5F to Dresings: ‘We lost the battle but won the war’
Friday, 29 August 2014 11:40
BY JACK SHORT - A representative of 5F, the company that owns property on Three Sisters Island as well as 128 acres of submerged land nearby, said they were satisfied with a recent decision by the second district court of appeals, even though it was, nominally at least, a ruling against them.
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Editorial: 'If not me, then who?'
Friday, 29 August 2014 11:10
BY MARCY SHORTUSE - That’s not how we do it in Sanibel. Or Winter Park. Or in Savannah, Ga.
According to Fort Myers City Council Member Michael Flanders, Boca Grande residents need to shape up. We’re lazy. Parking on Gilchrist Avenue and all. And he said we should look to the three communities listed above for guidance.
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Profile: Joanna Banks-Morgan
Friday, 22 August 2014 14:14
BY MARCY SHORTUSE - Joanna Banks-Morgan grew up surrounded by the smell of newsprint, and a mom who was a very important part of Boca Grande’s history.
While she’s a native of Boca Grande, she currently lives in Panama City Beach, following in her mother’s footsteps in a way. She is co-owner of Sixpence Productions, a wedding videography company that she and her husband, Robert, operate.
The reason Joanna grew up surrounded by the smell of newsprint was because her mother, Marnie Banks, was the founder of the Boca Beacon.
“My mom was a journalist,” Joanna said. “First for the Evening Independent in St. Pete, then for a radio station in Sarasota, later for WINK in Fort Myers and we moved around a lot, until we landed in Boca when I was nine. My grandparents, Marge and Jim Fausch, were my constant in St. Pete, so I’ve always considered it my other hometown.”
Like her mother and grandmothers before her, Joanna is a strong woman. When asked who she admired most in life, she had to think about it for a minute.
“I’m going play it safe and go with my grandmothers, who were both strong, determined women,” she said. “I’m a 45-year-old who can say both her grandmothers graduated from college (Indiana University in the 1940s), which is kind of unusual. They came from very different backgrounds, one privileged and one very rural and lived very different lives, but neither of them ever neglected their intellect, and I really admire that trait.”
Joanna grew up on Palm Avenue, in a home that was owned by Myrtle Bloomport. At that time Myrtle owned Presley’s Flowers.
“The house had a tin roof and only one room with air conditioning,” Joanna recalled. “Because my mom worked from home on the Beacon in the early years, we had a lighting table in the hallway (made from an old door) and the typesetting equipment got to live in the room with the air conditioning. There was also a shed in the backyard which was converted to a darkroom for photography. That shed is where my love affair with photos and film began ... it was also air-conditioned, so I had an ulterior motive.”
Joanna loved that house. There was a key lime tree in the back yard, which prolifically produced fruit. Joanna learned to make key lime pie and Jack Harper, who owned Millers Marina, agreed to buy the pies for the restaurant.
“I think Jack was just one of the many island adults in my childhood who indulged me,” she said. “I know Capt. Bill Miller did. I caught my first tarpon when I was 11-years-old. I weighed about 80 pounds and Bill chased a 125-pound monster all over the Pass in his boat, the Lucky Strike, so I could bring it in. This was after putting live bait crabs in his mouth to entertain me. Sybil Futch would allow me to park myself at the bar in the Temp (NOT on the butcher’s block) and order a Shirley Temple. Frank and Jean would feed me Crabmeat Temptation.”
Being an only child (at that time) and being the daughter of a mother who worked long, hard hours, Joanna had a lot of “second families” on the island. The Wheelers took her in and fed her, Myrtle let her hang out in the flower shop when it got too hot during hide-and-seek games, and Betsy Joiner at Fugate’s and the Hudson’s workers never raised an eyebrow when she would come in and do her best Eloise impression, saying, “Charge it, please!”
“Looking back I have this huge sense of community,” Joanna said. “Boca was a place where people took care of each other.”
Some of Joanna’s fondest memories of the island were staying at the Waterfront and fishing on a boat owned by her grandparents’ friends, Bud and Betty Whitmer, and playing in the lighthouse at the south end. Back then, it was derelict and falling into the Gulf.
“When I was growing up, the Wheelers lived at the south end, in the Keeper’s Cottage,” she said. “Stephanie Wheeler and I had crazy active imaginations and we had a blast playing in the lighthouse, climbing the rocks (I remember the storm which revealed those rocks!), and watching the tarpon jump and roll in the Pass. I’ve been so blessed to ex- perience the things I have in my life, I’m starting to tear up just thinking about how much fun we had.”
“I don’t know if the Boca Grande I grew up on exists anymore. There were a lot of island kids in the ’70s and ’80s. We ran wild all over the is- land, on our bikes constantly, explor- ing the tracks, playing touch football under the banyan trees, fishing, clam- ming, jumping off bridges, hanging out at the rec, putting on shows, and just generally running free. My mom could whistle really loudly with her fingers and, if I was near town, I could hear her and knew it was my cue to come home. We weren’t destructive, just not overly supervised. I think the only place any of us found any real structure in our day to day activities was through Dee Wheeler’s programs at the rec center, or in our church youth groups. I really had a fabulous childhood!”
