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  • Writer's pictureMayor Teresa Heitmann

Honor and remembrance

Dear Neighbor,

It was my great pleasure and honor on December 15, 2023, as the City of Naples’ 100th birthday ended, to rededicate the Norris Center in Cambier Park, to include (in memory of) M/M Norris’ daughter, Lavern Norris Gaynor. Lavern would have been 100 on December 20, 2023, which is also the “Lavern Norris Gaynor Day” in the City of Naples, as initially proclaimed on December 20, 2021.

The Norris Center was dedicated to the memory of Dellora and Lester Norris who made the community center possible. The original Norris Community Center was built in 1964 with a donation from the Norris family as well as their making possible a 1987 renovation. In 2003, the Norris Center was rebuilt to what it is today with the support and backing of Lavern Norris Gaynor, one of many ways she kept her parents’ legacy alive.

I honored Lavern “Lal” Norris Gaynor and declared by Proclamation the City’s gratitude to her and the Norris Gaynor family for profoundly influencing the advancement of the City of Naples through their support over many years of children’s causes, education, history, preservation of nature, the Naples pier, and their vast contributions through humanitarian and financial efforts to shape the esteemed community of Naples into what it is today.

Following this part of the afternoon, Lal’s family and a few of her closest friends held Lal’s 100th birthday celebration, also at the Norris Community Center. The evening consisted of the attendees reminiscing and sharing memories of how Lal made a difference in their lives. A special auction was held of some of her local artwork and many unique pieces of memorabilia. The proceeds from that, as well as many who gave 100th birthday gifts in her honor, were made to the “Lal Gaynor Early Learning & Beyond Fund” at the Collier Community Foundation. Lal established a fund to support children and education throughout all stages of life. It was Lal’s and now her family’s intent, that this fund would continue beyond her lifetime to benefit the Naples community she so loved. Grants from this fund will be made broadly in continuing support of her passions, for hopefully many years to come.

The evening culminated in a toast and everyone singing Happy Birthday to Lal. She was certainly there with us in spirit. Our beloved community members continue to joyously bless and inspire us for generations to come. Mrs. Gaynor is one of many philanthropists who have shaped the City of Naples, and we are forever grateful for their contributions.


Teresa Heitmann

Mayor, City of Naples


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