As I ask friends of my father to celebrate his birthday in his honor with #fishforjose, I’ve made my own plans to spend it with my 2nd family … the Rodriquez family of the Dolphin Research Center.
Here’s their story … Back when the Dolphin Research Center in the Keys was known as “Flippers Sea School” in the 70’s, my father, Jose Wejebe, delivered fish to the dolphins there. in the 80’s, Mandy and Jayne Rodriguez bought DRC, and we spent a lot of time with them and their 3 children, especially my best friend, Kelly Jayne. My mom worked at DRC for 18 years, and I also worked there for 4 years after moving back to Florida. DRC is my family, and that’s who I plan to fish with in honor of my dad.
Mandy and my dad would refer to each other as “Cuban brothers”. Mandy’s a Vietnam vet and a little older than my dad, but they shared the same birthday, January 18. Back in the day, their birthday parties were combined, and when I worked their they would make time for each other. My dad even had to place a few calls to get me out of work to do our last fishing show (their was some team building that was a requirement). My boss wasn’t too happy, but as usual my dad got his way thanks to Mandy.
So … on January 18, Mandy, KJ, Mandy’s grandson, Capt Nate Wheeler (one of the wish granters for the foundation) and myself will be on the water celebrating their birthday. Also, Mandy ALWAYS wears a hat a red DRC hat, but ever since my dad passed he has been wearing a black hat for he is still mourning the loss of my father. Mandy has a love of fishing, but unfortunately doesn’t get out on the water much (unless it involves a manatee rescue or research with wild dolphins), and when he does get out, he doesn’t catch much. His favorite eating fish is mutton snapper. I call Nate the “mutton man” since that’s what he accidentally catches half the time. It’s a perfect match. Nate will get Mandy his Mutton, and I know my dad will be helping us.