Meet the Locals
Meet some charterboat captains, artists, chefs and restaurateurs, animal rescuers, musicians and writers, historians, treasure seekers and many other locals of the Florida Keys and learn, through their stories and comments, about their lives, work, passions and reasons for loving the island chain.
The insights of these creative, quirky, independent people offer a window into the environment and culture that make the Florida Keys unique.
Each month a Keys local is featured in our e-newsletter, Keys Traveler.
Keri Kenning: One Fish, Two Fish, See Fish, Count Fish!
For Key Largo's Keri Kenning, the water and fish have been a part of her life since the age of three, when she asked Santa Claus for a Minnie Mouse rod and reel. Diving is an extension of this natural attraction, and led her to become one of REEF's preeminent fish surveyors and lionfish hunters. Read how her dives with an objective pay it forward for Keys reefs.
Stephen Frink: Immersed in Capturing the Underwater World
Every day in the water brings a new adventure and a new photo for Stephen Frink. Click here to find out why this world-renowned underwater photographer calls the Florida Keys his home and Keys waters his "office."
Amy Slate: Diving Into Her Dream
Entering her 31st year in the scuba diving business, Amy Slate has not lost an ounce of her undeniable enthusiasm for diving, ocean preservation or the Key Largo community she has called home since the 70s. To meet this dedicated diver and resort owner, click here.
Ken Nedimyer: Staghorn Coral's Best Friend
At the age of 13, under aquamarine water in a flurry of bubbles where the only noises were his own breathing and the pounding of his heart, Ken Nedimyer fell in love. Ken Nedimyer was named a CNN Hero for his pioneering efforts to develop techniques to preserve coral reefs and motivate the public to assist in the cause. Click here to learn more about this honorable achievement.
Jerry Wilkinson: Bringing History Alive
Jerry Wilkinson's passion is to uncover as much history as possible in the Florida Keys. Learn why Wilkinson has become one of the area's expert historians by clicking here.
Dixie Brown: Island Ambassador
Harold "Dixie" Brown's winning demeanor and smile have been a fixture in the Florida Keys since the late 1980s. Formerly at Islamorada's Cheeca Lodge, the friendly bellman now greets guests and effortlessly assists them with any needs or problems at the Key Largo Grande. Click here to meet this "island ambassador".
Jimmy Johnson: From Football to Fishing in the Florida Keys
Jimmy Johnson has had a home in the Keys since just after his second Super Bowl victory. These days, his focus is fishing aboard his 39-foot SeaVee "Three Rings," named for his three coaching championships. Meet the man behind Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill here.
Rick Berry: Keys Rodmaker a "Reel" Hit With Anglers
Rick Berry, a longtime Keys resident who owns Key Largo Rods, has designed more than 2,500 fishing rods and is regarded as an innovator in his field. To meet the designer with a passion for angling, click here.
Robert Stoky: Recipe for Keys Living
Robert Stoky knows good cooking. Whether it's preparing lobster fajitas at Señor Frijoles or all-you-can-eat stone crab at Ballyhoo's, the Stoky family has been a key player in the ever-growing Florida Keys restaurant scene since the 1980s. Meet Stoky and discover his recipe for success here.
Kristie Thomas: A Pioneer Chocolatier
Kristie Thomas, the culinary creator behind Key Largo Chocolates, currently is the only chocolatier in the Florida Keys. Click here to meet the woman who established Key Largo's sweetest emporium.
Tim Borski: 'Angling' for Artistic Satisfaction
Tim Borski came to the Florida Keys in 1986, when he was in his early twenties, with two passions: fishing and art. What began as a simple vacation for some much-needed sun subsequently turned into a career and lifestyle in the Upper Keys. Meet the wildlife artist and outdoorsman here.
Alan Newman Makes Life a Special Event
With a creative mind, a knack for planning and a passion for interacting with new people, Alan Newman has been shining in the sales and catering industry since he moved to the Florida Keys five years ago. Meet the outgoing Newman here.
Spencer Slate: Underwater With Psycho And Friends
Spencer Slate has been cultivating marine relationships for 30 year, and has developed a passion for extraordinary "friends." Click here to learn more about his Creature Feature dives.
Skip Bradeen Marking 50 Years as a Keys Charter Captain
One of the top charter captains on America's East Coast, Skip Bradeen has spent 50 years sharing his unparalleled knowledge and showing anglers why Islamorada is called the Sport Fishing Capital of the World. Meet the legendary captain here.
David Wirth Makes Living an Art Form
David Wirth has traveled the world fishing, hunting and exploring the great outdoors. But a near-death experience eventually changed his focus — and led him to turn his passion for sculpting into a successful career. Meet the acclaimed artist here.
