LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A lover of the island expresses her thoughts in words

December 4, 2020
By Olivia Cameron

To the Editor:
Boca Grande and Gasparilla Island hold such a treasured place in my heart that I have been inspired to write a poem about it, and to paint many scenes from my photos and memories. Here is a little bit of background on me and why I have been so inspired.
My family has been going to Gasparilla Island for as long as I can remember, and even many years before then. My grandfather, father and uncle fished the area long before I was born in 1962. I grew up in Winter Garden, went to Lake Highland Prep and then graduated from Stetson University. My parents bought a place at the ‘new’ Boca Grande Beach Club in the late 1970s.  I will never forget my first visit there in 1980 at the end of my freshman year of college. Even though I was a native Floridian and had lived my whole life in Florida, I could not believe how beautiful it was.  
My mother and father spent so much time there after dad retired that I thought of it as my home too. They loved it there and shared their love for the island with us all. Our annual family gathering was held there starting around 1982. We started as a family of five (mom dad, brother, sister and me) and added spouses, significant others and later children to the fun. We obviously outgrew that two-bedroom, two-bath apartment, so we rented other units at the beach club to handle our growing numbers. We continued that tradition through 2017 during which time our family expanded and shrank with many marriages, births, and, unfortunately, deaths.  An Aunt and Uncle as well as a few cousins and many friends would join us there from time to time. It has, and will always be, a special place to our family.
For me personally, Boca Grande has been my escape from the pressures of daily life. I loved the natural beauty and solitude I found there. I lived and worked in Maryland for about 25 years and traveled to visit Boca Grande as often as I could. My husband, Henry, fell in love with it too, and so we went there on our honeymoon. My mother, father, brother and sister all lived in Florida during that time, so it was often my only chance to see them each year.
But as you know time passes and things change. My mother and father both passed away, 2004 and 2011 respectively, so it was left to the three of us to keep the traditions going. It worked for awhile, and was such a blessing for us all. When the family decided in 2017 to sell our unit at the beach club I cried a lot. I knew it was time for the family to move on, but I knew that my heart never would. I am just thankful to have so many wonderful memories of that special place. As the family’s unofficial keeper of our history there I have organized and shared the photos from across the decades with everyone that I could to keep those memories alive. Also, I have been back to visit once since 2017 and hope to do it again soon.
I returned to live and work in Florida in 2007. Today I am retired at the age of 58 from a long career in Financial Services. I live with my husband and two cats in Lake Mary. I am a budding artist who is learning to paint in watercolor.
Thank you,
Megan C. Daufeldt
Lake Mary