By Natalie Strom
The rain clouds hovered close, but stayed at bay long enough for the Beautification Advisory Committee (BAC) to hold a special presentation on October 2, 2013 at Calusa Park along Winterberry Drive. Even the weather knew better than to mess with the guest of honor, Syd Mellinger.
A long-time resident of Marco Island, Syd has been involved in the beautification of the island for more than 20 years. As she and her husband Jim have recently left the island, the Beautification Advisory Committee found it fitting to not only dedicate a tree in her honor, but also to surprise her with a plaque placed under a tabebuia tree. The tree is known for its vibrant yellow flowers; quite fitting for a woman who stood out within the community as a philanthropist. The tree was kindly donated and planted by Affordable Landscaping.
As Syd and Jim approached Calusa Park on the corner of Winterberry and Sandhill, they were taken aback by the amount of cars, wondering what the fuss was all about. As they came forward, members of the city staff, including Bryan Milk, Nancy Richie and Interim City Manager Guillermo Polanco, members of the Beautification Committee, the Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island and friends, parted like the Red Sea, applauding Syd as she and Jim made their way to the tree.
Hugs and thanks were shared before the presentation that began with a quick speech by Linda Colombo of the Beautification Advisory Committee. “This tree has been planted in recognition of Syd Mellinger’s service to the community of Marco Island. Thank you Syd for expending your time and efforts and sharing your knowledge and compassion to enhance the beauty of Marco Island,” stated Colombo. “On behalf of the BAC we want to thank you for showing us the true meaning of the word perseverance.”
At that, many attendees laughed aloud, recalling times where Syd boldly stood in front of city council requesting, sometimes demanding, allocation toward the beautification of Marco. Proof of Syd’s perseverance was heard in the light-hearted yet sincere letter written by Chairman Joe Batte.
Interim City Manager Guillermo Polanco came forward to read the letter from Batte. “Dear Syd, I have long admired your hard work and dedication to our city’s beauty and well-being. You always fight hard for what you feel is right and you certainly let us know how you feel. You are a total professional, and it has been a privilege for me to know you and work with you. Thank you for your service to the people of Marco Island, and for constantly reminding me through your actions, of what spirit, hard work and dedication really is.”
Director of Parks and Recreation Bryan Milk read a proclamation from the city in Syd’s honor, recognizing her actions over the years.
After all, Syd became a member of the Calusa Garden Club in 1989, which, as she described in her thank you speech, was more of a glorified tea party in the beginning. With the help of Syd, the Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island has grown tremendously over the years, involving itself in many projects throughout the city – most recently requesting permission to place a Blue Star Memorial Marker at Veteran’s Park and offering to pay for the $1,350 sign. The Blue Star Memorial has been a National Garden Club movement for over 65 years, placing these signs in honor of our nation’s veterans.
In 2000, Syd joined as a volunteer on the Beautification Advisory Committee. Her last day with the BAC fell on October 2, 2013 – the same day the tree was dedicated in her honor.
“I don’t know what I would have done without all you people,” said Syd referring to the Calusa Garden Club and the BAC. When Syd began her mission to make Marco even more beautiful she was serious about it. “I had certain things that I wanted to put in place, so (the BAC) was the first (advisory committee) to have a mission statement, the first one to have goals and objectives, the first one to have a manuscript, the first one to have orientation and the first one to have name tags. So when we went into city council, everyone knew who we were.”
Throughout triumphs and tribulations regarding city council and the wants and needs of the BAC, of her experience Syd said, “It was wonderful.” She thanked those in attendance for the incredible surprise stating, “This is an honor extraordinaire.”
Syd and Jim’s presence on Marco Island will surely be missed, but as Linda Colombo stated, “we know where you are.” The Mellingers now reside in Naples, but will certainly return to the island they called home for more than 20 years.