Lost & Found
Heading west on Pine Island Road, in front of the Bridgewater Inn, islanders and visitors are greeted by a “welcome” sign alerting them that “Island Time Begins Here.” But sometime between the hours of 10 p.m, Monday, June 22, and 8 a.m., Tuesday, June 23, the sign, an island landmark for decades, went missing.
Driving home to Bokeelia late that Monday night Aaron Ramey noticed a large piece of wood in the road – the “Island Time Begins Here” sign from Bridgewater Inn.
“It was face down in the roadway but I noticed that the sign was missing and knew I’d better pick it up or it might be lost forever,” Ramey said. “I put it in my truck and continued home.”
Early Tuesday Ramey left for Tampa. During the day his wife spotted a post on Facebook that the sign was missing.
“She called me right away,” Ramey said. “When I got back I contacted the Bridgewater Inn and they gave me Leoma Lovegrove’s number.”
Ramey dropped the badly battered sign off at Lovegrove’s Studios Wednesday morning.
“It’s in pretty bad shape so we’re going to make a new one that looks exactly like the old sign,” Lovegrove said. “We were offering a $500 reward for the return of the old sign but Mr. Ramey declined the reward. We can use that money to build a shadow box and donate the original to the museum.”
“The sign has been hanging outside Bridgewater Inn for more than 30 years,” inn manager Diane Martini said. “But the original sign was missing until about two years ago when my husband Bob was cleaning out the Bridgewater Inn garage. He came across an old piece of wood he was going to throw away until he realized it was the original sign painted by local artist Dot Cunningham many years ago.”
After Bob Martini found the sign, they decided to make the re-hanging an event. “We invited everybody including the county commissioners,” Martini said. “Fox News was here and the News-Press.
“It’s become an important piece of Matlacha history,” Martini continued. “Everyone that stays here or even drives through likes to have their picture taken in front of the sign. I’m really excited to have it back.”