A food and fun staple of the Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel communities for more than half a century, the Crackerbox patriarch, Jim Welker, is one lucky man. What was supposed to be a routine surgery turned into a seven-month nightmarish struggle between life and death, recently recovering from the horrible ordeal.
"We're not out of the woods yet, but he's recovered significantly since the operation. This last six months made us realize how close it is to not having him here with us," said Jody Jones, Jim's daughter and manager of the Crackerbox. "He was going through a simple procedure on his knee. luckily he was transported to a hospital with a great doctor who saved him. He went through liters and liters of blood (transfusion), and they say no one over the age of 30 beats that treatment."
Months passed in the ICU, and Jim spent 145 days in the hospital, 71 days in rehabilitation.
Jim Welker. PHOTO PROVIDED.
"He beat all odds. He is amazing and on the way to recovery. We watched him go from the ICU hooked up to tubes to a wheelchair to a walker and now to a cane," Jody said. "However, we missed all of the big holidays. To celebrate his recovery, and to celebrate Jim and his birthday, we're hosting a Crackerbox Jamboree Saturday, Feb. 22, from noon to 11 p.m. It will literally be a backyard barbecue birthday/recovery party for Jim Welker."
Jody encourages all to come out Saturday to enjoy lip-smackin' good barbecue, games of horseshoe and cornhole, lots of raffles and 50/50s, and, of course live music all day with Jim Welker and the Crackerbox band, among other musical groups, all taking place at the 16910 McGregor Blvd. location.
"I want all of Lee County to come out and listen to him and if you have an instrument and want to play, come on up and jam with Jim," Jody said. "Although he's no longer on feeding or oxygen tubes, they really scratched up his vocal chords, so he won't be singing that day, but he'll definitely be playing. We will have musicians from Naples to Fort Myers coming by throughout the day to play with him, whether it's a song, a set, or all day. Don't miss the opportunity!"
What: Recovery and birthday celebration for Jim Welker
When: Saturday, Feb. 22 from noon to 11 p.m.
Where: The Crackerbox at 16910 McGregor Blvd.
Details: Call 466-4344 or find the Crackerbox on Facebook.
Jim, who also serves as Commander of the American Legion, will perform that day with his Crackerbox Band, from 3 to 5:30 p.m., followed by Pain in the Grass, from 5:30 to 7:30, and The Jesse Allen Band, from 7:30 on into the night. Prior to that, all are welcome to get on the stage and jam with the best of 'em including Jim.
Throughout the recovery and birthday party, look forward to a plethora of prizes awarded through raffles and 50/50s, featuring anything from restaurant gift certificates and hotel stays to spa trips and other island activities, in an effort to help raise some funds to cover his recent medical plight.
"We jokingly call him the $2 Million Man, because that's how much it cost while he was hospitalized.
"We'll have all types of fun going on inside and outside that day, all to celebrate Jim and wish him into a full recovery," Jody concluded. "He has so much to live for; the family is so blessed. We had 'Pray for Jim' on our sign out front, and received so many calls from people who saw it, wanting to know what was going on. All of the prayers that have been sent, all of the love, it's because of all that that he is still here with us."
For further information on Jim's recovery and birthday party, call the Crackerbox, 239-466-4344, or find the restaurant on Facebook.