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CIHS honors island historian with new award

By Staff | Jan 28, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Betty Anholt and her husband, Jim.

On Jan. 13, the Captiva Island Historical Society celebrated the many contributions and published works of the island’s remarkable historian, Betty Anholt.

Nearly 100 guests flocked to the porch of the Captiva Island Yacht Club porch to welcome the trolley carrying Anholt and her family and friends. Everyone was gathered to celebrate the first Guardian of History Award, named the Betty Anholt Guardian of History Award, in honor of its first recipient. Luc Century designed and created the award.

The event was called a “Homage to History.” The tone of the evening felt more like a homage to Anholt, as devoted colleagues and other friends lauded her accomplishments: a lifelong dedication to discovering and sharing the stories and cultures that have formed the Captiva and Sanibel of today.

Anholt’s visits to the islands began when her parents brought her to Sanibel from her home in New Jersey, as a child. Later she and her husband, Jim, settled on Sanibel after their graduation from Rutgers University. Their entrepreneurial ventures included a gas station, a bait shop and a trolley company.

A perceptive and sympathetic listener, Anholt absorbed the lore of the islands, recounted by long-time locals. Coupled with meticulous research, she amassed enough material to develop guided tours of the islands on the trolleys. Anholt wrote a book called “The Trolley Guide to Sanibel and Captiva.” Five additional books on Gulf Coastal history followed, as she gained experience and knowledge about the Calusas and the early settlers, cataloging objects from archaeological digs on Useppa and Pine Island, with noted Florida researcher Bill Marquardt. Anholt’s experience as a librarian at the Sanibel library provided a background for the work. She recently co-authored a book with Charles LeBuff, “Protecting Sanibel and Captiva Islands: The Conservation Story,” about the history of Florida conservation.


Documentary producer and former news anchor Ken Sneeden emceed the “Homage to History” dinner reception. Known for his creation of the CIHS films, he surprised Anholt with a tribute video of his interviews with colleagues about her, culminating with a moving tribute from her daughter, Morganna Anholt. As Sneeden observed, the interviewees consistently talked about the curiosity, passion and humility of the first winner of the Betty Anholt Award.

Guests included Jeff Muddell of the Sanibel-Captiva Trust Company, a presenting sponsor of CIHS, as well as Chip Roach, Virginia Stringer and Tony Lapi from the Charitable Fund of the Islands, whose grant to the CIHS helped underwrite the tribute. CIHS Board of Directors President Tom Libonate and the event co-chairs, Mary Jane Vinson and Ginny Reiss, reported that it was a sold-out event.

Anholt’s latest project is the publication of her first novel, “Turtle Coast,” not surprisingly set in the early days of Florida’s Gulf Coast fishermen. MacIntosh Books has copies of the book for sale.