While many Naples residents flee for the summer, there’s plenty to appreciate in the area, even when things turn sultry. For proof, consider Scott and Jennifer O’Dell. During the week, you’ll find this well-established local couple working side by side at The Wellington Group at Morgan Stanley, a wealth-management team they cofounded. When the weekends come, however, they “throttle back,” as Scott says, and spend their days relaxing together. The pair enjoy the best of the Paradise Coast, from savoring food and drink to sightseeing and littoral pursuits.
Twenty-three years ago, when they had the opportunity to move to Naples from East Norwalk, Connecticut, they jumped. At the time, Scott worked for A.G. Edwards, a financial firm that allowed him to relocate to the Sunshine State. The thought of living in Naples excited them, so they packed up and, with sons Ryan and Colin (now 25 and 23, respectively), settled in the long-standing community of the Vineyards, where they still reside today.
If you ask the O’Dells, life is just better in Southwest Florida. “It’s just easy to live in this region—everything is easier,” says Jennifer.
Living in Southwest Florida may be more carefree than in other parts of the country, especially in the winter, but that doesn’t mean life passes without problems or complications. “Life isn’t always meant to be easy,” says Jennifer.
She speaks from experience. In 2001, at the age of 31 and not long after they moved to Naples, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “It was weird, tough, and scary,” recalls Jennifer. She received chemotherapy and underwent a double mastectomy as well as subsequent breast reconstruction and a preventive hysterectomy.
“I was aggressive about [my treatment],” she explains. “Everyone has problems, but we’re on this earth for certain lessons and our spirits grow through our experiences.”
Just a few years following Jennifer’s triumph over cancer, Scott had a serious health scare when he was diagnosed with a life-threatening bacterial infection. Suffering from what’s known as a retropharyngeal abscess, a condition affecting the lymph nodes in the back of the throat, he was placed in the intensive care unit. He lay unconscious for several days and was given a 50 percent chance of survival. Thankfully, after a series of surgeries, Scott made a full recovery. And, like Jennifer, whom Scott affectionately refers to as “Blondie,” he has no despondence in his tone; instead, he exudes only perseverance.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you get hit; it matters that you keep getting up,” says Scott.
Work Hard, Play Hard
Not all couples could work together day in and day out, but Scott and Jennifer have developed an approach that serves them well.
“Sometimes we can butt heads a bit,” says Jennifer, who works as insurance planning director for The Wellington Group, “but having a larger team [at work] changes the dynamic.” Scott, a senior vice president for the company, agrees, adding, “We are used to not letting work disrupt us when we’re off.”
While summer seems to decelerate the Naples lifestyle, the O’Dells stay bustling with activities they find difficult to fit in during the busier winter season. “We have more time [in summer] and can take advantage of our beautiful surroundings,” says Jennifer.
When it’s time for dolce far niente, the O’Dells indulge in the best of what Naples offers, including Naples Botanical Garden, the 170-acre gem featuring plants from around the globe. “My love for the garden started about 20 years ago,” says Scott. “It’s a beautiful place—just gorgeous—and they do such an amazing job of evolving and keeping it fresh, even for those who visit it often.”
Jennifer and Scott—the latter a former United States merchant mariner—also relish the lazier days of summer aboard their boat with their dog, Paco, in tow. They take day excursions to places in and around Keewaydin Island and Marco Island, such as Cape Romano.
“We love to enjoy the boat and also walk along the beach,” says Jennifer. “We’re on the boat just about every weekend. I could pick up shells for days.”
Outside of work and leisure time, the O’Dells—often in partnership with The Wellington Group—are highly philanthropic and have supported more than 20 organizations over the years. The pair frequently focus on groups that support veterans, women and children, and the arts.
“We try to ensure our community’s core is taken care of,” says Scott. “It’s about making a positive difference and assisting people who face or who have faced adversity and helping them come out on the other side.”
Jennifer adds, “Supporting our veterans is very important; these causes are special to us. My father—and Scott’s, too—served in World War II.”
One well-known local organization the O’Dells have devoted time and effort to is Freedom Waters Foundation, which enhances the lives of children, individuals with special needs, and veterans through therapeutic boating experiences.
“Scott and Jennifer are extremely generous and loving people,” says Debra Frenkel, founder and executive director of the foundation. “They give so much to the community. In fact, they were the first event sponsors of our Kind Mariners Ball.”
The O’Dells have proudly supported other organizations, including Celebrity Martini Glass Auction, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, The Shelter for Abused Women & Children, Collier Child Care Resources, American Cancer Society, and Parkinson’s Association of Southwest Florida. Jennifer also serves on the board of the United Arts Council of Collier County. In Naples, there are countless means to dedicate oneself philanthropically, and Jennifer and Scott cast a broad net.
“There are so many ways, so many things to do to help. It’s about supporting people who have struggled,” reiterates Scott—and perhaps making the lives of others so much sunnier.