Sanibel celebrates the life of Francis Bailey
The community of Sanibel turned out in droves for the Francis Bailey Celebration of Life on Sunday.
Bailey, one of the founding fathers of Sanibel, passed away on June 8 and his family organized a community celebration at the Bailey Homestead on Sunday so members of the community could pay their respects. Tents were set up on the grounds as well as hay bales for guests to sit on, and the family addressed the crowd from the main deck.
“While this could be a sad day, we don’t want it to be,” said Richard Johnson, Bailey’s son-in-law and general manager of Bailey’s General Store. Johnson commented on Sunday’s weather, sunny and hot, by saying Bailey would’ve worn long sleeves and been very comfortable. “This is exactly what Francis would want.”
Porter Goss, former mayor of Sanibel who went on to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2004, said a few words about his old friend.
“Everybody loved Francis and Francis loved Sanibel,” said Goss. “Francis loved to show off Sanibel, even to get a Yankee like me and show me something good.”
Goss reminisced about times when Bailey would call him late at night to meet and catch the blooming of a rare flower or see something in Sanibel’s natural environment to show off. The two met in the late 1960’s, he said, and worked together for a lot of projects including the incorporation of Sanibel.
“He was certainly the go-to guy for any cause that came along,” said Goss.
Sanibel Councilmember Marty Harrity also discussed Bailey’s involvement in the community. He said Bailey accomplished so much for Sanibel like the establishment of the city government, the comprehensive land plan, the vegetation committee, the historical committee, and the city’s energy plan.
Harrity said that Bailey’s motto was: “You must always do what’s best for our island.”
It was no coincidence that Bailey’s celebration was planned for Father’s Day because many island residents consider him the father of Sanibel.
“Since today is Father’s Day and we already have a mother of Sanibel, I would be very comfortable having Francis as the father of Sanibel,” said Goss.
Members of the Bailey family also shared stories about their father’s life on the island, including Susan Bailey who wished him a happy Father’s Day.
“Happy Father’s Day dad and we all love you,” she said.
Johnson said Bailey’s General Store will continue to serve the community and evolve. He said one of the things Francis taught him was to make sure he always made himself part of the community.
Bailey’s grandchildren remembered him at the end of the celebration by reading some of his catchphrases, such as “Holy Catfish,” “We are off like a herd of turtles,” or “Ready like a radio.”