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MarkoBoquete

A Haunted Housewarming in Panama

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Great story, Mark, well told. Bill was a good friend and a great gardener. He died much too soon.

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A very interesting story (if true). One error is "Colombia" spelled as "Columbia." (No thanks needed, Mark, from my editing of your piece.)_

But what struck me (and disturbed me) the most was the ego of a wealthy person who chose to spend "mega-bucks" to buy Noreiga's "mansion" (or anything else) to call attention to himself. "Bill Strong was not shy about getting what he wanted in life. After paying a price that the locals called “gringo loco,” Bill and Donna undertook a renovation of the Noriega mansion and grounds so detailed it might be thought a new construction. An authentic suit of armor guarded the main entrance. From inside, Bill thundered out Bach fugues on “The most expensive electronic organ that Yamaha makes.”

What an egocentric person this Bill Strong is portrayed to be (and his "new" wife as well!). In my opinion they are who are people we do not need in Panama--or anywhere else, for that matter. For a fraction of the money spent to satisfy their egos, Bill Strong and his wife could have had a beautiful home in which to live and enjoy Panama--and then become involved (not just with money alone but with their own work also) to better the lives of the needy in Panama.

Many of us--expats and Panamanians alike--who are not wealthy but who work endless hours at our own expense to better the lives of animals and poor Panamanians...well, to me, these people--Bill Strong and his wife--are an insult to us and they are despicable when they take from country instead of giving both their money and their physical work to help their adopted country. 

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 Donna and Bill Strong

What happened to these folks? Who owns the mansion now? Be cool to see it. Interesting story.

Edited by TwoSailors

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16 minutes ago, TwoSailors said:

 Donna and Bill Strong

What happened to these folks? Who owns the mansion now? Be cool to see it. Interesting story.

I guess you missed what Bonnie said.  Bill died a few years ago.

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I've reach an age where I've discovered that I cannot judge people I don't know based on stories, rumors, innuendos.  I try to do the best I can, and am still petty sure someone will decide, without having met me, what my innermost thoughts and feelings were.  It's human nature, I understand.  But, just because someone has a new wife, or bought a large home, doesn't make them evil.  There are so many charities I support, but I see lots of people working for the local animals.  It's a huge relief to me to see these people take care of our animal friends.  But, to be judged because my passions are now free to be spent on struggling humans should not be considered unfeeling about animals.  Or make people whisper that I am evil.  Unless we know these people personally, I'm going to say we ought to treat them as we'd like to be treated.

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12 minutes ago, JudyS said:

I guess you missed what Bonnie said.  Bill died a few years ago.

Missed it. Wonder what year Mark went to the mansion?

Edited by TwoSailors

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I was there in 2007 or early 2008 when Bill and Donna hosted the Garden Club. The safe had not been opened at that time. And, by the way, his name was not Strong; it was Strawn (possibly spelled differently because this doesn't look quite right).

Bill was a keen gardener and had landscaped the garden beautifully. He was generous with his time, his plants, and his money. As I recall, he was very involved in the El Banco community, hosting Christmas parties for the children, supporting food charities, etc.

I had known Bill two years or less when he was diagnosed with a fast-growing cancer of the spine and brain. I'll never forget the lovely email he sent me telling me about it and how his doctor had had to go the extra mile to obtain pain-killing opiates for his final days. I was most struck by the fact that there was absolutely no self-pity. The email opened with, "I'm in deep doo-doo." His closing words were an admonishment for me to get over there and choose some plants I wanted before his time was up. When I went the next day  we spent an hour or so in the garden talking about plants and about what a rewarding life he had had. He died a few days later, less than a month after his diagnosis. Bill  was a lovely person.

