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In the Lime Light...

Our Leading Ladies

Mary Lou Bremer

& Marie Heidemann

There are many aspects to a successful dragon boat team, and everyone's role is significant, but two that stand out are our lead paddlers Mary Lou and Marie, for without their ability to set and maintain a steadfast race pace and change it up when called for by Coach Walker, we would not be the winners of 9 races in April adding two Cups and 5 medals to our growing achievements.

Who are these dynamic women and how did they earn their immense and valuable roles on the team?

Marie Heidemann on port is the mother of 2 sons and grandmother to 3 grand kids with one more due this summer, although she doesn't look a day over 25 herself! In fact the day Susan met her at a swim lesson at Sea Breeze, she thought she was a teenager in the pool who was allowed to take lessons! A week later when Susan was recruited to join the team, she immediately thought of Marie because of her slender size, fitness level and her technically perfect swim stroke. They barely knew each other only having had one conversation but Susan had wisely got her telephone number and invited Marie to join the newly forming Black Sheep Marines team in July 2011. Marie, who is shy about her accolades, has always been an achiever and continues to be that in the sport of dragon boat with her excellent paddling skills. Her former profession was in law enforcement as a Chicago police officer and with a decision to change her profession after 10 years, she went back to school while maintaining her position on the force, and with 2 children at home she earned a 4 year nursing degree. That takes hard work, diligence and discipline, attributes which she carries over into her lead paddler position.

Marie has not missed a race since joining the team and manages to attend as many practices as she is able to, juggling her part-time surgical nursing position in The Villages and the care of her mother, not to mention Fred (I love being webmaster:), her Collie Riley and her cat Calliope who all travel to the races with her when there are pet friendly accommodations. True to her Chinese zodiac sign she is a sincere friend who has a calm appearance and strong heart but is not afraid to be frank and a kind way. Marie is an outstanding member of the team who has earned her position through consistent attendance, hard work and dedication to the team because she is of the motto "nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work" and her life is proof of that.

Mary Lou Bremer on starboard, joined the Black Sheep team in January 2012, and like Marie, is also the mother of two sons who are both talented professionals, following in the footsteps of their Mom, who have contributed a Grammy to the family achievements. She is a Specialist in Business Management for AT&T Services Advanced Client Technical Services (ACTS) and has a backup profession in Medical Radiology. Mary Lou met Bob Morrissette staying fit at MVP, which she is diligent about, and he invited her to try dragon boat. It appealed to Mary Lou from watching Yale sculling competitions in her home state of Connecticut. Mary Lou is no stranger to hard work, sharing another characteristic with her co-lead paddler Marie, so it is no surprise how well they perform together in their lead paddler roles. She not only works out at the gym 3 mornings a week, rising at 5:00 am to get in her work out before her full time job starts, but she also attends paddle practice regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That is a full schedule that many would not dare to attempt at our Village's ages, but then Mary Lou, again like Marie, could be mistaken for a "not of age" Villager and in fact has been. The team appreciates that Mary Lou's job is the best excuse to end practice promptly at 8:50 am, especially when Greg is in town coaching practices.

Mary Lou has made dragon boat racing a priority in her life and has paddled in all the Black Sheep races since joining with the exception of one due to a commendable family commitment. She shares a love of animals, again like Marie and has raised and shown her dogs and enjoyed equestrian riding in years past. Always striving for fitness and health, Mary Lou has a passion for gardening and seeking out local food sources and knows how to put a great meal on the table too. She could be considered the "life of the party" with her good nature and fun personality as she flits about parties and socials all smiles (and she has a beautiful one) with her distinct laugh and mischievous dragon antics.  

It would be hard to find her not smiling and having fun, but she is dead serious when it comes to her lead paddler position. Always striving to improve her technique, strength and endurance, Mary Lou tackles paddling like she does everything else, with passion and conviction, but also with a dash of fun and laughter true to her lively and energetic "Dragon" personality.

