A man who wore every hat in Boca Grande: Darrell Polk

darrell_polk_in_1989BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Another piece of Boca Grande’s heart was lost this week, as Darrell Polk passed away at the age of 84.


He now joins his wife, Margaret, who passed away in June of last year.

There was hardly an important job on Gasparilla Island that Darrell either didn’t have at one point or was involved with in some way. Whether working for Griffin Builders as a carpenter or as an EMT/firefighter/fire chief for the Boca Grande Fire Department, or as an electrician, Darrell was always doing something for somebody else.

Darrell, born on the island to William “Bill” and Matilda Polk, lived 75 years of his life in Boca Grande and was the only boy in a family with six sisters.

He served as the projectionist in the old island theater for 30 years and was still there when it was closed down.

He met Margaret here on the island, married her in 1951, and together they owned Barnichol Hardware for 38 years, until 2005.

Darrell served the island as a volunteer firefighter and EMT during a time when there was no bridge to the island and patients were shipped off island on a flatbed railroad car called “The Bull.”

Darrell eventually became the volunteer fire chief for the island and served in that position for 33 years. Prior to that, he was one of the first volunteers and helped to create the department while he was still in high school during the late 1940s.

During his time there, he lived at the fire station from the time he was named as fire chief in 1956 (at age 26), until 1984. While he was happy to have a place he and his family could stay rent-free, he did admit it wasn’t easy.

“It does confine you,” he told the Beacon in 1989. “It was our responsibility to answer the phone 24 hours a day.”

He retired as chief in 1989.

Darrell served on numerous boards. He was the president of Boca Grande

Travel, and was the director of the Florida Rural Water Association. He was also the manager of the Gasparilla Island Water Association for two decades and was one of the original directors of the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association.

When Darrell and Margaret owned the hardware store, he made it a habit to feed the squirrels and birds on the bike path. For more than 20 years he tended the little park area between the post office and the bakery and eventually put up special feeders.

One of the things that made him especially sad about moving away from the island and becoming less mobile was that he couldn’t come and feed the squirrels and birds anymore.

Hurricane Charley changed Darrell’s life. Their home was severely damaged and they ended up moving off-island not much later. Margaret became sick during the time they were trying to rebuild their home and the work was never finished. They lived in Rotonda for years prior to their passing, but their hearts were always in Boca Grande. There is no doubt that their spirits still live here as well.