homepage logo

Arts Council honors local icon

By Staff | May 3, 2016

Whenever June Sommerfield wanted someone to do something to benefit local arts, refusal was not an option.

That is why the arts community in Cape Coral is as strong as ever. On Saturday, people gathered at the Windsor assisted living facility for a surprise party for Sommerfield, where leaders in the local arts community and members of her family spoke of their icon in glowing terms.

“It was Sommerfield who made the council possible as its first president, said Phyllis Shelton, president of the Cape Coral Council for Arts and Humanities, who wanted to acknowledge that effort in person.

Sommerfield, 93, had a serious accident last summer in Michigan, and has not really regained full strength. When told she could no longer live alone, she brought her dog, Shadow, to live with her.

If she has slowed down, she didn’t show it Saturday, hugging most of her guests and moving around like someone 20 years her junior.

City Councilmember Jim Burch worked with her a lot through his travels as mayor and councilman, trying to enhance the city’s theater and other programs she has been credited with fostering.

“It’s been a beautiful relationship. I think she’s the reason Cape Coral is the way it is,” Burch said. “She is the mother of the enhancements we’ve made over the years in the arts.”

Sommerfield’s contributions have been many. She started the Stars of Tomorrow Scholarship program and talent showcase and was vital in getting a grant for the city to build its Cultural Park Theater, an accomplishment of note that got lots of attention.

Those who came to the event spent a few moments talking about how they met Sommerfield and gave their fondest memories of her.

“She is persuasive and a force to be reckoned with. She has a vision, and it becomes tunnel vision, which enables her to accomplish tremendous things,” said Suzanne Sims, current president of the Cape Coral Art League. “I’m honored to be part of an organization that June was part of.”

“It’s amazing what June does with those kids. The inspiration she gives to them and those around her is wonderful,” said Anita Tate.

Lee Otto, past president of Cultural Park Theater, said she met Sommerfield early in her time in Cape Coral, and learned quickly about her power of persuasion.

“She asked me if I wanted to be judge, then when things got chaotic backstage at the Stars of Tomorrow she wanted me to be stage manager. I said not on your life,” Otto said. “So, I was stage manager for the next five years.”

“The theme is yes,” Burch said.

Diane Brown and Dean Sommerfield, June’s children, were also present at the event, giving their impression of their mom.

Sommerfield was awarded a Citizen of the Year medallion, the same one the Cape Coral Council for Arts and Humanities hands out annually.

When it was time for Sommerfield to speak, she said she was overwhelmed.

“To have you all here is such a thrill for me in itself. There isn’t anyone in this world who accomplished anything without a lot of help along the way,” Sommerfield said. “I never did this for any awards or glory.”