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Islanders honored, remembered

By Bonner Joy

The Islander takes pride in recognizing members of the Anna Maria Island community for their unselfish contributions and genuine concern for making this slice of paradise an even better place to live.

Since the newspaper started up in 1992, its path was to partner with community organizations, report the news of record, and tell the tales of people who live and work on AMI.

We launched an Islander of the Year award to recognize deserving people. The honor was presented posthumously to the late Anna Maria Mayor Ernie Cagnina in 1993 and Anna Maria Mayor Ray Simches in 1994.

Katie Pierola was the 1995 recipient of The Islander’s annual award. During her six years as mayor of Bradenton Beach, the city underwent a renaissance.

She embodied the definition of a public servant in her tireless efforts to improve both her city and Anna Maria Island.

Pierola played an instrumental role in the beach renourishment program and the prevention of a proposed Cortez megabridge.

W.H. “Snooks” Adams was 1996 Islander of the year. He was born in Cortez, and spent much of his life on Anna Maria Island as a law enforcement officer who used common sense as his guide.

He started Snooks Adams Kids Day in 1954, an end-of-school tradition that was later taken over by the Anna Maria Island Privateers.

Charles Lester and Jo Ann Lester fell in love with Anna Maria Island and along with it, the Anna Maria Island Community Center. They put their money where their hearts are, both here and in the small towns in Wisconsin where they also reside half the year.

The established an endowment for the Anna Maria Island Community Center, and sponsor a yearly fundraising campaign. We honored them as 1997 Islanders of the year.

Jim Kronus, retired from 25 years as Anna Maria Island Elementary School principal, and was named 1998 Islander of the Year.

Suzi Fox was recognized for her efforts in organizing a volunteers to protect sea turtles in 1999.

Nancy Ambrose was named 2000 Islander of the year for her impact on the Holmes Beach Butterfly Park.

The original keeper of the Island’s history is Carolyne Norwood, Islander of the year 2001. Anna Maria Island Historical Society, its museum and the old jail and Belle Haven Cottage all are thanks to the vision of Carolyne Norwood.

Billie Martini, 2002. Her finest achievement while a commissioner for Holmes Beach may be the realization of the Grassy Point Preserve. The undeveloped area was first eyed by Martini for preservation.

Ilona and Jeff Kenrick were The Islander newspaper’s Islanders of the rear for 2003.

While managing the Taylor Family Foundation, whose international aid amounted to about $1 million a year, the Kenricks created a blood drive that included a reward for blood donors, a cash payout to the donor’s choice of four Island charities. It was a win-win and we thank them for their positive impact here and beyond.

Jeff Croley, 2004 Islander of the Year, represented all the good qualities we could ask for in a volunteer —he quietly went about doing anything and everything he could to aid those in need after Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.

Although, if there is a symbol for Anna Maria Island, it is the sword-wielding, cannon-firing, ship-riding benevolent crew of the Anna Maria Island Privateers.

For all the good they do year after year, 2005 stood out for their efforts on behalf of one unfortunate little boy.

It only took a phone call to bring the Privateers and their ship to greet a young boy with a failing heart on a “wish” trip to Anna Maria Island.

The Privateers also came to the rescue with Hurricane Katrina relief. They initiated a memorial scholarship fund for an Island teen Bridget Miller, who had been killed in a car crash.

They did all this and more —despite the sudden illness and deaths of president Greg “Shiprek” Davidson and

Dick Cline.

They were our 2005 choice for Islanders of the year..

Pete Lannon, 2006 Islander of the Year. If there ever was a person who brought out the best in the Anna Maria Island community, it was Pete Lannon.

He was more than a Holmes Beach police officer, he was a mentor for our children, a confidant for people in need and a friendly face at Anna Maria Elementary School, where he was resource office for more than five years.

He lost a tough battle with cancer that year and he is still missed by many.

Following the death of Christine Olson’s 22-year-old daughter, Tiffiany, in a motorcycle crash, Olson sought to connect people in emergency situations with loved ones and family members who “need to know.”

Her crusade to allow emergency contact information be included with driver’s licenses was a success. We thank Olson for making a difference in the lives of many, and for taking her quest to other states and the federal government.

Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, 2008 Islander of the Year: Cheers to the organization that runs the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, and dedicates the proceeds to preserving Cortez, including the Burton store, the old schoolhouse, and the 90-plus acres that provide a buffer to the village from encroaching development.

It was an honor for Anna Maria Island to be home to the first lady of Florida, Rhea Chiles, and to have her return after the death of Gov. Lawton Chiles.

AMI embraced Rhea. Little did we know she would bring with her culture, education, arts and artists, and a sense of nature and the beauty around us — the Studio at Gulf and Pine.

Combined with the generosity and vision of son Ed Chiles, owner of a trio of landmark restaurants on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, we have a legacy for the future.

Rhea and Ed Chiles were our honorees in 2009.

The Geyer family was our 2010 Islander of the year. You may know Pat as mayor or commissioner, or maybe Mom, but for many years, hundreds, if not thousands of Islanders grew to love her as Miss Duffy.

Patricia A. Geyer, proprietress of Duffy’s Tavern, died May 1, 2010, at age 79, but she is remembered.

She served 18 years on the city commission and was elected mayor from 1990-94. During her public service, she demonstrated her courage and conviction, and her willingness to always listen to the people.

And listen she did. She had an ear — and respect — for all opinions that came across the bar at Duffy’s Tavern, the quaint and quirky hamburger joint she ran for more than 35 years.

The Geyers began operating Duffy’s Tavern on Gulf Drive across from the Manatee Public Beach in 1971.

But it wasn’t just Miss Duffy who did the Island proud. She had loads of help from husband Ed, who kept a pot of bean soup at the ready and kept calls about politics at bay. They raised five girls, who all put in their time at the grill, at the bar, or whatever was needed by Mom.

Pat Geyer was known for her quiet good humor, as well as for her fierce loyalty to family, work, causes, politics and principle, and she managed to pass that along to her girls.

And they — and now their families, too — all contribute to community events, fundraisers and the family business.

Miss Duffy earned many accolades, but surely none pleased her more than the simple appreciation for her family, her political service and her food.

Pat Geyer gave her family and Anna Maria Island a great gift — and they carry on her traditions.

For those reasons, the Geyers were our choice for Islander of the year 2010.

Which brings us to the Privateers, Islanders of the year for 2011, and our only repeat winner in 19 years of news-making.

Much deserved, much applauded and cheered.

Arrrrrgh! Here’s to 40 years of Privateers … and many more.

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