Kara Lundgren's Joys: Hospitality and Island Home
A lively personality, matched with a hardworking attitude and passion for her island community, makes Kara Lundgren one of the Florida Keys' top hospitality leaders. Click here to meet Islamorada's enthusiastic ambassador.
Sally Bauer: Diving into Underwater History
Sally Bauer, co-founder of the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum, was recently inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame and is dedicated to telling the story of man's quest to explore the undersea world. Click here to meet this passionate diving historian.
The 'Otherside' of Mike and Shana Walsh
The average family might spend an afternoon flying a Charlie Brown-style kite, but Islamorada's Walsh family is anything but average. Their family "kiting" afternoons are filled with extreme jumps, twists, flips and other acrobatics on the open water of the Florida Keys. Click here to meet kiteboarding entrepreneurs Mike and Shana Walsh.
Windsurfer Baudoin Found his Moorings in the Keys
Hubert Baudoin took The Moorings of Islamorada from a three-unit property decorated with his dorm room furniture to an exquisite, elegant oasis. Click here to meet the windsurfer turned luxury hotel and restaurant owner.
David Feder: Engineering Arts & Culture in the Upper Keys
David Feder, a trained engineer turned musician, has become a leader of Islamorada's cultural community — and works to enrich the lives of children through exposure to the arts. Click here to discover the musician "in tune" with the Upper Keys.
Nick Stanczyk: A Fish and Smile Away From Childhood
As the son of fishing legend Richard Stanczyk, who has owned Islamorada's iconic Bud N' Mary's Marina since 1978, Nick Stanczyk has been a fisherman for as long as he can remember. "Catch" a glimpse of the new generation of outstanding fishing captains here.
Sandy Moret: On The Fly
Sandy Moret has been fly fishing almost all his life, and the passion and drive he brings to teaching and advancing the sport is unequaled. To get to know Moret, the owner of Islamorada's Florida Keys Outfitters, click here.
Gloria Teague: From Karaoke to Cakes
Proving the old adage that a song can change lives, Gloria Teague was forever changed by the James Brown tune "I Feel Good." Find out how Brown's hit led the former dive shop owner to trade in her scuba tank for cinnamon buns here.
Michelle Nicole Lowe: A Subtle Artistic Beauty
The watercolors, oils and colored pencil renderings of 28-year-old artist Michelle Nicole Lowe seemingly pop off the canvas. Click here to meet the Florida Keys woman whose subjects range from sea life to island birds and tropical flora.
Dick Hagood: Accounting for Art and Culture in the Sport Fishing Capital of the World
With the help of former CPA turned fishing guide Dick Hagood, the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District is enhancing art, imagination and culture in the island city of Islamorada, commonly known as the Sport Fishing Capital of the World. Click here to learn more about how Hagood integrates art and angling.
Lighthouse Larry: Replicating Florida Keys History
"An Islamorada-based artist, known locally as "Lighthouse Larry," has fashioned his passion for lighthouses into creating exact scale replicas of six historical beacons off the Florida Keys. Click here to meet the intriguing artist.
Pasta Pantaleo: Cultivating Keys Culture
A replica sailfish helped inspire Pasta Pantaleo's creative career and journey from Coney Island to the Florida Keys. Click here to meet the renowned Islamorada game fish artist.
Stacie Krupa: Artist By Nature
Islamorada artist Stacie Krupa, a native Floridian, did her time in the Northeast before discovering the lifestyle in the Keys suits her — and her art — far better. Discover that art, which depicts ocean life, animals and people, and incorporates iridescent colors layered with drips and sparkles, by clicking here.
Dancing with a Star: Ganine Derleth
Ganine Derleth is a professional singer and dancer, artist and co-owner with her husband of a popular dance studio in Marathon. Click here to meet the multitalented woman who is also deeply involved in her Middle Keys community.
John Schaefer: One Funny Character
Marathon Community Theatre actor John Schaefer dedicates himself to characters, morphs his physical appearance for roles and memorizes lines while walking his dog and delivering mail. Why does the 25-year postal worker love the laughter, challenge and oneness of the Middle Keys theater troupe? Read along here.
Captain Evan Doumis: Marathon's Eye in the Sky
Former Continental Airlines pilot Captain Evan Doumis now flies a vintage WWII biplane for Marathon's Overseas Aero Tours, providing his passengers a memorable history-and-nature sightseeing experience. Meet the man whose dreams took flight in the Middle Keys here.
Bette Zirkelbach: A Positive Force to Reckon With
Bette Zirkelbach, among the guiding spirits behind Marathon's world-renowned Turtle Hospital, has helped rehabilitate scores of sea turtles — and even accompanied one on a recent journey to Las Vegas. Click here to meet the savvy woman devoted to saving turtles.
