Paul Roat, Islander editor-photographer dies

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 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.

13 thoughts on “Paul Roat, Islander editor-photographer dies

  1. Peter Bakos

    Thanks, Jack Gurney for letting me know. Haven’t seen Paul for years but dearly remember the days we hung out a lot. The days of “Raul Bodega” the alter ego created when someone took a photo of him at a Lombard event. His days working for various political people. As part of the “Hacks and Flacks” gang on Friday’s down at O’Leary’s. The stories were always great, the times and the people you shared will live in my memories. Your leaving is just so wrong. Sorry, miss you buddy.

  2. Erica Dickerson

    Paul (I called him Maynard) became great friends while commiserating about being the bottom 2 students in Mr. Mack’s dreaded algebra class in Middle School. We were wonderful friends all through our years at Manatee HS, but lost touch after college. I will always remember the huge bags of stone crab claws he would ‘gift’ me with at my little apartment when I was at Ringling. He was a love – I’m sorry we didn’t keep in touch.

  3. Kafi Benz

    I counted on Paul’s sensitive coverage during my drive to take the Crosley Estate and its forest, all called Seagate, into public acquisition and when I founded Friends of Seagate for the fund-raising, he was among the first donors. He was one of those people whose relationship with you picked right up from the last time you saw one another—no matter how long ago.
    My condolences, treasure your memories of this wonderful man!

  4. Jeff Colbath

    Paul was a college buddy of mine. I have not seen him in many many years but still remember his friendship vividly. He was a great guy and no doubt will be sadly missed.

  5. Barbara Lasser

    Paul, you were my dearest friend in High School, “little Roach” and “Shorty’s Chick”, we were brainiacs together and the greatest of beach buddies.
    I will always cherish your friendship and the love we shared growing up. Thank you for your friendship, God bless his family and friends he touched us all in a special way!

  6. Stephanie Cenko

    So sad. I no longer live in Bradenton Beach, but I immediately recognized his name. A great loss for the island and the Islander.

  7. Mike van Beuzekom

    I’m shocked and saddened by this news. I’ve known Paul since we were in 6th grade at AMI ES. We used to explore and camp all over the island as boys. I knew his parents well. Later we worked together on the MaCoHi staff at Manatee high school. We were roommates at USF for 2+ years. Paul taught me everything I know about photography. We haven’t been in touch recently but every few years we’d meet up again on AMI. I’ll miss his laughter and look on life…. Heaps of memories will remain.

  8. virginia haley

    Just heard the sad news. Paul was one of the first people I met in the area when I was working for Congressman Goss. We sure had fun with politics. But most of all there was never a time when we didn’t have a laugh about something going on around us. Love you Paul.

  9. Stan Zimmerman

    Paul, you got me in this mess of journalism and then you left?? Paul lured me away from the “dark side” of broadcast journalism to a the world of community newspaper reporting. Into a non-corporate, locally owned and operated weekly world of stories that mattered to people. Where decorum was a four-letter word, and Rainbow flip-flops were the footwear of choice.

    He was never far from the water, either personally or intellectually. And always up to try something new. The stories he told, but just as important the stories he held close for he had a big streak of kindness.

    There was a lot of boy in the man. You could hear it in his laugh. And there was a lot of man in the boy, unafraid in the pursuit of news and photos. Life ‘round these parts is going to be a lot poorer without you, Paouli.

  10. Kay Roat Lubert

    Paul was my only Roat cousin. I remember him best as a gangly little boy and young man, always smiling. I remember, too, the immense joy he brought to his parents, my Uncle Don and Aunt Jeanne.
    I hope he knew how much he was loved by the Michigan Roats.

  11. Joe Bird

    He was an awesome friend, Our goal in life was to “not grow up” together, And his motto was, “lifestyle is everything.” That being said, he was serious about everything Island related, poised to speed off to the next incident, meeting or noteworthy event that popped up on our long spit of sand. His appreciation for his Island and State had him traveling and writing wherever a relevant topic needed to be put out into the sunshine, in words and pictures.
    To all of you who have prayed, sent positive words of encouragement, energy and condolences, I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend in your life that knows what your next word will be, has chronicled your life into a myriad of hysterical stories, and never forgotten a word you’ve said, then you’d know Paul. Please know how much I appreciate your love and support as we come to grips with the loss of the kindest soul one could be blessed with.
    He would love his environmental efforts and concerns to continue, as he loved the island the way it was when he was a ‘Little Roat.” RIP Mr. Roat, may pristine white sands warm your soul.
    Joe Bird

  12. Jeffrey Hollway & Adele Avolio

    We feel blessed and grateful to have shared this past Thanksgiving Day with Paul. Shared many laughs and cherished stories together. We’ll miss Paul so very much. Hopefully, he is sharing some good stories with Bob Ardren right now.

  13. RJ, Tampa

    My sincere condolences to Kendra and all of Mr. Roat’s family on their sudden loss. By all accounts, he was a great man and a big part of the community. I am sending prayers that you will be comforted at this very difficult time.


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