two men sitting on stools in front of a projector screen
Former Monroe County School District Superintendent Mark Porter, left, laughs when a Coral Shores High School teacher in the audience told Jon Landau, right, she’s willing to act in any upcoming movies during a visit on Aug. 13, 2018. KEYS WEEKLY FILE PHOTO

Former Islamorada resident and Oscar-winning producer Jon Landau passed away at the age of 63 on Friday, July 5. 

Alan Bergman, co-chairman for Disney Entertainment, announced Landau’s passing in a statement on July 6, per the Associated Press. No cause of death has been announced.

“Jon was a visionary whose extraordinary talent and passion brought some of the most unforgettable stories to life on the big screen,” Bergman said in a statement. 

Landau worked alongside director James Cameron in the “Titanic” and most recently the “Avatar” series. His career in movie-making began in 1980 as a production manager. He eventually worked his way to producer for a film in the “Titanic” that won 11 Oscars. Landau was also instrumental in developing a top-grossing film in “Avatar” in 2009. 

He lived with his wife, Julie, at his Bali Hai property on the Old Highway in Islamorada for a number of years before selling it in 2022. The Landaus contributed to the community in many ways during their time in the Keys. 

Following Hurricane Irma, the Landaus sprang into action to assist the island chain with the Landau Family Hurricane Relief Fund in the Upper Keys. With help from the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys (CFFK), grants were given to businesses and residents in need to rebuild and recover. Together with CFFK’s Emergency Relief Fund, more than $1.4 million was raised and distributed for Irma recovery in the Keys.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Landaus created the Landau Family COVID-19 Food Fund for the Upper Keys to assist residents in need. The Landau Food Fund complemented CFFK’s Florida Keys Emergency Relief Fund, which provided aid through Keys nonprofits to families, seniors, service workers and others who were out of work and affected by COVID-19’s economic impacts.

“What makes the Keys so special is the community of people that call this island chain their home,” Landau said in April 2020. 

The Landaus also made contributions to the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center in Islamorada. Jon designed the center’s educational theater and headed a vetting committee to select the company to build and equip the facility. 

“Jon was so generous with his time, talent and treasure. He was so humble and unpretentious. He personified the term, ‘difference maker,’” the center stated in a Facebook post. 

Jon and Julie sponsored everything from Islamorada’s Fourth of July festivities to the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Fest at Founders Park each year. They were also big supporters of Mariners Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, Upper Keys Humane Society and Coral Shores High School. 

— This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures in Western New York. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 5-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club. When he's not working, he's busy chasing his son, Lucas, around the house and enjoying time with family.