The Islander takes pride in recognizing members of the Anna Maria Island community for their unselfish contributions and 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 the Islander of the Year award to recognize deserving people. It 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 her city and Anna Maria Island.
Pierola played an instrumental role in initiating the current beach renourishment program and in putting a halt to 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 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.
They established an endowment for the community center and a successful fundraising campaign. We honored them as 1997 Islanders of the Year.
Jim Kronus, retired after 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 volunteers to protect sea turtles in 1999.
Nancy Ambrose was named 2000 Islander of the Year for initiating the Holmes Beach Butterfly Park.
The original keeper of the island’s history is Carolyne Norwood, Islander of the Year in 2001. The Anna Maria Island Historical Society, its museum, the old jail and Belle Haven Cottage are owing to her vision.
Billie Martini, 2002. Her finest achievement while a commissioner for Holmes Beach may be the realization of the Grassy Point Preserve. Martini first eyed the undeveloped area for preservation.
Ilona and Jeff Kenrick were The Islander newspaper’s Islanders of the Year for 2003.
While managing a foundation for international aid, the Kenricks created a blood drive that included a reward for 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 on his own, delivering aid to those in need in remote areas immediately after Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. And he took vacation time from work to do his good deeds.
If there ever was a symbol for Anna Maria Island, it is the sword-wielding, cannon-firing, 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 with a failing heart on a “wish” trip to Anna Maria Island.
The Privateers also came to the rescue with Hurricane Katrina relief and initiated a memorial scholarship fund for an island teen killed in a car crash.
They did all this and more — despite the sudden illness and deaths that year of president Greg “Shiprek” Davidson and member Dick Cline.
They were our 2005 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 served as resource officer.
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 emergencies with loved ones and family members who “need to know.”
Her quest 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 initiative 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 95-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 to Holmes Beach to live 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, who died in November 2015, and Ed Chiles were our honorees in 2009.
The Geyer family was our 2010 Islander of the Year. You may have known Pat Geyer 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 still.
She served 18 years on the city commission and was elected mayor from 1990-94. During her public service, she demonstrated courage and conviction, and a willingness to 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.
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.
Pat Geyer was known for her quiet humor, as well as her fierce loyalty to family, work, causes, politics and principle.
Miss Duffy earned many accolades, but surely none pleased her more than the simple appreciation for her political service and her burgers.
For those reasons, the Geyers were our choice for Islander of the year 2010.
The Privateers, Islanders of the Year for 2011, are our only repeat winner in 25 years of news-making.
Much deserved, much applauded and cheered.
They brought revelry and excitement to all three cities during 2011, their 40th anniversary year. The captures at all three city halls were lifetime adventures for city officials, particularly the mayors, some who found themselves shackled for ransom to the mast on the Skullywag float/boat.
It was a very good year for the Privateers, a crew that proved worth its weight in gold — raising more than $40,000 for kids and community — and for their service and entertainment on Anna Maria Island.
Arrrrrgh! Here’s to 40 years of Privateers … and many more.
On to 2012, and we came to recognize a crusade of sorts by one woman to stock the island pantry.
While we may not directly benefit, the Roser Church Food Pantry and its chair Pam Leckie — who literally brought the pantry out of a closet to a place of its own — can be proud of their aid to islanders.
In 2012, Leckie and her fellow volunteers distributed almost 1,500 bags of food. Each recipient also received a gift card to purchase fresh foods.
Leckie and her volunteers proved they are among the best of the best by coming to the aid of out-of-work employees of the Rod & Reel Pier.
2013: Former Anna Maria Commissioner Gene Aubry — a renaissance man.
He’s empowered with seemingly limitless knowledge, embracing the sort of great thinking that we so seldom see, so much so that less accomplished people often fail to recognize his significance.
If you haven’t heard him play guitar, you may not recognize his range of talent. If you don’t know of his many architectural achievements, you might doubt this quiet man had reached such heights. If you don’t know of his art — the simple, fine lines and subtle colors that capture moments in time like no photograph could — you may not appreciate his refined taste.
He may no longer serve in city government, but he isn’t giving up on this place he loves. Surrender is not in his character.
And for 2014, we honored the effort of one woman — Jeannie Bystrom — to make a difference by not only saving seabirds day after day, more so for pushing for better education and regulations to protect a valuable environmental asset.
As we searched for the person who made a difference in our lives in 2015, we came to realize the value of lessons learned from the loss of Sabine Musil-Buehler and for the closure she finally provided from her resting place on the beach.
She inspired us to encourage anyone who fell victim to abuse to speak up and seek help.
Our pledge to honor her memory with the final sunset of the year deserves repeating.
And this year, we recognize a grand figure in Moose International and at our local lodge in Bradenton Beach.
He has made a difference for the lodge and in the daily lives of people he helps both through the Moose and through his own soft-hearted generosity.
You may never know who gave to help a person in need or a cause, but often it comes from Ernie’s personal wallet.
Mooseheart, a 1,000-acre campus for children to learn and grow in Chicago, may be dear to him, but he has room in his heart for so much more.
He’s the friend you didn’t know you had.
We especially thank and celebrate them all.