In Marathon, when you want something done, you want Ginger Sayer on the team. Need someone to build 600 stone crab traps? She’s your girl. Need to organize a T-ball league? She can do it. Need 180 chocolate chip cookies by Friday? No problem. Plus, she can do that one other thing — put together a super popular race wherein 1,500 people thunder over the 7 Mile Bridge every year.
“She’s determined. And she doesn’t make false promises,” said Bobby Bayles, her partner in directing the 7 Mile Bridge Run. Bayles said she only considered taking on the administrative role if Ginger would do it with her. “I said I’d do it, if she’d do it.”
Ginger said they strike a good balance on the important project. She handles the finances while Bayles manages the volunteers. This is the eighth year the two have managed the race, taking over from the talented (but tired) Denise Pankow who managed it for the first 26 years. The proceeds from the race fund many worthy causes, but mostly supports student athletics. Ginger said it’s a year-round job.
“Bobby and I have a 13-page document we call ‘The Bible,’” she said, describing the incredibly detailed checklist. “Plus, we have help from Maggie.”
Maggie is Ginger’s middle child and sister to Sean and Zachary. And if you want to know what Ginger is really up to, just seek out her children or grandchildren.
“Her family is a huge priority,” Bayles said. “Ginger is a dedicated grandmother and really does a lot for them.”
She watches Sutton, 2, most mornings. She takes Fisher, 8, to piano lessons and she makes plenty of time for Cullen, 4, too, playing and reading. Most likely, she hopes her grandchildren will follow in her kids’ footsteps.
“When they were in high school, they couldn’t wait to get out of here. They all went out of state, but they all came back to Marathon,” Ginger said.
Ginger and husband, Tom, moved to the Keys from the Chicago area about 37 years ago. He was, she said, a “corporate drop out from the insurance world” when the couple purchased the 7 Mile Grill. They owned it for a year before Tom decided to become a captain. That’s when she was called upon to build the 600 traps.
“I was pregnant with Maggie at the time,” she said.
When her youngest was school age, she went with him. Ginger spent 17 years at Stanley Switlik Elementary School teaching the learning disabled and emotionally handicapped students in her own classroom. In that time, she also organized the city’s first T-ball league and started the Jogathon, still the school’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
In 1982, the couple made a list of things they wanted in their hometown community, things lacking in Marathon. They sold their Keys holdings and moved to Jacksonville. And although they had a place on the water up there, it was a brief experiment, Ginger said, laughing.
“I had a blue topaz ring. I still have it, as a matter of fact,” Ginger said. “That’s the color the water should be.”
Tom is the former proprietor of Capt. Tom’s Seafood. Their son, Sean, now owns it. Tom tells her repeatedly that she needs to slow down, do less.
“Maybe I retired too early,” Ginger said, grinning.
The 7 Mile Bridge Run is set for Saturday, April 5.