Black Sheep Team Achievements

With Our Leading Ladies 

2012 Tampa International - Silver C Division

2012 Walgreen's Orlando International - Gold Military Cup and Bronze A Division

2012 Village Challenge - Gold Village Cup

2013 Orlando DB Fest @ Turkey Lake - Bronze Senior C Division

2013 Central Fl DB Fest @ Tavares - Senior Division Cup and Gold Division B

2013 Punta Gorda DB Fest - Silver Division A

2013 Cocoa Beach DB Fest - Senior Village Cup/Gold Medal & Silver Community Mixed Event

2013 Tampa International - Silver B Division and Bronze Senior Division

Thank you Mary Lou & Marie!

The team and leaders high five their lead paddlers, Mary Lou and Marie for their hard work and dedication that have contributed greatly to the successes of the Black Sheep Marines team and their winning record!

Let the races begin!

March 23rd marked the start of the 2013 Spring racing season for the Black Sheep Marines. It was the team's first race at the Turkey Lake venue and for many of our new team members, their first dragon boat race experience. It was the perfect smaller venue to get the team's feet wet for the upcoming 2013 Spring Season. As we have all become aware of this past year, races are won and lost by fractions of a second as was the case at Turkey Lake. In the first 350M heat the Black Sheep qualified within a fraction of a second of 2 of our Village's competing teams, the Warriors and Silver Dragons, in the Senior C Division going on to win their Semi-Final heat competing with the Leatherneck Warriors and the Hawthorne Dragonflies. Achieving their first medal of the season, the Black Sheep took home a 3rd place medal in the Senior C final, a satisfactory result for a transitioning team who Coach Walker is pleased with but will no doubt get the best out of in the weeks to come.

In The Spotlight At Turkey Lake

Our Black Sheep drummer Joanne Lavoie was in popular demand at Turkey Lake March 23rd when she was recruited by the TECO Tan Anou Black team to drum for their boat in the 2000m race in which they placed 2nd to their sister Red team, the 2000m 1st place winners. What a thrill for Joanne to compete with this fine team and win a 2nd place medal...her second medal of the day!

Congratulations Joanne on your outstanding performances

for the Teco Tan Anou Black Team and the Black Sheep Marines Team!!

2000m Race Results 

Coach's Column

The New Version of Coach Walker!

In just 30 days a transformation has taken place. Coach Walker left his old self far Nova Scotia and a new version of himself has returned to The Villages for the spring racing season. You know the saying, "a leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not" and Coach Walker has intentionally set an example we can all be inspired to achieve. His hard work ethic has paid handsome dividends when he challenged himself to a 30 day fitness transformation while he spent a required month back in his Canadian home in order to compete in key races for the team.

He may be onto a fool proof method to achieving a fitness transformation in only 30 days time...ship those team members needing fitness transformation to Nova Scotia during the worst month of winter, leave them snow bound in his home with nothing to do for entertainment except shovel snow, transform his home into a gymnasium (don't tell Connie), leave the cook in Florida and don't stock the cupboards with any food!

Voila! A new version of yourself in 30 days!

Thanks to our Coach for being a leader that motivates by example

"Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen; The ones who win get inside their players and motivate."

We are all grateful for the abilities of Coach Walker to motivate us to work hard and become the winners we proved we can be at Orlando International Dragon Boat Festival on October 20th. Onward and upward Coach!

And onward and upward it was at the The 2012 Villages Dragon Boat Challenge on December 7th! The Black Sheep Marines are on a roll in large part due to Coach Walker's tremendous ability to motivate the team to peak performance. Winning three of their four races and 1st place in the event with the best combined 200m and 500m times with a boat short 4 paddlers is testament to a team that has trained hard and is strong and determined. As Coach Walker believes, and has been proven by the team's first year achievements, the harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. How does the team thank thee Coach? By their continued commitment to give you everything you ask for and more in the coming new year. Winning is sweet, but winning because you worked hard for it is even sweeter!

We will miss you and your singing Nancy!!

We truly enjoyed our time with you and hope you will be back

to see us soon! We thank you for your tremendous contribution to

the Black Sheep Marines. Greg paid you the greatest compliment

of all when he said, "My sister may even be a better paddler than me"! When a brother is willing to admit know he means it!!

