The moment I first met him was the 2009 graduation night for Leadership Monroe County Class XVII. On the board for LMC, Manny Madruga, Assistant State Attorney. We had all gathered at the Doubletree Grand Tree Resort and were mingling outside when Madruga swept through the doors.

My jaw dropped.

I was awestruck by “The Man.”

He was a dynamic leader among leaders.

As the new Bureau Chief for The Key West Weekly, he took me to a Noon Rotary event and I photographed him at lunch. I emailed the picture to him asking this cosmic Cuban success story in the community to kindly reply and possibly write to tell me who was in the photo with him and did he happen to know their titles.

He picked up the phone and called me.

“I hope you’re not planning on publishing that photo. Josie it’s blurry,” Manny demanded.

I was a former prima donna anchorwoman. My older brother, publisher of The Weekly Newspapers and Tropical Living Magazine was just as displeased with my work. I expressed in defense of myself to these two big wigs that I was used to being on the other side of the camera and was not accustomed to taking pictures of others.

I said this with ego. I said this with pride.

A few weeks later, I was given the Disney World-esque assignment to visit Madruga in his office on Whitehead Street and interview him. I went into the stately building and marched myself up to his quarters in a Banana Republic two-piece navy blue sheath dress and blazer purchased with money from CBS News.

The interview unveiled a wistfulness the climb up the ladder had cost him. I remember him saying something to this nature, This position isn’t easy. Everyone’s out there having fun, hanging out at the sand bar on the weekend and I don’t get to do that. I don’t have the time. This requires commitment.

I gazed around at the awards on the walls and he pointed the most recent one which had been bestowed upon him the 2009 Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association’s Gene Barry Award. He seemed completely unbreakable.

I told him I was there to photograph him. I was flustered, fortunate and a finished pro all at the same time. Here, in my first couple of weeks on a tropical island was an on-camera woman, having the assistant state prosecutor, the attorney I soooo admired, posing for me.

The results were flawless. They are stunning. The pictures capture the essence of a man and professional who was unflappable and a friend to all of us.

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Later, having joined Sunrise Rotary I was slated to give a presentation to our fellow professionals. The topic: How to use the media to drive your professional reputation and build business. I knew I didn’t exactly have all of the dots connected to really deliver a smash-up presentation. I called up Manny and told him what I was doing and that I needed him to please be there because I needed feedback.

And there he was. At 7 am at the top of La Concha. Dressed crisply in his dress slacks with his tie on and shoes shined. He sat at the front table and gave his undivided attention to a lackluster production, and he let me know about this. You need pictures and you need to involve the people in your audience. Then, you’ve got this down. Let me know when you’re doing this again.

There won’t be an again. Manny Madruga, Assistant State Attorney chose to end his life after a heated campaign season.

Unfortunately, at some juncture, we all lose professional positions. Those of us with a giant “X” on our back go down hard. This shouldn’t stop anyone from putting themselves out there. There isn’t any defeat as the so-called polls indicate. There truly aren’t failures. We are not designed as human beings to mingle amidst the same people carrying out the same professional duties for our entire lives. History shows losing, and sometimes even when you lose everything, you are actually being spun in a new direction where you will reap rewards and bear fruit never possible where previously planted. The universe aligns itself up exactly as it should and we are all placed where we should be and with the people we are meant to be with by design.

We all met Manny. We all encountered Manny and experienced the wonder that is Manny “The Man” Madruga. Prayers and peace to Ani, Natalie and the rest of your loved family.

Tomorrow, Saturday February 11, 2017, marks the 1st Annual Manny Madruga Domino Tournament. According to my LMC XIX Classmate Holly Elomina, social entries include dinner and team entries include dinner and four drink coupons. There will be prize packages for the first, second and third place teams. All proceeds benefit local suicide prevention/awareness programs as well as a scholarship in Manny Madruga‘s name for a KWHS senior who is furthering their education in criminal justice or a law-related major. If you want to sponsor a table, register a team or donate a prize, call 305-509-0001.


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