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Longboat Key Monday, Jan. 17, 2022 4 months ago

David Bianchi, last volunteer fire chief on Longboat Key, dies

Bianchi died on Jan. 13 at 78 years old.
by: Nat Kaemmerer Staff Writer

David Bianchi wore many hats during his life: father, Navy seaman, grandfather, insurance adjuster, restaurant owner. However, the one Longboat Key residents may remember him for is firefighter and paramedic. Bianchi was the town’s youngest volunteer firefighter as well as its last. He spent nearly 50 years of his life on Longboat Key and died on Jan. 13 at age 78. 

David Bianchi moved to Longboat Key in 1958 when he was 14 and his father became building inspector to the newly established town of Longboat Key. Shortly after that, he wanted to give back to his community and began volunteering as a firefighter. He fought the many brush fires on the island alongside more experienced men and got paid “$3 a blaze,” daughter Michelle Bianchi said. 

“My dad was quoted as saying the equipment was, ‘A stinking little truck that didn’t do much of anything,’” Michelle Bianchi said. 

David Bianchi fought fires through his teen years before moving on to Manatee High, Manatee Junior College (now State College of Florida) and the Navy. During his Navy career from 1962 to 1966, he was stationed at Quonset Point in Rhode Island, where he married his childhood sweetheart, Anne Marie Brehens. Michelle was born and raised on Longboat Key.

“When he was done with the Navy, he decided to come back down to Longboat because the town was just developing and his parents were here," Michelle Bianchi said. 

The Bianchi family, including David Bianchi’s parents Lillian and Otto Bianchi and Lillian’s sister Virginia Cupi and her husband Henry Cupi, were instrumental in developing the island.

The family built the Key Apartments mid-island, which are now a set of condos near Harry’s Continental Kitchens. David Bianchi helped with construction and got involved in the community again after moving back, this time as the volunteer fire chief — the last on Longboat Key. During that time, he joined the Manatee City Health Department and founded the Longboat Key Rescue Squad. He furthered the department in 1977 when he became the first to complete the Emergency Medical Technician course, a training that ultimately reduced death by heart attack on the Key. He also attended an arson and bomb investigation course. 

“They would send him off to school and then he would start the program for Longboat,” Michelle Bianchi said. 

After his firefighting career ended, he became at times a real estate agent, a restaurant owner twice over, an insurance adjuster and a grandfather seven times over. He remained on Longboat Key until the mid-2000s, and Michelle Bianchi only recently left the island. Her family has many happy memories there, many relating to the fire department. 

“I remember when my dad was fire chief and we would have the Fourth of July parade and the fire truck always led the parade,” Michelle Bianchi said. “My sister and I got to ride in the front seat of the fire truck for the parade.” 

The Bianchi family was a thoroughly Catholic Italian family, Michelle Bianchi said, and her father was sometimes nicknamed the “Italian Stallion” by friends. His favorite movie was “The Godfather” and the quote, “Leave the gun, take the cannoli,” was his favorite line. Michelle Bianchi said the family is using it on his memorial card. 

He is survived by his four daughters Michelle, Elizabeth, Alicia and Lauren and his seven grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to be made to Tidewell Hospice House of Lakewood Ranch in honor of David Paul Bianchi.

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