Our Canadian Paddlers Janice & Mike

returned to The Villages on February 19th thru the 28th for a very special attend the surprise birthday celebration of Captain Gordon Gillis. It was great to have them with the team on this momentous occasion and their presence was a gift most dear to heart for both Gordon and Chris. Janice & Mike also renewed their 5 year wedding vows in February with a special celebration in Halifax with friends and family. Both are fitness fanatics who work out regularly and last year took up tennis. They spent many hours on the courts during their Village stay and hit with Greg as well as attended a practice clinic with Jane, Susan and Nels. The team closed their visit with an impromptu send off at Cody's. Janice and Mike's dedication to fitness and positive outlook continue to be an inspiration to all the team. We love having them and hope they will soon be back again!    

Janice Parsons & Mike Mason

Sadly we must say goodbye for now to

this lovely Canadian couple that we all fell

in love with. The team had such a great time with you this past three weeks and you will be in all our thoughts and prayers always. We thank you for contributing your talents to our team, but most of all we thank you for your inspiration. In the Chinese language, excellent and outstanding people are compared to "Dragons" and you both have demonstrated to us the level of excellence deserving of that comparison. Wishing you wonderful holidays and health and happiness in the coming new year. Oorah! 

Happy Chinese New Year!!

February 10, 2013

While saying farewell to the celestial dragon on February 3rd, we welcome the intelligent snake. Chinese New Year in 2013 falls on Sunday, Feb. 10th and is the Year of the Snake. Snakes have certain charms: Intelligence, awareness, elegance, mystery, cunning and passion. However they can also be proud, vain and vicious. It is said they are great mediators and good in business which is fortunate because snakes like the finer things in life.

The Laughing Dragon

Favorite photo of Cas so far...

Girls, Girls, Girls...Captain Gillis said "reduce" not "reproduce"!

Dear God,

I promise not to swear during the races anymore if you would let us win every race. Coach G.W.

PS...I just want to thank you for coming through for us at Tavares and I haven't said a "bleeping" swear word since.

What counts...the size of the boat in the fight or the size of the fight in the boat?

The Black Sheep team begs to differ with President Eisenhower's quote. It seems to be the size of the boat in the fight that counts because it sure seemed to give the team an advantage at Tavares!!

Have you seen our drummer Joanne Lavoie?

This sultry belly dancer showed up to drum for the Black Sheep at Tavares, but no one on the team has seen Joanne for over a week! Last they heard from her she was home sick and wouldn't be able to drum for the team at Tavares!'re all wet!!

If we all recall correctly, wasn't it Sharon you said would be swimming with the gators in Lake Sumter when she tested the OC1??  

Team Wins 1st Championship of 2013!!!!!

The team was awarded medals at Cody's on January 22nd, 2013 and are proud of their first accomplishment of the season in the absence of their Canadian Coach Greg Walker who is currently freezing his behind off for a month in Nova Scotia, a sacrifice he has made on behalf of the Black Sheep. The team is showing their appreciation for Coach Walker's sacrifice by being on good behavior and practicing diligently. We miss you Coach and can't wait for your return to show off our medals. Stay warm in the great white north...we are thinking of you and working hard for you down here in sunny, warm Florida, (except last night that was a little chilly)! (If you would like to see our beautiful medals a little closer, click on the picture above to enlarge).

Coco Christiansen...BUSTED!

Coco Christiansen and an unidentified accomplice

were busted in the parking lot following practice on Jan. 22, 2013 for dealing coconut oil and coconut flakes out of her car. Bob Morrissette, (retired law enforcement officer) first spotted this suspicious activity after Thursday's practice on January 17th and was able to capture the offenders in the act the following Tuesday with the assistance of crime photographer, Ray Vail. Bob said he was relieved to put an end to this public distribution, explaining that coconut oil and flakes are a team secret weapon that should only be shared and consumed by the team in preparation for races via Team Cookies. Any health enhancing consumption by other teams is strictly prohibited.