Joanna’s parents were both creative people. While Marnie was first and foremost a journalist, Joanna’s father became an actor. They met while studying at Indiana University, in the theater department.
When it was determined between them that things weren’t working out, Marnie moved south, and Joanna’s dad, Jonathan Banks, headed west to seek fortune and fame. He found it, and he went on to have a very consistent acting career, both on the small and big screens.
In recent years, he’s best known for his role as Mike Ehrmantraut in “Breaking Bad.” He’s actually the only actor to be nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Emmy in two different series – “Wiseguy” and “Breaking Bad.”
Along the way Joanna acquired siblings as well. She has a stepsister, Ruth, and a half brother and half sister, Claudio and Rebecca.
“My stepmom, Geni is from Madrid, so holidays in the Banks household are a little crazy with the different cultures (I’m married to a Welshman),” Joanna laughed.
Joanna left Florida in 1987 to go to Florida State. From there she went on to attend The University of Wales, Cardiff College/St. Edward’s University.
When it was time to decide what to do as a career, she pondered her options. While she loved shooting photos for the Beacon when she was a teenager, having two parents with creative personalities left her longing for structure. She took a job with IBM in the United Kingdom, but after three years of that she realized it wasn’t for her. She relocated to Plymouth in Devon, and somehow ended up at Westcountry Television (ITV).
Suddenly, she felt like she was home.
“Journalists, talent, and a newsroom ... it was like my parents’ worlds had collided into the perfect career for me,” she said. “Unfortunately, journalists don’t make much money and I persuaded (coerced) a cameraman into shooting a wedding with me for some extra cash. Eventually, I learned to shoot and edit myself. My interest in photography has come back in recent years because we now film with DSLR cameras instead of traditional video cameras. I love photography, but I love filming more. I need my pictures to speak and move. I’m an emotion junkie and filming fills that need for me.”
Joanna met her husband, Robert, in 1994, but they didn’t start dating until 1995.
“We were neighbors and really we weren’t each other’s type, so there wasn’t that immediate physical attraction,” she said. “He likes tall, thin and brunette and I was the polar opposite – short, curvy and blonde. Also, I liked my boyfriends in a Naval uniform, but he was a cop. We were friends first, and a little too much wine one night led to an experimental kiss and then it was all over for both of us.”
Rob and Joanna moved back to the States the year their daughter, Rhiannon, was born, in 1998.
“Rob also retired from the South Wales Constabulary that year, the housing market in the UK was good, and we thought, ‘There’s not going to be a better time to do this!’ so off we headed to California where Rob had a job offer with an executive protection company, and I had interviews set up with some studios (thanks Dad!).”
Joanna quickly realized production in Hollywood was very different than production in the UK. She had to juggle a 10-month-old baby, with 14-16 hour days ... and it simply didn’t work. So she took a job doing writing and research for a valuation firm.
Joanna eventually was picked by another valuation firm in Texas, so the family “embraced their inner nomads” and headed for the Lone Star State.
I loved Austin, Rob hated it,” Joanna said. “As a man who’d lived his entire life by the water, he was miserable living inland. Unfortunately, the well-paid Austin job wasn’t a whole lot of fun, and I missed the buzz of a newsroom. So I took a job with the CBS affiliate in Austin, KEYE TV. At the time the station was still owned by CBS, we had a news director who valued real news, and I was surrounded by talented journalists. Life was good. But we lived inland and Rob was miserable so, eventually, it was time to find our way back to a coastal community.”
The family ended up in Panama City Beach almost by default. Joanna had organized interviews with TV stations along the east coast, in Panama City Beach, Savannah, and Charleston. While they were checking out those communities, they found out their house in Texas had sold. They were going to have to move out in one month’s time.
“I had a job offer in Panama City, it was coastal, it was Florida, and it affordable,” Joanna said.
Joanna, Rob and Rhiannon are all happily living back in Florida now. Rhiannon is thriving in school, and is on her way to becoming a strong, fearless woman like the generations of women before her.
“Oh Lord, mostly this child reminds me of her great-grandmothers,” Joanna laughed. “Strong – emotionally and physically, driven, fearless. People ask if she’s like my mom, and yes, she is in some ways. I see my mom in her sense of humor and her empathy for other people. But Rhiannon is pretty much completely, uniquely, Rhiannon.”
Of all the things Joanna learned from her mom, one thing stands out. “Both of my parents have taught me the importance of being kind,” she said. “Just be kind. A lesson which was uniquely my Mom was forgiveness. She was very forgiving, and I think I am, too.
“However, her biggest lesson had to be, ‘If not me, then who?’ Boca Grande needed a newspaper (there hadn’t been one in 50 years at the time), and awareness needed to be raised about the Indian mounds, and the lighthouse needed to be renovated and preserved for future generations. She played a huge part in all of those things. She WAS those things. I’d like to think I have some of that spirit.”
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