The Legacy that is Waldo Emerson Sexton...Ralph's dad and Sean's grandfather.

Dated: July 7 2023

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Waldo Emerson Sexton, a prominent figure in the history of Indian River County, Florida, played a vital role in shaping the region's development. Born in 1885, Sexton was an entrepreneur and visionary who left a lasting impact on the local community. He established successful businesses, including the Indian River Citrus Bank and the Seminole Hotel. Sexton was also an avid collector of architectural artifacts, assembling an impressive collection that would later become the foundation of the renowned McKee Botanical Garden, Ocean Grill, Driftwood Resort, Patio Restaurant, and the former Szechuan Palace. He played a pivotal role in preserving and promoting the area's natural beauty and cultural heritage. Today, Waldo Emerson Sexton's legacy lives on as his contributions to Indian River County continue to be cherished and admired.


1885 — Waldo Emerson Sexton is born March 23 in Shelby County, Indiana, the sixth child to Isaac Sexton and Sarah Buckingham Sexton. Throughout childhood, he worked on the family’s 80-acre farm.

1906 — Graduates from Shelbyville (Ind.) High School and enters the University of Indiana to study medicine but later drops out and enrolls in Purdue University to study animal husbandry in 1908.

1911 — Graduates from Purdue and moves to Barberton, Ohio, where he works as manager on the farms of O.C. Barber, known as the Diamond Match King.

1913 — Begins work as a traveling salesman for the Spalding Deep Tilling Machine and travels to Vero for a demonstration. When the demonstration goes awry, he decides to make Vero his home, buys small plots of land and works as a sales agent for Indian River Farms Co.

1915 — Begins the purchase of large pieces of property on the beach and southwest Vero.

1917 — Moves into his bungalow on 12th Street as a bachelor.

1918 — Marries Elsebeth Martens of Franklin Park, IL

They later produce a family of two girls, Mary, and Barbara and two boys, Ralph, and Charles.

1920 — Opens Oslo Packinghouse.

1924 — Founds Vero Beach Dairy, the first commercial dairy in the area.

1932 — Opens McKee Jungle Gardens with Arthur McKee.

1934 — Begins building the Driftwood — then referred to as the Breezeway — as a weekend beach getaway for his family. The project evolves into a hotel that becomes known as the Driftwood Inn and a restaurant now known as Waldo’s.

1937 — Completes and opens what would become known as the Patio restaurant.

1941 — Completes the building now known as the Ocean Grill, which opened as Gus and Emma’s Ocean Grill.

1943 — With 160 acres received from the dissolution of the Kenmore Cattle Company held with three other partners, starts Treasure Hammock Ranch.

1947 — Begins a series of hospitalizations for the treatment of manic depression.

1956 — Begins building Waldo’s Mountain and completes it in 1960.

1957 — Completes and opens the Turf Club, formerly the Szechuan Palace.

1958 — Waldo Sexton Day is celebrated in Vero Beach on Nov. 5.

1967 — Dies Dec. 28 at the age of 82 and is buried in Crestlawn Cemetery in Vero Beach.

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Kyle Von Kohorn

Born and raised in Vero Beach, FL, Kyle Von Kohorn is remarkably well-acquainted with this lovely coastal town and its satellite communities. After earning his degree in Business Administration at ....

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