New Inductee Jane Hoffman's First Practice

The Black Sheep's newest member, Jane Hoffman was quickly shown the correct way to cop out of practice Tuesday morning while the Coach is away. She was shown their "no practice" hiding place at Paneras where they secretly indulge in pastries and bagels and conjure up excuses for Coach Walker as to why they couldn't practice. A couple of the popular excuses used are "Burrr... it was below 70 degrees" and "we saw a wave".

We don't want our Coach to worry about his new recruit getting properly trained...we are taking good care of her in his absence and showing her the ropes. 

New Year's Resolution!

A boat load of female paddlers has been placed on order and shipment is pending the Black Sheep team's next weigh in. I don't think there will be anymore cake on the post workout menu. Who is bringing the celery?

Let Them Eat Cake

By Mike Johnson

Ran across this post-training nourishment technique. It is called "Let Them Eat Cake" This method works best when the Captain and Coach are absent! Below is a picture with a crew demonstrating the technique. 

Top Ten Signs You're A Dragon Boat Addict

10. After a free financial seminar dinner at Nancy Lopez, you form a line outside the Country Club and high-five everyone as they file out.

9. Grand kids visit or Marathon Key Battle in the Bay Festival? Why, that practically answers itself.

8. When circling the Villages' roundabouts, you see a car creeping over the solid white line and yell, "woman in the white SUV…back it down or you're disqualified!"

7. You have calluses on your posterior and palms the size of quarters

6. When running with your friends to catch the last Village shuttle home from Orlando airport, you yell "series in 3…2…1".

5. You are starting to resemble the body shape of an athlete.

4. You know what a heart attack feels like before actually having one.

3. You argue with a 90 year old lady who is sitting in the middle of the Villages Airport Shuttle, claiming that you always sit in the "engine room".

2. After a dragon boat social night at TGIF Friday's you feel you will not tip over as long as you continue "feathering".

1. You have discovered things that smell worse than your dog's breath...PADDLE GLOVES AND SHOES!

It Not Only Takes A Team...

It takes the contributions of wives, husbands, significant others, children, grand children, friends, supporters and everyone and anyone connected with the Black Sheep Marines to keep the boat on the water! We can't possibly list all of you here, but know that we recognize that we couldn't do it without you. When we need a pat on the back, help packing & unpacking gear, a back rub for sore muscles, food prepared for socials and races, help with fund raisers, photographers, video tapers, fans, applause, encouragement and a shoulder to cry on, we know we can count on the special people in our lives to be there for us. 

We thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts and give extra special thanks to the following people for their contributions to the Walgreen's Orlando International Dragon Boat Festival

Fred Heidemann - Photography/Race Results

Nels Christiansen - Photography/Video

Lisa Johnson - Photography/Video

Sonja Ring - Photography/Team Support

And all the husbands, wives, & significant others who sat through the race day to support us...  


The definition of an unsung hero is a person who makes a substantial yet unrecognized contribution...

Lynn Feeks is the kind of person everyone immediately loves. I mean with an infectious smile like hers, how can you not love her! She invites you into her heart and for a petite person, she has got a great big one...ya, Mike Johnson, as big as yours! Also fondly known as "short round" Lynn holds the title as our "smallest and lightest paddler" and because of her size she frequently finds herself air borne in the arms of her fond Black Sheep team mates. You will never encounter Lynn without a smile to greet you and a laugh to go with it.

Lynn was recruited in February of 2012 by her fellow dragon and good friend, Mary Lou, to be a drummer for the Black Sheep Marines. She drummed the Black Sheep's first race (without a drum!), the grueling 7.5 mile Rick's Rally in Tampa and what an experience it was for her riding the bow for an hour plus of continuous paddling! Lynn knew immediately that she wanted to grip a paddle instead of a drum stick. So began Lynn's paddling career with the team in June 2012. Lynn paddled in her first race at Orlando International in downtown Disney last October, winning a gold medal in the Military Cup and bronze medal in the A final. She ended the year with another gold medal in the Village Cup Challenge.

