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Author tells history of Pine Island through photos

By Staff | Dec 10, 2008

Mary Kaye Stevens was catching a flight at Southwest International Airport when books on Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Sanibel caught her eye.
Part of the “Images of America” series, these collections of photographs formed detailed and intriguing histories of these cities, something Stevens felt Pine Island was missing.
So, Stevens decided she would write one of her own.
“I thought, these are really neat, it’s a fun read,” she said. “I said, ‘Pine Island needs one of these,’ and thought, I could do this.”
Stevens made the pitch to Arcadia Publishing and had a contract within a week.
It was a whirlwind for the fledgling author, who found herself having to suddenly deliver on the flicker of an idea she had at RSW.
A former Lee County teacher and Pine Island resident for more than 30 years, Stevens set about the monumental task of collecting the photographs and interviews that would make up the bulk of the book.
“It was more difficult than I had anticipated,” she said. “There was pressure I put on myself to make sure it was completely accurate.”
The book contains “about” 200 photos, according to Stevens, detailing the rise of Pine Island’s fishing heritage.
Stevens said she was struck with how happy the early settlers appeared to be in the photos, despite their inherent and obvious hardships trying to settle a piece of land that was as wild as any other place in Lee County.
That is partially why Stevens wanted to pursue the book in the first place: to record a history that might be lost as the generations move, pass away and fade into the background of a passing age.
Several of Stevens’ interview subjects have even died since she began her work just over a year ago.
“There has been a resurgence of local history,” she said. “I think my generation is seeing the generation before us dying.”
Though the island has gone through obvious changes — the arrival of Winn-Dixie, the evolution of Matlacha — Stevens said the spirit and flavor that shaped the island has remained the same.
Now she can find her book in the airport — on same rack that inspired her and set her on the path in first place.
“Why we are what we are is because of the history,” she said. “I’m happy to have people discover Pine Island and know what it is.”
“Images of America: Pine Island” is available at multiple locations throughout Southwest Florida and Pine Island, including Walgreens, Pine Island History Museum, The Variety Store and Crossed Palms Gallery.
Stevens will sign copies of her book at Tortoise and the Crane in Cape Coral on Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and at Crossed Palms Gallery on Pine Island Saturday on Dec. 20 from 1-5 p.m.
For more information, visit: arcadiapublishing.com.