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Cape’s ‘father’ celebrates his 90th birthday

By Staff | Sep 11, 2013

What better place to celebrate the birthday of one of the pillars of our community than to hold a party for him in the park named after him.

City historian Paul Sanborn, whose tireless work for Cape Coral has helped turn the city from a pipe dream to Southwest Florida’s biggest city south of Hillsborough County, blew out the candles on his 90th birthday cake Saturday at Paul Sanborn Park, and many of his friends and colleagues were there to celebrate it with him.

And they spared no expense in making the day special. A bluegrass band, food, a tent, even a helicopter was there for people to enjoy.

But the day was about a man who never made anything about him in the more than 50 years he has spent in the community.

A special ceremony was held that included guest speakers extolling accolades, gifts and a few words from the guest of honor, who used that time to introduce everyone to his extended family.

“Parks build a sense of community and pride in the neighborhood, and from Viscaya to Hancock Bridge Parkway, from Del Prado to 24th Avenue, this is the only park in Cape Coral and we’re honored that it’s in your name,” Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pohlman said.

Mayor John Sullivan said he had a list of accomplishments from Sanborn, 15 pages long. He did mention some of them before summing it all up.

“He spent years helping others and to make Cape Coral a better place to live,” Sullivan said. “He is the example of what it means to care for the community.”

City Manager John Szerlag said his first impression on the city was having a park named after someone who was still living, asking what happens if someone does something wrong.

Szerlag then added it didn’t take for him to realize what Sanborn was all about.

“He is a part of Cape Coral’s evolution. The Rosen brothers may have founded Cape Coral, but Paul fathered it,” Szerlag said.

Other accolades came, such as a new sign on the park, replacing the old one that made Sanborn look like, Pohlman said, like a referee.

He also received a written tribute from State Rep. Dane Eagle, who was able to present it to him in person, and a sign on flashing billboards throughout Lee County wishing Sanborn happy birthday, compliments of Lamar Industries.

Sanborn, who moved to Cape Coral in 1962 after he was offered a job with Gulf American Land Corporation, thanked everyone for thinking about him.

“Many in Cape Coral think turning 90 is no big deal when there are people turning 100,” Sanborn said. “It’s a big deal to, me because I can’t guarantee 91.”

Sanborn got a chance to thank everyone, as people lined up under the tent for a chance to extend their well wishes.

Among them was Patricia Ferrara of Lee County Mosquito Control, which Sanborn ran for 20 years and for which the helicopter was there to honor him.

“It’s a wonderful tribute to Paul’s work at Mosquito Control. Even now, we still see him at many functions,” Ferrara said.

The musical entertainment featured bluegrass band Captain Joe & The Bottom Feeders, and there was plenty of food and drink, as well as a huge birthday cake.