I was scrolling through contacts on my iPhone the other day, and came to the realization that I was indeed getting older. Sure, the gray hair and stiffness are telltale signs, but what hit me was seeing the number of contacts that were still on my cell phone but who had passed away. It was a dose of ultimate reality in the rather surreal couple of weeks I’ve had lately, and seeing some of these names sure brought back some fond memories.
• Alan Fletcher — one of the founding members of Citizens Incorporate Marathon and a huge reason why our city got off the ground as well as it did. I miss his advice and counsel, and I sure miss his sense of humor. He would have some interesting observations about the state of things today.
• Burt Marshall — one of the groomsmen at my wedding and a great old friend. Burt was a stuntman back in the Hollywood heyday of the ’70s and ’80s, and he had several onscreen roles as an actor in various TV series. I actually remembered him from the initial run of the TV series “V” — but he also had roles in “Quincy,” “Trapper John, M.D.,” “MacGyver,” and more. Like me, Burt loved a good cigar, and we spent some quality time discussing many things over a burning leaf. Burt also co-wrote the song “Keys Disease” with my wife Marlene and myself. I’d love to share another cigar and shoot the breeze.
• Gary Jennings — a musician from the Upper Keys who passed away last year. Our paths would cross now and again, and we would swap gigs at the Key Largo Holiday Inn on more than one occasion. I only got to jam with him a few times, but he was a kindred musical spirit who touched a lot of lives.
• George Simpson — a Sheriff’s deputy and detective, George was one of the first people I met in Marathon. A great guy who was always known to lend a helping hand, George had a keen sense of humor and was a great friend. He was known to jump up on stage a sing a song now and again, and one of my favorite memories is when he asked Freddie Bye and me to perform at his family reunion. Now that was a party!
• Paula Nardone — a hard-working real estate broker who was also known always to lend a helping hand. Paula had a life filled with a variety of careers and locations ranging from Cape Cod to the Florida Keys, and was deeply committed to making her town a better place. Every time I sing “Piano Man,” I remember Paula fondly.
• Ron Levy — one of the founding fathers of the Village of Islamorada, Ron’s generosity with his time and wisdom helped pave the way for Marathon to take control of its own destiny. A free spirit, artist, and craftsman, Ron remained dedicated to his community long after his term of service ended on the Village Council.
• Steve Taylor — an old friend from here who moved to central Florida some 20-plus years ago. Steve died earlier this year; far too young, and leaving a loving family and a whole lot of friends behind. He would come see me play and we shared a few cocktails together through the years. R.I.P., my friend.
There are others, and these are but a few of the true characters (and I mean that in the absolute finest sense of the word) that I have been privileged to know over the years. But I won’t be taking any of these names off of my contact list – as long as they remain on my phone, a part of them remains alive with me. Thank you all for being a part of my journey.
Special thanks to the Chamber staff, the volunteers, the City of Marathon, our guests, and most importantly, the Organized Fishermen of Florida, Marathon Chapter for putting on the greatest Original Marathon Seafood Festival ever! Thanks also go to the performers, event organizer and partner-in-sound Glenn Faast, Rob Garza, and Dave Condra for stage management and sound, and Christian Davis for playing some awesome guitar.
And finally, thank you to the members of Marathon City Council for their vote of confidence in appointing me to fill the term of Ginger Snead. Let’s do some good things!