Edited by Bonnie

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27 minutes ago, Palo Alto Jo said:

I've reach an age where I've discovered that I cannot judge people I don't know based on stories, rumors, innuendos.  I try to do the best I can, and am still petty sure someone will decide, without having met me, what my innermost thoughts and feelings were.  It's human nature, I understand.  But, just because someone has a new wife, or bought a large home, doesn't make them evil.  There are so many charities I support, but I see lots of people working for the local animals.  It's a huge relief to me to see these people take care of our animal friends.  But, to be judged because my passions are now free to be spent on struggling humans should not be considered unfeeling about animals.  Or make people whisper that I am evil.  Unless we know these people personally, I'm going to say we ought to treat them as we'd like to be treated.

Excellent response, Palo Alto Jo. However, my post did not accuse "Bill" of being evil, but egocentric in my opinion. Each of us has opinions about many different subjects/people/events. Our opinions do not make us right or wrong, and they don't even affect the object of our opinions. The ultimate "judgment" for any of us will be the truth of how we have lived our lives. Some call that the "judgement" of God; others call it karma experienced in a subsequent life, and so on. I'm just weighing in here and don't intend to get in "religious" discussions or what happens in an afterlife, if any. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

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2 hours ago, Bonnie said:

I was there in 2007 or early 2008 when Bill and Donna hosted the Garden Club. The safe had not been opened at that time. And, by the way, his name was not Strong; it was Strawn (possibly spelled differently because this doesn't look quite right).

Bill was a keen gardener and had landscaped the garden beautifully. He was generous with his time, his plants, and his money. As I recall, he was very involved in the El Banco community, hosting Christmas parties for the children, supporting food charities, etc.

I had known Bill two years or less when he was diagnosed with a fast-growing cancer of the spine and brain. I'll never forget the lovely email he sent me telling me about it and how his doctor had had to go the extra mile to obtain pain-killing opiates for his final days. I was most struck by the fact that there was absolutely no self-pity. The email opened with, "I'm in deep doo-doo." His closing words were an admonishment for me to get over there and choose some plants I wanted before his time was up. When I went the next day  we spent an hour or so in the garden talking about plants and about what a rewarding life he had had. He died a few days later, less than a month after his diagnosis. Bill  was a lovely person.

2

Thanks, Bonnie. 

From what you are saying Bill passed away in 2010 or so. Sounds like you knew him pretty well.

Seems this statement  is terribly inaccurate:

"What an egocentric person this Bill Strong is portrayed to be (and his "new" wife as well!). In my opinion they are who are people we do not need in Panama--or anywhere else, for that matter. For a fraction of the money spent to satisfy their egos, Bill Strong and his wife could have had a beautiful home in which to live and enjoy Panama--and then become involved (not just with money alone but with their own work also) to better the lives of the needy in Panama."

Shameful.

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1 hour ago, TwoSailors said:

Thanks, Bonnie. 

From what you are saying Bill passed away in 2010 or so. Sounds like you knew him pretty well.

Seems this statement  is terribly inaccurate:

"What an egocentric person this Bill Strong is portrayed to be (and his "new" wife as well!). In my opinion they are who are people we do not need in Panama--or anywhere else, for that matter. For a fraction of the money spent to satisfy their egos, Bill Strong and his wife could have had a beautiful home in which to live and enjoy Panama--and then become involved (not just with money alone but with their own work also) to better the lives of the needy in Panama."

Shameful.

In the event my impression was incorrect, I apologize. I did not know the man and I had never heard of him before. My "impression" was formed merely from the article posted by Mark.

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46 minutes ago, Dottie Atwater said:

In the event my impression was incorrect, I apologize. I did not know the man and I had never heard of him before. My "impression" was formed merely from the article posted by Mark.

I understand, Dottie. Mark's conveyance of  Bill's flamboyancy may have been misinterpreted by some as narcissism and self-indulgence.

