Boca Grande guide surprises one island mom with a very special gift

■ BY MARCY SHORTUSEbetsy with belt buckle web

On the evening of Thursday, Nov. 5 Betsy Joiner was in a rush when she came into the meeting of the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association held at the Community Center. She wasn’t sure why she had been summoned there, other than the guides needed to “pick her brain,” but she knew she needed to get back to work at PJ’s Seagrille.

When Capt. Steve Ahlers stood and addressed her with a blue velvet box in his hand, her breath caught in her throat. He presented her with his own Jay Joiner Memorial belt buckle, which he received in May for winning the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament.

It was his third win, his third buckle … and he wanted her, Jay Joiner’s mother, to have it. With many hugs and tears, Betsy accepted his gift and reminded him she had just been joking the night of the awards when she said she should get that one. It was his third, after all.

Capt. Jay Joiner was just 25 when he died, and he would have been 48 this year. Many of the guides Betsy saw when she looked around the room were right in the same age group, and she knew how much that moment meant to all of them.

“Their generosity was very overpowering,” Betsy said. “The guides are my family. I get a lot of love from them.”

Jay died in October of 1992. He was the first captain to win the World’s Richest two years in a row. The first Jay Joiner Memorial belt buckle was given out a year after he passed away, in 1993.

The buckle is engraved with an eagle – which represents the best fishermen nature has to offer – and a ruby, Jay’s birthstone. “It’s always been a special incentive to win this for all of the guides,” Betsy said. This buckle, engraved with “Mom Betsy Joiner,” will earn a place of honor next to her other buckle, a gift from her son Lamar Joiner Jr.