PROFILE: Peter Powell

September 10, 2021
By T Michele Walker

Buzz Aldrin said, “Timing has always been a key element in my life. I have been blessed to have been in the right place at the right time.”

Some people have been blessed with the gift of good timing. Peter Powell is one of those people.

A good example is the story of how he met his wife, Cappy. “I met her at a wedding in Richmond, Virginia. That’s where she was born and raised. I haphazardly was invited, but only to the wedding.”

Peter wasn’t planning on attending, but with a friend’s encouragement, he finally agreed and met the love of his life. “I saw Cappy and I sort of started chasing her. I have to be honest; she was probably not sure about what the heck was going on, but I just kept it up. We had a long-distance relationship, but at that point in our lives, it was going to be challenging to keep that up. Luckily for me, I was able to convince her that we ought to get married. So I met her in September of 1984, and we were married in October of 1985. Thirty-six years later, everything has been wonderful for us. We have two sons, Robert and Henry, both of them are doing great.’

Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Peter attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he received both an undergraduate and graduate degree in four years. “I was kind of in a hurry, which was unusual for Rollins. Most students there were trying to figure out how to stay longer, but I was anxious to get on with life.”

While attending Rollins, Peter fell in love with the stage. “I was more interested in theater and economics than I was in sand and gravel, but it turned out that even though my interest in theater was a good one, it wouldn’t be very useful as a career. But I was the guy who would hang out at the theatre in the middle of the night, building sets, working in the ticket office, and being on stage. It was a great part of my college experience.”

After a one-year stint working in Orlando after graduation, Peter joined his grandfather in Kansas City and joined him in the family-owned sand and gravel business.

“My interest in economics and business seemed to be more of my calling,” Peter explained. “I enjoyed running a business and spent my career building up a business from sand and gravel and in a larger way, in the salt mining business. For 25 years I owned and operated a salt mine in the central part of Kansas. In 2015 we sold the business to a private equity firm, so it all worked out great for us.”

“It’s a very common story around the Boca Grande community. Somebody builds a business, sells, and goes on about their life. I guess you would call it an early retirement when I sold it, but it turned out great for me because we were able to come down to Boca Grande more often and I was able to go back to the very things that I was enjoying but couldn’t make a career of. In Boca Grande, I’m actively involved with the Royal Palm Players, and I play golf over at Lemon Bay Golf Club.”

Peter now considers himself semi-retired and is still doing a bit of business with his eldest son, Robert. “Robert is interested in getting his own business started and is coming close to buying one. Now and then he listens to his old man, having ‘been there, done that,’ as they say. You know, it’s a source of pride to see your son doing well. I’ve told him that I think he’s better at this than I was.”

Another example of that famous Powell timing was the wedding of his son Robert back in February of 2020, just one month before the shutdown. “We couldn’t have had a more wonderful outcome to have this great island wedding with all of our friends. For the first time in a long time, my whole family came down and we got these family pictures. How lucky for our families and Cappy’s family that we were able to do that.”

Cappy and Peter’s youngest son, Henry, lives in San Diego, California. “We were told as he was headed off to college in California, ‘don’t expect him to come back.’ He stayed out there and has been dating the same girl for eight years and they’re getting married. We’re excited about that.”

“The week before Robert got married in February, we went with both of our sons, Robert’s fiancé, and Henry’s girlfriend. All of us went to Miami to watch the Super Bowl,” Peter said. “Our beloved Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. We had a week that’s going to be hard to ever repeat.”

Finding Boca Grande is another example of timing, good fortune, and listening to Peter’s mother. “My mother and father were spending time in Mountain Lake which is in Lake Wales, Florida and they had friends from Kansas City who routinely came down in February to Boca Grande. They got an invitation to come down to spend a couple of nights. My mother called up Cappy after being down there and said, ‘I think I found a place that you all would love, you especially.’ The one time Cap listened to her mother-in-law, we went down with our boys.”

“It all happened in the spring of 1994. We came down for a two-week stay at the Sea Oats. We’ll never forget it. It was our first night where we took the boys into town, and they had these sneakers that light up when you run. We went to eat at the Loose Caboose and here were our boys running around on their own and we felt no worry or fear. There was hardly a car in sight, we felt perfectly happy and they were enjoying every minute of it. We’ve been to many other beaches, but we realized that this is such a unique place.”

“This is a true story. We had gone on a walk on the beach earlier that day, and after seeing the dunes just north of us, I pointed at this one unit. I said, ‘Cap, if we ever bought a place, that would be the place to own.’ I went in the next day to the Seale Family Realtors and started talking about renting. I asked if there was anything at the dunes either for rent or for sale. She said, ‘Well, you know as a matter of fact Mr. Powell, a unit just went on the market yesterday, number 21.’ It turned out that number 21 was signed on the same day that I was pointing at it saying that it would be the one to buy.”

Cappy didn’t feel that the timing was right, but ended up saying, “Just don’t tell me what you’re doing.”

Now proud owners of unit 21 and later adding unit 22 as a “guest house,” the Powell family loves spending time on Gasparilla Island. “It’s been a love affair.”

Peter has created the perfect life in Boca Grande, semi-retired but remains active serving on the board of the GICIA, The Royal Palm Players, and as president of the Lemon Bay Golf Club.

“The GICIA has been doing wonderful work making sure that the Gasparilla Island Conservation Act is enforced, that we keep our density levels correct, our elevation levels and monitoring building on the island so that the island will preserve its charm if you will.”

Peter combines his love of business with his gift for creativity by being a part of the Royal Palm Players.

“I enjoy being involved in the business side of it because that was my inclination.,” he said. “We’ve done a wonderful job of being able to maintain Royal Palm Players through what has been a devastating season. Every one of us on the board is so grateful for the support of the island. We had to cancel shows and we were prepared to repay those folks for their tickets. An enormous number of patrons said no, just keep the money and make sure you reopen next season.

He continued.

“There are incredibly talented people on all fronts on the island. We have painters and writers and poets, you name it. We also have actors and performers and I get the joy of being able to be around some pretty talented people, which takes me back to my college days.”

Peter is currently the president of the Board of Governors of Lemon Bay Golf Club, and they’ve been involved in a pretty major effort in the last year.

“We’re going to do a major overhaul of the golf course, and also in the process of doing some changes in our management,” he said. “I think the effort has put the club on the right path and it’s going to be a great place to enjoy golf. Eighty percent of the membership is from the island. so it’s a wonderful alternative for golf, owned by its members, not by an individual. The whole purpose is to make it a friendly, gracious place and I think we’re succeeding.”

One more example of good timing happened last November. Peter was feeling what he called “a real interesting discomfort that I had never felt before.”

After a check-up, Peter had open heart surgery the week of Thanksgiving.

“I had to get a triple bypass, so we went back to Kansas City, as we were very close friends with a top heart surgeon. By golly, you know it was a little emotional as he made sure that he was available if I was going to need open-heart surgery. He did the surgery and I’m just about as lucky as anybody could ever be. Everything went just fine and I’m doing great. It was just a blip now. I also have had one of the best 24/7 nurses anybody could ever want.”

Cappy and Peter are looking forward to Henry’s wedding and to heading back to Boca Grande this season, just in time for Cappy’s pilates class and the Royal Palm Players rehearsal of “Inherit the Wind.” After all, Peter is a part-time actor and as we all know, “Life is about the timing.”