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Melbourne Alexander Waite
Born - September 20, 1907 - Massachusetts
Married - May 5, 1971
Church of the Ascension
Fort Myers Beach, Florida
Died - April 25, 1999
Fort Myers, Lee County, Florida
Wife - Thelma Grace (Rohrs) Waite
Born - June 22, 1916
Auburn, Nemaha County, Nebraska
Died - September 9, 1989
Fort Myers, Lee County, Florida
The Man From Waite Island
In one of the photographs Mel Waite gave to St. Charles Harbour president Matthew Meyerson, Waite captains a 22-footer from behind a huge wooden wheel. In his teeth he clenches a pipe.
The picture was taken around 1951, four years later Mel and his wife Thelma arrived in Fort Meyers during a hurricane, hauling a dinghy and all their possessions.
"Roads were blocked with trees down. We stayed that night in a place where the water came a half-inch from the floor in our room," says the old sailor in a slow, halting narrative. "My wife was pretty upset, so I gave her an extra shot of booze. That's a good way to calm things down," he finishes with a naughty grin.
The next day, the Waite's went on a fishing expedition to Pine Island and learned a fish camp up the river was looking for managers. The Waite's ran the camp at Iona Cove for a few months and then bought its 36 acres for $22,500. Some 40 years later, the cove would become the site of Saint Charles Harbor's marina.
"It came our in the paper we were nuts for paying so much for mangroves," Waite remembers.
From a captain's chair in his workshop on Waite Island, he tells the history of the cove with a slant toward the humorous. Like the tale about the man who tried to land a gigantic Jew fish in a 16-foot inboard: he lost both his eyeglasses and the paddle he poked into the fish's angry mouth.
Waite has heard a lot of fish stories in his time. Marina Cove, under his ownership, became a pit stop for every fisherman in the area. He and his wife, who came to be known as the "Queen of the Caloosahatchee," were well-known local figures. Thelma Waite earned her title, according to her husband, because "she was kind of a character. She liked to tell people off once in awhile."
Twelve years ago, Mel and Thelma sold the marina and moved to the mangrove island that holds their home and his workshop. On one corner of their island sits the 12-foot dinghy they hauled here from New York State back in "47". On another corner heels the Sea Hawk, a time-worn vessel once owned by an employee of Dr. Franklin Miles, of Alka Seltzer fame.
"Edison's son drove' round her one afternoon and claimed his father used to sail in that boat," says the 80-year old Waite.
A white life buoy stenciled with "Island in the Sun" hangs at the door of Waite's shop. Within are the trappings of boats and sails and Waite's wood carving handiwork. "I picked up the hobby when I was in the Navy," he says, proudly displaying his current project, a carving of a sailboat out of poplar to be presented to the "Queen of the Caloosahatchee" on her birthday.
Inside his brick home, the full extent of Waite's talent reveals itself. Mahogany dolphins, a basswood crèche, and women's figures carved into manatee ribs demonstrate skill heightened with artistry, despite a disease that has left him with palsied hands.
Two sailboats moor at the Waite's dock, which looks across the harbor at the St. Charles Yacht Club. Meyerson tells of Waite's acumen for marina construction, and how he once predicted a road the club's engineers built would cave in. Meyerson assured him the engineers knew what they were doing. The road caved in.
"They're doing a good job. They've messed up just a couple of times," Waite laughs slyly, looking at Meyerson for a reaction.
Meyerson's comeback obliges in good nature. "Yeah, but you set us straight, didn't you Mel?"
Article taken from Gulf Shore Life Magazine - October 1989
Daughter - Marcia (Waite) Koopman
Sister - Frances G. Waite
Born - May 1909 - Massachusetts
Father - Fredrick E. Waite
Born- 1878 - Massachusetts
Mother - Gertrude C. (Barron) Waite
Born- 1886 - England
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Last Up-Date 01/15/2012 09:41:50 AM