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3 hours ago, Palo Alto Jo said:

I've reach an age where I've discovered that I cannot judge people I don't know based on stories, rumors, innuendos.  I try to do the best I can, and am still petty sure someone will decide, without having met me, what my innermost thoughts and feelings were.  It's human nature, I understand.  But, just because someone has a new wife, or bought a large home, doesn't make them evil.  There are so many charities I support, but I see lots of people working for the local animals.  It's a huge relief to me to see these people take care of our animal friends.  But, to be judged because my passions are now free to be spent on struggling humans should not be considered unfeeling about animals.  Or make people whisper that I am evil.  Unless we know these people personally, I'm going to say we ought to treat them as we'd like to be treated.

Many people here help people (e.g. Buenos Vecinos, Hogar Trisker, Handicap Foundation), many help animals (Amigos de Animales and ARF), and many volunteer for both animal and people charities.  Different strokes.  Nobody is judging anybody for how they choose to help.  It's great that so many people want to get involved.

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Marcelyn and I know the owners of the property in the Potrerillos area that is the subject of this topic.

At the time of the events discussed in Mark's writeup, the owners were Bill Streit and Donna O'Toole. Bill died in December 2009. I recall that exact month because I was scheduled with a few friends to have lunch with Bill and Donna, but higher priority issues intervened in that planned luncheon. Not sure where the name Bill Strong comes from, unless it is simply a pseudonym.

Donna remarried after Bill's passing, and we know her new husband. Details are omitted here because they are not important. The owner still lives at Finca La Pagoda (the name of the former Noriega finca there in Potrerillos).

Not being a CL member, we provided a link for Donna to read this topic. She responded back to us via email, with permission to publish her words here.

Quote
Mark, thank you for the hilarious story. I laughed when I read it with your poetic liberties knowing that you wrote it in love and respect for Bill Streit, your friend, and myself, Donna O’Toole. Mark, when this is made into a movie I would like input into who plays me! lol But I must let the readers know that we did not have caverns or secret hideaways under the house or around the house. There is no secret door for the safe. When the Delta Force came in during the Noriega invasion, they emptied the safe of all of its contents and it remains empty to this day. And over the years, many prominent Panamanians have told me that we got Finca La Pagoda at a very reasonable price. Yes, we remodeled it to our liking as it was our forever home. The grounds were brought to life with luscious landscape that brought happiness to many who visited. And our gardens live in many homes in the Chiriqui province as we allowed those visiting to take whatever clippings they wanted to have for their yard. Peace and tranquility reigned on the property.
 
When Bill died in December of 2009, approximately 30 Panamanians came to our home to pay their respects. At his memorial (which Mark and Martine Heyer so graciously assisted with the preparations, etc.), one third of the audience at the BCP were Panamanians. Several of them spoke to the kindness and generosity that Bill had shown them or how he significantly touched their lives.
 
Bill and I did charitable work, but anonymously, as we believed that is true charity. “To give from the heart without any expectation or recognition.” Giving seed money to a Panamanian so they could start their business, buying a 3 year old truck for someone that needed it for their job, feeding lunch everyday to all the children attending the school, building a home for a Panamanian, paying for college education, room and board for an indigenous so they could become a school teacher, bringing Santa Claus (a wonderful volunteer who looks like Santa Claus) and Mark (to take photos so we could distribute to the families) to Potrerillos and then providing every child with a toy; and the list goes on. I am not writing this to toot my own horn and would never have said anything, but felt the need to set the record straight.
 
I hope that anyone who reads this will know that I only send love to all and hope and pray that this response will help everyone to see others for the good that is within all of us. This world needs people to come together, celebrate our blessings, and love one another.
 
Love and Light,
Donna O'Toole

In closing, we both know Donna (and I knew Bill, but he passed away prior to Marcelyn's arrival). What Donna writes is truth to the best of our knowledge.

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What a wonderful post, Bud. Thanks to Donna and to others who clarified my interpretation of Mark's report. With due respect to Mark, without ever having known Bill (or OF Bill) from Mark's report, it was easy for me to think he was "narcissistic" and "self-indulgent." Thanks to everyone who clarified my misconception.

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