Cape ‘founding father’ dies at 86
A man considered by many to be one of Cape Coral’s founding fathers, Earle F. Tolles, died Monday.
Tolles, who moved to Cape Coral and founded Con-Crete Seawalls with brother Ron Tolles in 1961, died at 86 years of age after battling cancer.
Tolles was a charter member of the Cape Coral Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral and Cape Coral Construction Industry Association. In 2003 he was named to the CCCIA Hall of Fame.
Tolles participated in the development of St. Andrew Catholic Church and the Cape Coral Yacht Club, and was a member of the Church of the Resurrection in Fort Myers.
Long-time resident and city historian Paul Sanborn recalled Tolles as a kind, generous man and an irreplaceable friend.
“He was one of the nicest persons you could ever meet,” he said Monday evening. “I don’t think Earle had an enemy in the world.”
Sanborn met Tolles in 1962, and both were founding members of the Cape Coral Rotary Club in 1964. The two had traveled to Europe on several occasions together and kept in constant contact via e-mail.
“Earle was one of my very best and long-term friends,” he said. “It’s a great loss to me because we were very, very close.”
Among their many contributions, Tolles and his brother donated concrete to the Veterans’ Arch structure near the entrance of the Cape Coral Bridge, Sanborn said.
“They’ve contributed many, many things to the community as we were growing,” he said. “If there was a need, they helped fill it.”
In response to Tolles’ death, CCCIA Executive Director Patti Schnell referred to Tolles as an industry pioneer and boasted his lifelong contributions to the community.
“His family name will always be an important cornerstone in the growth of this wonderful city,” she said. “He took a chance on Cape Coral when it was new, and because of that I consider him one of the founding fathers of this city. He just did it because it was the right thing to do, that’s the kind of person he was.”
Tolles was born Feb. 6, 1923, in Alamo, Texas. He graduated P.S.J.A. High School in McAllen, Texas, and served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
Tolles was an avid golfer, sinking his third hole in one in 2008. He golfed regularly at the Palmetto Pines Country Club, of which he was a charter member, and in Hendersonville, N.C. He also enjoyed making wine, woodworking and computers.
A viewing will be held from 2-4 and 6-9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at Metz Funeral Home.
Church services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Andrew Catholic Church, to be followed by burial services at the Fort Myers Memorial Gardens at 1589 Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers.
Family members request that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Rotary Club of Cape Coral Foundation, P.O. Box 101346, Cape Coral, FL 33910; Hope Hospice, 9470 Health Park Circle, Fort Myers, FL 33908; or Junior Golf.