BY OLIVIA CAMERON – The Boca Grande Historical Society has been bringing history to life for 25 years now, and the last History Byte of the season celebrated its anniversary with cake and memories.
Two of the original founders, Pat and Chuck Agles, spoke at the Johann Fust Library on February 26th to recollect how it all began. Alongside volunteers and other board members, they remembered the past 25 years of protecting the history of Boca Grande.
Chuck Agles was the first treasurer of the Society, aiding the organization with investment knowledge. He is the reason for program funding, and the community appreciates his expertise.
His wife, Pat Agles, has been a board member for 19 years, with two years as president of the Society.
Cornerstone couple Sallie and Ted VanItallie were spoken of as visionaries who brought three other couples into the project in 1995. Their goal was to construct an organization in charge of preserving the island’s history. If our history is cared for, then we will be able to consistently learn from it.
The three couples who joined forces through the VanItallies were the Agles, Sholleys and Schulers. The eight of them set out to build the foundation of the Society.
Harvard graduate Ted envisioned an organization that would live on as long as history happened. “Ted was the mastermind who brought the ideas together,” said Chuck. He took down all the pondering ideas while instigator Sallie promoted some of their first exhibits after they established a relationship with the Florida Historical Society.
The newly found connection brought some of their first authors and historians to take part in presentations. Speakers including Patrick Smith, author of “Land Remembered,” and archaeologist William Marquardt contributed to the traction gained.
In Nancy Sholley, president of the Woman’s Club, and her husband Peter, an environmentalist who took part in red tide research, the team found its community event organizers.
Pat and Ray Schuler were a couple who knew how to stay in the community loop. As part of the CSX board, Ray brought some railroad cars to add to the museum.
From the VanItallie kitchen, the group moved to work in a confined office space – a broom closet in the Crowninshield Community House. “I’ve been in bigger elevators,” an audience member testified.
Their move to the historic Teacherage House, where the Society still resides, seemed like moving into the Taj Mahal for Executive Director Kim Kyle. “I got to pick the wall paint too,” said Kyle, as the only member who was around during that summer of the early 2000s.
Jim and Rose Marie Blaha, full-time Boca Grande residents during 60 years of marriage, have been board members in charge of archives. They figured out how to move with the times and transfer pieces of history onto evolving technological devices. “We have 107 History Bytes that we are adding to,” said Jim.
During the process of building up the Society, Sallie passed away in 2012. Ted had died before his 100th birthday. “Ted was still very much involved in his research and writing on dietary discoveries in nutrition and metabolism,” Pat recalled. “At that age, he was still sharp as a tack.”
Sallie and Pat Agles’ friendship was remembered by their harmonization while Chuck would play a piano melody for them in their home, where their meetings originally occurred.
Nancy Sholley also passed away in 2012, with the loss of Peter just two years later.
Ray had been working on placing the historical railroad cars next to the Loose Caboose just before he died in 2000.
Pat Schuler was one of the three original founders to be a part of the anniversary celebration at the library.
As Pat Agles looked across the room, she recognized how far along their dedication had brought them. “We aren’t afraid to roll up our sleeves,” she said in reference to future endeavors.
Sallie had once told Pat, “In 25 years, the founding days will be history.” And here the Historical Society stands.
Today, BGHS brings even bigger crowds than before with such interest in the Bytes. From the very first Byte, entitled “Rendezvous at the Depot,” to celebrating 25 years in the making, the Agles see the organization reaching new heights in the near future.
Their success has always depended on the community and involvement of the descendants who donate their time, memories and memorabilia. Without the community, there would be no Historical Society to piece our past together.