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Thelma Grace Waite

Known as

“Caloosahatchee Queen”


Feisty, energetic Thelma Grace Waite, known as the “Queen of the Caloosahatchee”, reigned for years over Iona Cove in south Fort Myers with a spicy combination of guts and good humor.

“She got that nickname from the customers – she kept them all in line” said her husband, Mel Waite of south Fort Myers. “Thelma loved the water and she’d visited all the islands, collecting bottles and shells.”

Mrs. Waite died Saturday of complications from a stroke she suffered in July. She was 73.

A world-traveling Navy seaman, Waite met the Nebraska girl with the vibrant smile one Fourth of July weekend at a Virginia Beach watering hole known as the Beachhead.
Although they had never been to Florida, they piled all their possessions into their handmade dinghy in 1947 and towed it all the way to Fort Myers. The first night they spent there, a hurricane hit, but they battled through it and decided to stay.

The couple began working at a fish camp, which they eventually bought and built into the Cove Marina. Approximately 10 years ago they sold the marina, although they stayed in their house.

“We built it all up from scratch” Waite said. “Everyone thought we were nuts when we bought this crappy looking place. There was nothing here.  We had to do it all ourselves. Worked from sun-up to sundown. “There was nothing but crude equipment.”

He did the dredging excavation and building; she took care of the books and did all the running and carrying. The marina grew to include a store, room for more then 40 boats, fishing docks and rental cabins.

Although the two had been keeping company for years, it wasn’t until a local priest exerted some pointed pressure that they got married.

“He called us up one day and said, ‘Come down here right now, I’m going to marry you two!’ So we went – both of us still had our work clothes on – and he married us right there,” he said.

They couldn’t get away for a honeymoon, so after that, life went on pretty much as usual.

“We had some real characters working for us back then,” Waite recalled. “There was one guy who got started in the circus and he used to walk around the dock with a big snake draped around his neck.”

“Another one had tattoos all over his body.” But Thelma had something to say to all of them. “She was pretty sassy and she’d tell people off in a hurry.”

The two enjoyed traveling from island to island on their converted Navy Launch, collecting shells and artifacts. Mrs. Waite also tamed a wild turkey with handfuls of sunflower seeds. Eagles also frequented their place, as well as snakes, alligators and bobcats.

Mrs. Waite enjoyed cleaning fish and was the resident expert.

“She wasn’t squeamish by any means,” her husband said. “She loved bawdy jokes too – quite a colorful character.”

Mrs. Waite loved to play cards; her favorite game was Spite and Malice, her husband said.
And she enjoyed a little nip of vodka every once in a while, too.  I remember one time, she and my father-in-law were up all night playing poker in one of the rental cabins and it got later and later and finally about 3 a.m., I just got out my .45 and fired some shots. That broke that up in a hurry.  He said, chuckling.

There will be no public memorial service for Mrs. Waite.

Memorial contributions in her name may be made to the Church of the Ascension, 6025 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, Florida 33931



Name: Thelma Grace Waite

Date of Birth: June 22, 1916

Date of Death: September 9, 1989

Cause of Death: Complications from a Stroke

Occupation: Part Owner of the Cove Marina

Moved to south Fort Myers in 1947

Previous residence: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Survivors include: Her husband, Melbourne Alexander Waite of south Fort Myers; a daughter, Marcia Koopman of Marblehead, Massachusetts; a sister, Ancilla Rohrs of Albany, New York; three grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Funeral home: National Cremation Society, 3596 Fowler St., Fort Myers, Florida




Husband - Melbourne Alexander Waite

Born - September 20, 1907 - Massachusetts

Died - April 25, 1999

Fort Myers, Lee County,  Florida

Father - Fredrick E. Waite

Mother - Gertrude C. (Barron) Waite



Step-Daughter - Marcia (Waite) Koopman



Brother - Vincent Eloy Rohrs

Born - February 19, 1915


Sister - Frances Evelyn Rohrs

(Sister Ancilla Rohrs)

Born - July 18, 1912



Father - Chester James Rohrs

Mother - Pauline Lenore (Hurley) Rohrs



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Last Up-Date   12/21/2007 06:13:38 PM