BY LIZA STROUT - When visitors come to Gasparilla Island, they often remark on the difference between Boca Grande and Sanibel or Siesta Key. The laid-back charm, the preserved downtown, the complete lack of towering condos. They ask why this island is so different from the others.
Any answer would have to include Creighton Sherman.
Creighton was born in Marshall, Mich., where he spent his childhood playing with the other children in the small town. In the summer, it was bikes and tricycles. Winter brought out the sleds.
“Kids don’t really have hobbies,” he mused. “They have things that they like to do, but I wouldn’t call them hobbies.”
Creighton’s mother stayed home to raise him and his brother. His father was a merchant.
“He owned the first Chevrolet dealership in town. He also owned the family shoe store, which was in business from 1892 - 1981. And right out of high school he had a stint with the Post Office,” he said.
He grew up with one brother, David.
In 1950, Creighton graduated from Michigan State, having studied Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning. He put that training to use on Gasparilla Island. In 1971, he first came to the island, lured by the tales of his wife’s uncle, Livingston Hunter.
“He was on the island, supervising the building of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. He told us how beautiful it was, so we visited,” he said. “While he was here, he bought a home, it was an old, empty fishing shack, and he had a house built there. Today it is the Stanton house.”
Creighton was quick to buy his own home on the island. “In 1972, we bought a house on a back road on the island.
Hank Wright and his wife owned a home there. We decided that the road needed a name.”
It is thanks to Creighton and Wright that Boca Grande has the ‘Damfi’ Streets: Damficare, Damfino, Damfiwill. Creighton’s house was on Damficare.
In the late 1970s, a group of island residents got together to discuss their concerns about the future development of Gasparilla Island. The result of their conversations was the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association, or GICIA.
“At the time, this was a very laid back, lovely island. It was slow, and peaceful. There were still so many lovely native residents. It really was one of the best examples of early Southwest Florida on the Gulf Coast. And we wanted to keep it that way. The island was still relatively unknown, but it was starting to be noticed. We didn’t want to lose the charm and the history and the way of life like so many other places did,” he explained.
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