Lynn has competed in 5 competitions this spring season and if there was a team award for best team spirit, she would have it. In team sports like dragon boat, it is never easy to move over for new team mates in practice and races but Lynn has done so with the kind of attitude that makes her admired and respected by her team mates and leaders, and that is why she has been chosen as the next unsung hero. Without team players like her who are willing to make the best of sacrifices for the good of the team, the Black Sheep wouldn't be the winning team they have become. For that she is more valuable than she will ever realize because a player who plays for the team, instead of themselves, will always be the most valuable player. Lynn is ambitious in her paddling, always striving to excel and aspires to be an alternate lead paddler. Recently she had that opportunity in practice and led the team through Coach Walker's rigorous drills like a seasoned pro! She is a stellar person in all walks of life as a Mother to her two children and care giver to her Mother. She has overcome obstacles in her life and painful losses and has come through a stronger person. Is it any wonder her favorite quote is "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger?"

Your Black Sheep team mates and leaders thank you Lynn for your sacrifices, team spirit and contributions that have helped the team to become everything they can be....and more!

September Birthdays

Bob Carroll 4th

Cas Chmielnicki 15th

Julie Mitchell 16th

Marie Heidemann 19th

Dean Nicholson 27th

October Birthdays

Susan Christiansen 2nd

Mike Mason 4th

Mary Lou Bremer 20th

Janice Parsons 30th

November Birthdays

Lorreta Supplee - 8th

Bill Marsh - 27th

Welcome New Sheep!

On Dry Land

....the team wishes you a speedy recovery!

Julie Mitchell...we miss you on board and hope your recovery is going well. We will see you at Nationals!


sometimes a person stands out because they don't stand out and that is what makes Gene Campbell our next unsung hero. That may cause you to chuckle and I guarantee you Gene will be the first to think it was funny. From the largest size sheep, Mike Johnson who was our last Unsung Hero, to our smallest size sheep, Gene, like Mike can take a ribbing and keep on smiling. Gene is a veteran Marine from the flat land of Illinois and is married to a beautiful gal, Jo Ellen who is as sweet a person as you will ever meet. They are proud and loving parents of a cherished daughter, son-in-law and 3 incredible grandsons. One look at this picture and you instinctively know, Gene is a loved man who has so much to be proud of.

It doesn't get more all-American than this family and Gene represents his life as a marine, a father, a husband and a friend to all very, very well. But what about Gene, the dragon boat paddler? Gene is a reliable team mate whose face is always visible at practices, races, charities, such as Toys for Tots and socials. He is the team's secret weapon, small enough to put in any seat and light enough to trim the boat's male weight by 50 to 75 pounds. You know what they say, dynamite comes in small packages and Gene has certainly shown what a new paddler can do when he competed at Disney in October and The Villages Challenge in December shortly after joining the team and earning 3 medals to show his grandsons. As for Gene the person...he doesn't say too much and that is exactly what makes him so magnetic and makes you want to get to know him more. Mostly Gene smiles and chuckles, like in the picture of Gordon hoisting Joanne for a hug at his surprise party. If he gets comments on the boat about his paddling that would irritate some, he just smiles and continues his paddling. He doesn't let anything or anyone rattle him or get to him because Gene has what most other people would love to have ...the ability to control his emotions and not take anything personally. Besides he is just too nice of a guy to care about the trivialities of others or make a fuss about anyone or anything. Case in point, a few practices ago the team had several cards to sign for upcoming birthdays and I happened to be using the back of Gene's open SUV as my desk that morning, but I didn't realize it was his vehicle. Believe it or not, lost for words, I was taking my sweet time writing my birthday wishes, but I kept seeing Gene pacing about out of the corner of my eye. I thought, oh, he is just hanging with Joanne and I enjoying the post practice chatter. After probably 10-15 minutes, Gene is still circling the area and finally when I finished signing the cards, Gene came over closed the back of his SUV, and as I am falling all over myself apologizing for holding him up, Gene reacts as he always does, he smiles and chuckles, doesn't say a word and gets in his SUV and drives off. And that is why Gene Campbell you are a dear guy that we are proud to associate with and love having as a team mate and I know you have a big list of fans on the team with Mary Lou, Lynn and myself leading the pack.

Happy Birthday Gene! You are a lucky lady Jo Ellen to be hitched to such a great man and Gene a lucky guy to have such a sweet and loving woman.