Paul M. Roat, 56, a longtime area newsman of Sarasota and formerly of Bradenton Beach, died Saturday, Feb. 15.
He was a lifelong resident of the area who served as a valued source of historical perspective during his tenure as frequent writer and editor for two newspapers on Anna Maria Island from the 1970s to the present day.
He earned a scholarship to the University of Florida from then-publisher of The Islander, Don Moore.
He was the son of a Bradenton Beach postmaster, his mother was familiar to islanders at the Bridge Street hardware store, and later worked at a law firm, and he grew up in Bradenton Beach in an idyllic fashion, while acquiring an early appreciation for news and photo journalism at Manatee High School.
Moore gave Mr. Roat his first job out of college.
And Mr. Roat soon figured in coverage of some of the area’s notable moments.
His work spanned coverage of news for the former Islander newspaper in the 1970s-80s, including photos taken from the top of the remaining span of the Skyway Bridge within moments of the disaster at the bridge in 1980 that sent 35 people to their deaths.
He also took pride in his photos in August 1993 from a small craft shortly after a three-ship collision that resulted in fire aboard one ship and the release of 30,000 gallons of crude oil from another ship into the Tampa shipping channel.
In 1984-87, Mr. Roat served as a legislative aide to state Rep. Jim Lombard. In 1989, he became the first staff member for the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, contributing to the fundraising effort that enabled the program to flourish.
He contributed to numerous SBEP publications and was co-editor of the 1992 SBEP “Framework for Action,” and co-writer and editor of the 1995 SBEP management plan, “Sarasota Bay, the Voyage to Paradise Reclaimed.”
Mr. Roat’s career included work for Clubhouse magazine, later Sarasota magazine, and the Siesta Key Pelican Press. He was a writer for SiestaSand.net at the time of his death.
He also authored two volumes of “The Insider’s Guide to Sarasota & Bradenton” guide book and various other guide publications over the years.
He was editor of The Islander newspaper for 17 years, starting at its launch date in November 1992, and wrote a column titled “Sandscript,” always seeking to improve environmental conditions for Anna Maria Island and beyond.
Most recently he rallied in a column to derail a developers’ plans for Long Bar Pointe.
He oversaw several Islander projects, stories and features recognized and honored by the Florida Press Association.
He acquired an extensive collection of work by Florida-based authors and was a founding member of Mystery Florida, a nonprofit group that sponsors an annual gathering of mystery writers and aficionados in Sarasota.
“He was a great friend who eagerly shared his love for news, John D. MacDonald’s series of books featuring Travis McGee, and his upbringing in Bradenton Beach. He will be dearly missed and remembered with each night’s flash of green at sunsets on Anna Maria Island,” said Islander publisher Bonner Joy.
“He was raised on the waters of Sarasota Bay and he liked to often write from his perspective as a ‘little Roat.’ One such story recalled harvesting sand dollars and selling them to tourist shops for 3 cents each.”
Mr. Roat was molded into a savior for the environment and a great reader and thinker.
The Islander is planning a memorial for the Tingley Library in Bradenton Beach, where Mr. Roat served many years as a board member, a journalism scholarship and a mystery book sale to benefit the library.
Memorial donations may be made at The Islander, 5604B Marina Drive, Holmes Beach FL 34217.
No services are planned.
Mr. Roat is survived by his aunt Margaret Roat of Ludington, Mich., several cousins in Michigan and Colorado, and his “almost children,” Kendra Presswood of Holmes Beach, and Damon Presswood of Bradenton.
Joe Bird and Paul Roat.
Paul Roat at the beach in the late 1970s.
Paul Roat, on both sides of a camera.
Paul Roat’s views of the May 1980 Sunshine Skyway Bridge disaster.