The names on the Tablet of Honor read like a who’s who of Longboat Key history.
Guy Paschal. He was named honorary lifetime mayor of Longboat Key in 1955.
Helen Holt. The longtime postmistress was instrumental in the founding of many island institutions.
John Siegel. The late former head of Arvida’s Longboat Key Division was the visionary for much of the island’s southern development.
The Kiwanis Club of Sarasota Keys (now the Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key) established the tablet in 1980 and installed it at the base of the flagpole at Bicentennial Park in honor of the town’s 25th anniversary and gave the Longboat Key Historical Society the role of maintaining it. But the tradition of adding names gradually faded.
When Tom Mayers became president of the Historical Society in January, he didn’t know that the group was responsible for maintaining the tablet. But when a woman suggested earlier this year adding the name of former Longboat Key Mayor Kit Fernald at a board meeting, Mayers learned of the group’s responsibility.
“It’s our duty to perpetuate the monument and make sure it is in a good place,” he said.
And Mayers had a couple more additions in mind: his mother, Fran Mayers, who founded the Historical Society, and Mary Wickersham, a longtime resident who was Mayers’ Cub Scout leader.
Mayers then headed to Bicentennial Park to check out the Tablet of Honor, but he couldn’t find it — the base of the flagpole was bare.
No one — residents or town staff — knew where the tablet had been moved. The few who remembered the Tablet of Honor thought it still stood in Bicentennial Park.
But, a few weeks ago, a conversation with longtime Historical Society board member and The Longboat Observer co-founder Claire Hunter helped solve the mystery. Hunter remembered that the tablet was moved to the Historical Society’s former home at 6960 Gulf of Mexico Drive shortly after the group moved there in 2004.
“It seemed more appropriate to have it at its own home,” Hunter said.
Mayers went to the property, which was purchased in August by PFG Asset Management LLC and, there, near the building’s front door, was the missing Tablet of Honor, apparently left behind during the
Historical Society’s 2008 move to Whitney Beach Plaza. And by its side was another monument erected in 1976 to commemorate Hernando De Soto’s 1539 landing on the island.
At Mayers’ request, the monuments will be returned to Bicentennial Park when the new owner of the property gives permission, according to Mark Richardson, town facilities and recreation manager.
“Once we gracefully get these two monuments back, then we can begin adding names to the tablet,” Mayers said.
Contact Robin Hartill at email@example.com