Staten Island may be a long way from Boca Grande, but Mary Anne (Domiano) Hastings found her way here. From New York to New Jersey, Pennsylvania to Florida, she has traveled around the eastern part of the country looking for the right opportunity. She found it here in Boca Grande, as the managing director of the Boca Grande Health Clinic Foundation.
She and her husband, Lew Hastings (the executive director of our Chamber of Commerce), have a cozy little house just a block or so from their offices. Living the Boca lifestyle suits them just fine, though it’s a far cry from their humble beginnings.
Mary Anne and her two brothers were raised by a single mom for a good portion of their childhood. She learned many things from her mother, and one of those things was perseverance. After being raised in a blue-collar neighborhood until she was 10, the family was thrust into public housing when her parents divorced.
“We didn’t like where we lived, but we had no choice,” she said. “Our mom raised us on a minimum wage job with no child support. We did have a great group of friends there, though, and 24-hour security in our building.”
Another interesting aspect of her residence for so many years was a neighbor boy named Lew Hastings. They both went to the same public school, where the legendary P.S. 22 Chorus was born. The two were friends for years, but never thought about dating.
Mary Anne’s mother worked for a not-for-profit organization, and she would often go to work with her mother.
“Even though her database was on old metal sheets that you imprinted on envelopes, she is where I got my training,” Mary Anne said.
Mary Anne, however, wanted to be a doctor when she grew up. She carried that dream through school, and put it on hold when she graduated and got married.After school she moved to New Jersey and worked in retail. She quickly tired of city living, though, and moved to rural western New Jersey. From there she moved to the Poconos, where she lived for about nine years, found a better job in medical billing and had her twin girls, Brittany and Corynne. A few years after the twins were born she had Pam, her youngest, who is now 17.
Brittany and Corynne work together in the Poconos now, and Pam goes to school on the east coast of Florida.
“No matter what, the twins always gravitate back to each other,” Mary Anne laughed.
Mary Anne and her husband had an opportunity to move to Florida in 1995. The couple bought a business and were fairly successful. Eventually they got divorced, and Mary Anne found herself doing what she had been doing for most of her life: Adapting.
She got a job at the Lemon Bay Golf Course in the golf shop, and was working there when one day she spoke with Mike Dacey. He was the chairman of the Boca Grande Health Clinic board at the time, and told her about a job working for the foundation. She applied and was offered the position.
“I’ve been here for more than five years,” she said. “I was hired when they were developing this position. The foundation had just formed and they had a part-time office manager. At some point they decided it was a full-time job. Mike told me about it, and I was in a position where I needed to get back into a profession, not just a job. Everything kind of took off from there. We have grown together, the job and I.”
What started as an office manager job soon became an important administrative position. When she walked in the door, the board members were doing all the work themselves, from fund-raising to writing letters.
“I was able to take some of the burden off them,” she said. “And the job kept growing and growing. The foundation is very successful in their fundraising endeavors.”
One day she was browsing her high school web page and saw the name “Lew Hastings” for the first time in many years.
“We hadn’t seen or heard from each other in 25 years,” she said. “I told my brother about it and the three of us stayed in touch. I arranged a trip to go see my girls in Pennsylvania, Lew was living in New Jersey and my brother was in Philadelphia. We arranged a meeting after many e-mails, and we eventually had a big reunion.”
Mary Anne described that meeting, and said that when Lew was the last to arrive she sent her daughter, Corynne, out to meet him. She was in her early 20s at the time.
“I hid when he arrived,” she said. “I sent Corynne out to meet him because she looks just like I did the last time he saw me. He’s a smart man, though, he didn’t buy it. But it’s funny we ended up together, because he was the man my mother would have liked for me to marry many, many years ago. You just never know when it can happen.”
After a lot of frequent flyer miles, emails, phone calls and a marriage proposal, Mary Anne asked Lew to move to Florida. At first he was somewhat leery of the idea – until he discovered Boca Grande.
Now the couple enjoys the island’s outdoor paradise as much as possible. She can be found walking their two dogs, Cracklin’ Rosie and Chopper. Rosie is a large, opinionated mixed-breed and Chopper is a rat terrier that was supposed to be a Chihuahua.
“I’m a pre-dawn walker, I like Boca Grande in the dark,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite things. In the dark, we have a blast. I love the sky, the stars … I just love it out here in the early morning.”
And then there’s softball. Lately, Mary Anne and Lew have become well-known for their prowess on the diamond at the end of Wheeler Street. She has been playing for a long time, but not by choice.
“I was always into sports as a kid, and a total tomboy,” she said. “I never played softball until my late 30s, but I played baseball all my life. It was always with boys, though. I was the only girl. No one would let me play baseball as a woman in my 30s in Florida, so I had to make a switch. But I would drop softball in a second if I could play football.”
She is one to play, not to watch. Her big picture is to find a group of people on the island who just want to be active, and possibly vary the activities from time to time. The “Boca Grande Pick-up Softball Game,” which can be found on Facebook for updates, was a creation to find such people. The group plays on Tuesday nights at the Wheeler Street field, starting at 5:30 p.m.
“I would like to eventually find people who might want to play flag football one week and beach volleyball the next,” she said. “I just want to find a group of people that likes to be active and have fun.”
Mary Anne’s job at the clinic does keep her on her toes, sometimes leaving precious little time for any sport. She is currently working on taking the clinic’s physician lecture series and expanding it for the upcoming season. The first lecture will be an emergency services panel discussion that will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 2.
“We want to make sure the community understands what the procedures are before an emergency happens,” she said. “This discussion will teach people how to be prepared, who to call and when to call them. We will also have five other lectures in the series, and all of them are free to the community.“
While Mary Anne meets some interesting people in her line of work, she said her favorite thing about the island are the people who live here.
“I can’t get over the people here, especially the ones I work with,” she said. “The trustees are wonderful. But I also love just being here, getting the chance to play tennis and walk in the parks any time of year. I do anything I can outdoors, given the chance.”
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