Resident encourages people to be ‘unifiers, not dividers’

To the Editor:

I read Capt. Johnson’s letter to the editor this week with great interest and felt his nostalgia for a different era. As he described it, Boca Grande was once an isolated, unique and idyllic place for a few fortunate families. He is right that the island is not what it once was before the bridge was built. It is not even what it once was when my family first came here in 1971. It is not what I remember from the time I began bringing my children here during spring vacation and when my father died here in 1977.

There is an adage attributed to Heraclitus that says, “Nothing is changeless except change.” Whether we like it or not, change occurs. We grow up and leave childhood behind. We grow old and infirmities happen. We lose the people we have loved. The world is more populated everywhere. We have instant mass communications with television and Internet that pass information from everywhere no matter where you are.

As I reflected on Capt. Johnson’s words and what they mean for all of us in this community today, I began to think about what those changes are for Boca Grande, both the good and the bad. The island is no longer isolated, and yet compared to the rest of Florida and the world today, it is still unique and in some ways idyllic.

It is obvious from the number of cars and huge food delivery trucks, plus a real estate boom that more people are coming to live here for the winter. Some come to live here all year. People I know and love in the working community tell me that some of those new people don’t have the same sensibilities as the members of the older families, people who treat everyone, no matter who they are, with respect. In February and March, when the town is so crowded that none of us who call Boca Grande home – even if only for six months – can find a parking space, the lines at the post office go out the door, Hudson’s is a zoo full of people at noon and at 4 until closing, we all want the months to be over.

But imagine what Boca Grande might have been if Bayard Sharp, a DuPont heir, had not been the visionary and the force behind the Gasparilla Conservation Act. His commitment prevents a highrise from ever being built on this island, and many other stipulations protect it from development. Imagine if he had not given the railroad property to the G.I.C.I.A. to build the walking and bike path. Imagine if Nina Houghton had not made the effort to see that Whidden’s Marina was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and helped to start the museum. Imagine if people (some of them wealthy part-timers) had not worked for years and gone in buses to Fort Myers to help establish the new Island School. Imagine if the Woman’s Club had not started Boca Bargains and held events to raise money for island children and the children of people who work here to be given scholarships to colleges. Imagine if we did not have the wonderful Johann Fust Library that is affiliated with Lee County and offers so much to island children as well as to adults. There are many changes to be proud of and to be grateful for.

For me, the important lesson here is gratitude and responsibility. Whether you are a member of an old island family or a newcomer, a year-rounder or a part-timer, no matter your background or financial circumstances, we are all lucky to be in Boca Grande.

I thank Capt. Johnson for sharing his memories. He is blessed to have them. Even considering the many changes, we are blessed to be here now, and it is up to each of us to honor this lovely island, to be cordial and respectful to everyone, to be responsible to see that the inevitable changes that will come are constructive and not destructive, to be unifiers and not dividers.

Alice Gorman
Boca Grande