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‘Captiva Memories’ preserves history, past and present, for future islanders

By Staff | Apr 15, 2011

Sarita Van Vleet, filmmaker Rusty Farst and Renee Rey mingle following the premiere of the film, "Captiva Memories."

A realization that a hurricane could obliterate a treasure trove of history sparked a thought in Stella Farwell’s mind: That history should be preserved for future generations.

Farwell, chairman of the Captiva History Project Committee, came up with the idea last fall that someone needed to preserve the memories, history and artifacts of times gone by along with the “new” history of the island.

On April 7, a portion of that came about with the premiere showing of “Captiva Memories,” a short, 35-minute movie showcasing some of the old-timers along with those who are relatively new to the barrier island off Lee County’s coast. It is a “return to yesteryear on Captiva Island. Listen as voices echo memories of the characters and times of our small barrier island,” the cover proclaims.

“It almost happened by accident,” Farwell said of her idea. She was in the library looking at an old photo album of Captiva and “its characters.”

Farwell, who grew up in New Orleans and knows how quickly a hurricane can erase memories, began talking to people on the island and soon a committee was formed to document Captiva’s history. Then the Captiva Civic Association got involved and the rest is, as they say, history.

Interior shot of Captiva's Chapel by the Sea, where the film was screened last week.

About 160 people filled the Captiva Civic Association and Chapel-by-the-Sea to watch the movie, filmed by Rusty Farst.

They saw Uncle Tom’s smoker, still in existence, being loaded with buttonwood by Queenie Viglione. She pulled out some smoked mullet, much like Uncle Tom would have done in the day. Those who have had some of Uncle Tom’s fresh smoked mullet shook their heads in agreement.

Chic Bruning, Dave Jensen, Leslie Kowalski, Debby and David MacKenzie and Sarita Van Vleck added their memories of the times that were, the people who have gone and the stories told.

There was much laughter during the movie, especially at the mention of mosquitoes, and even some whispers by people remembering those who have gone to a different place.

The event was to kick off a fundraiser for the project. Copies of the movie are available for a $250 donation that is tax deductible, but people can give more if they wish, Farwell said.

Naomi Pastor and Ann Bradley of the Captiva Memorial Library.

The stars of the show were pleased with how it turned out, they say.

Van Vleck thinks “it is wonderful.”

Jensen agreed. “I was totally impressed. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought Rusty did a great job and I thought the choice of people was great.”

Kowalski said: “I’m very happy to share whatever I could while I still have it.”

Farwell, too, was pleased. “It is fantastic,” she said just after the showing. “It’s a wonderful response. The whole community came together.”

Gaye Pigott, Sarita Van Vleet, Nancy Oden and Cynthia Sargent.

Farst was happy people enjoyed his passion, he said.

“I want people who watch my videos to be motivated,” he said. He wanted to make sure those interviewed held him in trust and wanted to portray them in their essence.

The general consensus of attendees was: the movie was great and it brought back a lot of memories.

Paul Garvey, executive director of the Captiva Civic Association, said he encourages anyone to look for and provide historical photos, movies or artifacts to add to the collection.

“We all have something that brought us to this island,” he added.