January/February 2019 GASPARILLA ISLAND 59
During that June of 1982 a freak storm pushed
over the island, causing a lot of damage and even
more flooding. The people of the south end of
the island in Tarpon Pass Estates lost almost
everything they owned as their homes were
several feet underwater for a time, eliciting
$16,000 in donations from the Red Cross and
private donations. Much of the money was used
to purchase stoves, refrigerators, food, bedding
and other essentials for the residents there.
People who don’t have much to begin with are
quite often the most resilient, and in this instance
that theory was proven once again. Joan Kohlbry,
then acting as a volunteer for a non-profit group
called the Lend-A-Hand Fund from Fort Myers
said, “Never have I seen a braver, nobler group of
people … people who have lost everything but
felt no self pity. Everyone was so concerned
about getting things cleaned up and starting
The Amory Chapel was the church of the black community,
and once one of the biggest concerns the residents
expressed was the loss of their hymnals. Fort Myers
churches were contacted, and they began the process of
immediately finding replacements.
When all was said and done it was determined the
damage done to the south end was estimated
between $80,000 and $100,000. Insurance adjusters
estimated at the height of the storm three to five feet
of water inundated Tarpon Pass Estates, and washed
up nearly equal amounts of sand and other debris.
In 1983, March came in like a lion and kept roaring
the entire month. High tides, winds and rain twice
forced the evacuation of the south end of Gasparilla
Island, creating cause for a new way of doing things
when a storm was to arrive. In fact, the ink had barely
dried on a new emergency plan when it was put into
action for the first time.
Above, the Amory Chapel fully awash during the
storm. Below, the old road along the Gulf of Mexico.