Do you remember the opening of The Andy Griffith Show where nine-year-old Ronnie Howard is walking with a fishing pole over his shoulder down a country road? Over twenty-five years ago Beau Middlebrook, being the only child on the Isles of Capri, was doing the same thing. The only difference was that Howard had that infamous red hair; Beau’s was blond. Unless you have been living under a rock or in a hole like Saddam Hussein did, if you live on Isles of Capri you know who Beau is. One has only to drive down any street on the Island to see that most of the homes for sale are listed with Beau and the company he owns, Island View Team at 322 Capri Blvd. Beau has a long and interesting past. His parents, Christopher and Susan, started Christopher Realty. Beau recalls vividly “hanging out” all day with his parents at their real estate company for twenty years, ten hours a day, seven days a week. “There were no other kids on the island to play with,” quipped Beau. His dad was fire chief for twenty years on the island. Sometimes his father would even let him ride on the fire truck. However, it was not always only real estate for Beau. As a youngster, he worked as a busboy at Pelican Bend, which his aunt owned on the island. He was a dishwasher for Peter and Cookie Thorpe when they owned the Island Galley. Later it became a barbeque joint known as Bucket of Bones and then, finally, Capri Fish House. He was a busboy at Bubs, and Backwater Nicks. He worked at The Blue Heron. Actually, he has worked at every restaurant on the island.
Beau is one of those people like Sara Lee. There is no one that doesn’t like him. As a child on the island he was (and is) loved by all residents who treat him like a son or grandson. “It felt like I had the biggest family in the world,” recalls Beau. “Everyone played with me and gave me a lot of love.” “There was one negative, though,” recalls Beau smiling. “If something bad happened on the island, being the only kid here, I would sometimes get blamed for something I didn’t do.”
What is most evident about Beau is that he is very comfortable in his own skin. He exudes happiness and is eternally grateful. “C’mon,” he says, “I grew up in paradise. I live in paradise. I love what I do.” He considers his work – play. “I have been to almost every house on the island. When I show a house it’s like I am just visiting my friends.” If someone is sick he brings them chicken soup. Beau is the unofficial “Chamber of Commerce” for The Isles of Capri. “People call me from all over the world asking me questions like, ‘What’s the fishing like?’” On the island he will get calls in the middle of the night. “There is a snake in my pool.” “There is a frog in my toilet.” “There is a leak in my roof.” “Can you come over? I can’t get my boat started” or “I am out of gas.” Beau, like the motor club, always comes.
Beau shared with me story after story. I told him that he should write a book like his grandmother, who writes cookbooks for sale here on the island. A poignant recollection for Beau was of an event that happened in the spring of 1985. Beau told me, “I remember I was getting ready for school, and my father getting a phone call. Next thing I know he jumped out of bed yelled to my mom to grab me and get to the boat immediately. I had no idea what was going on, until we were in the boat and underway. My dad said that a pod of about a hundred pilot whales were beaching themselves in the Marco river, Coconut Island, and Keywaden Island. My mom and I took care of a whale marked #6.” We spent hours with it, pouring water on it and keeping it afloat until it was the whale’s turn to be taken out to sea again. While we did that, my father took out a news crew so they could report with actual video footage what was going on. The marine biologist said most likely the leader of the pod was sick and beached itself while the rest of the pod followed suit. I know that most of the whales that we sent back into the Gulf beached themselves again around Fort Myers this time, and most died, including #6.”
On a happier occasion, Beau spent the day, along with other island residents, getting certified at the fire station for CPR. People would practice on the dummy. First checking for a pulse, than clearing the mouth for unobstructed breathing, than mouth to mouth. A couple of guys at the Fire Department decided to have a little fun. They took the suit and mask off the dummy and put it on a real live person. The women would be practicing on what they assumed was the dummy. When they gave mouth to mouth the person would give them a big kiss. Obviously some of the women almost had heart attacks. I would have given anything to be a fly on the wall and watch the uproarious laughter. Isle of Capri is unique in that everybody is a good neighbor. Beau recalled in 2005, when Hurricane Wilma hit, somehow, everybody helped one another.
Of course, you don’t live on the Isles of Capri unless you fish, and Beau is an avid fisherman. He also has Dive Master License Certification. He is very involved with residents on the island to lobby the Navy to provide a final resting place for the retired guided missile frigate, USS George Philip. The commissioners of Collier county are all in favor of the project, led in part by Pamela Keyes, Environmental Specialist Coastal Zone Management. As an artificial reef, the ship will contribute to stable, long-term habitat for scores of marine fish species in the Gulf of Mexico. This project will divert fishing and diving pressure away from natural reefs, provide increased tourism expenditures in Collier County, and present an opportunity to preserve the legacy of the many sons and daughters of Collier County who gave their lives in pursuit of freedom for all. Beau is one of the island’s natural resources. He even gave me some interesting trivia. Did you know that Elkcam Drive in Marco is Mackle spelled backwards. If you want to tap into Beau’s great stories, call him at 239-642-4000. If he doesn’t know the answer, there probably isn’t one. Beau is another resident of Isles of Capri, who through his kindness and wealth of information, continues to make the Isles of Capri a very special part of paradise.