarantee – Frank recalls an experience when a customer was not pleased with an expensive bottle of scotch he purchased but Frank refunded the man his money. He wants everyone to be happy no matter the cost. Another aspect of their success is they are a great team. After forty-four years of marriage, Frank likes to say that Bonnie is the President of Rivertown and he is just the VP in charge of labor!
Pancan is not the only organization that has benefited from the efforts of this local couple. Frank and Bonnie always have a donation bottle for a non-profit near the check-out. Their son is deaf and they understand the challenges involved for families. They have supported the Clarke School for the Deaf, where Frank was a board member for many years. The school, which is located here in Jacksonville, has done a great deal to forward research and work with children with cochlear implants to help them develop speech.
In his spare time Frank enjoys tinkering with his old El Caminos (he has two). Bonnie spends time learning piano and doing things with her grandchildren who will be visiting this summer. Together they enjoy traveling and taking in sunsets on their stunning property overlooking the St. Johns River. Ah yes, life is good.
This May celebrate a few milestones with Frank and Bonnie. Stop by Rivertown Fine Wine and Spirits in the Publix plaza, bid on an auction item and support Pancan.org. For more information about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network visit www.pancan.org
Silent Auction to Benefit Pancan.org
New large RYDER CUP Callaway Golf bag;
Jim Beam Barrel with U of G colors and logo on half with U of Fla colors
and log on other half.;
Large hanging or tabletop CROWN ROYAL PILLOW-3ft by 3ft:
Titos Vodka Elgin cooler with vodka,mixers, napkins,Tervis Tumblers etc. inside:
1 bottle 30 year old ZAFRA RUM:
1 Picnic basket filled with wine and liquor:
1 cigar basket with lots of goodies:
1 bottle 17 year old WILD TURKEY:
1 Basket with over 100 bottles of 50 ml liquor items
St. Johns Magazine