Barbara was working for Evelyn full time. She and
Pete had just adopted their fourth child, David, only
days before Sam’s death. She spent her evenings
and every Sunday taking on her share of the
responsibilities of the marina.
Both sisters’ families continued to grow with the
birth of several grandchildren. The marina
remained the center of their lives, with adults and
children coming and going all the time. Barbara’s
Beauty Salon was opened in 1985.
The mid-90s were difficult for Barbara. Her
beloved Pete, who had worked until he was 62,
had spent the last several years taking care of
young David and fighting the effects of diabetes. He
passed away on December 7, 1995. Barbara was
nearly blind from macular degeneration and had
to sell her shop. In 1996 she was diagnosed with
and treated for cancer. Then, in 1999, Isabelle’s
husband Donald passed away. The widowed sisters
remained close as always.
It was during the late 90s that their good friend
Nina Houghton suggested they come up with a
plan to preserve the marina. No other structure in
Boca Grande captures the imagination quite like
Whidden’s. It was Holmes Crimmons, a long-time
resident of the Boca Grande Beach Club, who
came up with the idea for the museum.
In October of 1967, Barbara and Pete headed
back to Florida. Pete’s family was spread out in
Florida, and his father was the sheriff in
Woodville, near Tallahassee. They visited Pete’s
brother in Panama City before he shipped out to
When they returned to Boca Grande, they
rented an apartment on Tarpon Street. Pete
bartended and Barbara went back to work at
Evelyn’s. Barbara worked at the Pink Elephant
during tarpon season from 1969 through 1971.
It started because they were short-handed, and
Barbara did some bussing for a day or two. Right
away she was helping with everything and loved
it. Delmar and Margaret Fugate “were so much
fun. Delmar was doing all the cooking, and Sybil
and Forrest were bartending upstairs.”
In the meantime, Isabelle and Donald had two
more children, Leslie and Wayne. In 1970, Pete
and Barbara bought the house on Pilot Street
and adopted the first three of their four children:
Evelyn, Jane and Grady. Pete started a family
business doing yards, and the children helped.
Isabelle was a homemaker when Donald had a
car accident in 1972. Although Isabelle had always
done the marina bookkeeping, Barbara volunteered
her sister to work at Harry B. Whidden’s
(not Incorporated) Grocery. Harry was their
father’s cousin. Isabelle worked right through the
ninth month of her pregnancy with Melissa, her
fourth child. She took a year off and then went
back to work. She stayed on after the Hudsons
bought and renamed the store.
Over the years, their father’s marina remained
the center of activity for the sisters and their
growing families. Sam Whidden was in his seventies,
and he had slowed down a bit. He was still
trying to do everything himself and kept the
marina open for just a few hours each morning.
On October 15, 1978 he passed away. The family
was devastated. Sam had always been the center
of their universe, and suddenly he was gone.
Barbara remembers, “If there was ever a time I
needed Isabelle the most, it was when Daddy
Isabelle moved into the marina with her
children, Wayne and Melissa. She faced a huge
challenge, getting the marina “back on its feet.”