Danny McKee: He was a good friend who got us through the storm

December 31, 2015
By Marcy Shortuse

another mckee copy
 
This story has been compiled from an interview with Danny McKee that ran in the July 27, 2007 edition of the Boca Beacon, the week that Danny retired after working for 32 years as the island’s Department of Transportation Supervisor. At that time he was headed out to live in Wyoming.
Danny passed away on December 21, 2015 in Rapid City, South Dakota. 
Born and bred in the hills of North Carolina, Danny McKee, local supervisor of maintenance for Lee County Parks and Recreation, says he enjoys living among the palm trees now. Like many islanders, he came upon Boca Grande by accident. He first heard about the island from a high school friend who had moved here and was working at The Pink Elephant. Danny came to visit him during a vacation and didn’t want to leave. He was 19, and Boca Grande seemed like paradise.
“I liked everything about Boca Grande,” he said.
He especially enjoyed the rural, open spaces on the island and warm southern weather. Hickory, N.C., where he grew up, was too cold for him.
“I never did like being cold, especially once I found out that down here it wasn’t that way,” he said.
But Danny also liked Boca Grande’s natural landscaping and all of the opportunities the town offered for outdoor work. In North Carolina he spent a lot of time working inside, in factories. Hickory was a town of factories with a large concentration of furniture and textile mills. When Danny was 16 he got his driver’s license and took a job at a cotton mill. Still in school at the time, he had classes all day and worked from 4 p.m. to midnight, rolling terry cloth and sweeping up.
Danny moved to Boca Grande in the early 1970s. The Gasparilla Inn was undergoing renovations at the time, and Danny got a job helping with the project. It was outdoor work and he was happy. He moved into an apartment on Palm Avenue and spent his free time on the beach or fishing.
Like many people, he had fond memories of catching his first tarpon with Capt. Donald Joiner. He was simply amazed, he said at the time, at how enormous the fish was. Danny also recalls his first few days and weeks on the beach. Before Boca Grande, the only beach he had ever visited was Myrtle Beach, S.C.
In 1975 he started working for Lee County. He got a job with the Department of Transportation through a friend, Gary Maltezo, who was maintenance supervisor at the time. Back then Boca Grande’s DOT was a small operation, with little more than a tractor and a pickup truck.
Through the years Danny’s job with the County included a little bit of everything. He helped to clear beach accesses and right-of-ways. He picked up or replaced missing signs. He mowed and did landscaping work. He also did more than his fair share of more unconventional tasks. It wasn’t unusual to see Danny hauling a stuck vehicle out of the sand or helping to bury a dead sea turtle. He was quoted as saying, “I do anything and everything. I like everything about my job. It’s different. I am not doing the same thing day after day. And you meet so many different kinds of people on this island.”
In his spare time Danny liked to go hunting at a nearby camp with friends. He just wanted to be in the woods whenever he could, just to get out of “town.”
Wearing his typical uniform of cowboy boots, jeans and a hunting hat, Danny devoted more than three decades of his life to Boca Grande. One of the things many people remember him for was his vital help in cleaning up the aftermath of Hurricane Charley. He essentially organized the effort to clean up island roads and made it possible for many to access their homes.
He had actually formulated a plan before the hurricane even hit. After the storm passed through, there was no communication from Lee County, no directives to follow. So he used his own plan, and it worked just fine.
When Danny left Boca Grande, he said he would definitely miss the island life.
“It’s been nice being here, and I’ve been here a long time,” he said. “But 32 years is a long time to be in one spot, and it’s time for a change.”