John Mirabella: Spearing Marathon Diners' Fresh Catch
Brooklyn born but raised in Florida, John Mirabella has a formula for island living that involves a large dose of diving, spearfishing and offering his fresh catch at his Marathon eatery. What began as a journey to the Keys aboard a 36-foot Trimaran evolved into a new life as a successful restaurateur. "Catch" more of this giant personality's Castaway tale here.
Kelly Grinter: Maintaining a Safe Haven for Wild Birds
Kelly Grinter has spent 18 years at the helm of the Marathon Wild Bird Center and is now one of the Florida Keys' most prominent wildlife rehabilitators. Click here to meet the woman whose passion is "for the birds."
Kelly McKinnon: Bringing Youthful Appeal to a Century-Old Island
Kelly McKinnon's love of fishing attracted him to the Florida Keys, yet he never dreamed his back door would be three feet from the Atlantic Ocean. Meet the executive director of historic Pigeon Key, who mixes youth with a century-old yesteryear, by clicking here.
Mandy Rodriguez: A Mellow Fellow
The guiding spirit behind Marathon's Dolphin Research Center, Armando "Mandy" Rodriguez, calls his work with dolphins a blessing and a gift. To meet this dedicated dolphin advocate, click here.
Making A Dolphin Connection With Cheryl Messenger
Cheryl Messenger's work at Dolphin Connection at Hawks Cay Resort includes nurturing and caring for pregnant dolphin, monitoring the growth of their calves via monthly ultrasounds, celebrating as they give birth and watching the calves thrive and grow. Click here to discover her "dolphin connection".
Richie Moretti: Sea Turtle Champion
From working on Volkswagens to rehabilitating and releasing injured sea turtles, Richie Moretti has led a diverse and challenging life. To meet the Keys' turtle champion, click here.
Mary Stella: Dedicated to Dolphins
Given her lifelong love of dolphins and familiarity with the Florida Keys, Mary Stella is a natural to serve as media relations coordinator at Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key in the middle Florida Keys. To meet this outgoing woman who delights in dolphins, click here.
George Shattuck: Fostering Family Time
George Shattuck, owner of Sundance Watersports on Duck Key, is passionate about spending quality time with his loved ones, a mantra he shares with his guests bringing their own families together to reconnect while on vacation. Click here.
Gary Graves: Stone Crab King
Few people are aware that the stone crabs served at the famous Joe's Stone Crab restaurant in Miami are provided by a commercial fishing operation in the Florida Keys — Keys Fisheries in Marathon. And Gary Graves, owner of Keys Fisheries restaurant and manager of the fishing operation, has been with the business since it began 40 years ago. Click here to meet the Keys' king of crab.
The Lower Keys
D'Antonio's Design for Multidimensional Living
Susann D'Antonio's artistic offerings range from embellished gourds to mixed-media encaustic pieces to huge "living art" ensembles for Key West's Fantasy Fest celebration. Meet the multitalented D'Antonio, and find out how a yellow submarine influenced her creativity, by clicking here.
Sarah Sullivan: Living a Serene Dream in the Lower Keys
With a passion for paddleboarding and degrees in psychology and environmental studies, Sarah Sullivan helps provide mental balance through nature to Lower Keys visitors seeking health, longevity and enlightenment. Meet the founder of Serenity Eco Therapy here.
Chris Robinson: Bartending to Bonefishing
Before Chris Robinson became a Lower Keys fishing guide, he co-owned the All-Breeds Hot Dog Pound, tended bar for 18 years at the renowned Louie's Backyard and shared adventures with Jimmy Buffett and "gonzo journalist" Hunter Thompson. For a glimpse of his world, click here.
Sean Reyngoudt: From Tragedy to Terrific
Sean Reyngoudt grew up on Summerland Key fascinated by board sports, but didn't strive for more than recreational enjoyment until he lost his left leg in a forklift accident. Today he's the world's only professional amputee kiteboarder and wakeboarder. Click here to see how Reyngoudt turned his loss into triumph.
Love of Nature Inspired A Thriving Career For Bill Keogh
Bill Keogh took a childhood love of the outdoors and turned it into a career. Today, he's the owner of Big Pine Kayak Adventure in the Lower Keys — as well as a respected photographer and author. Click here to discover the natural world of Bill Keogh.
Managing Paradise: Kevin Geanides
At only 35 years old, Kevin Geanides has accomplished more in the hospitality industry than many people do throughout their entire careers. Meet the manager of luxurious Little Palm Island here.
Harry Appel and Jen DeMaria Share Their Green Lifestyle with Guests
Former New Jersey residents Harry Appel and Jen DeMaria are living their "green" dream in the Lower Keys at Deer Run Bed & Breakfast. Click here to find out how these innkeepers went from crowded to quiet — and brought the Lower Keys their premier eco-conscious and fully vegan inn.
Howard Livingston: Keys Tropical Troubador
When Howard Livingston and Mile Marker 24 step onstage to perform their trademark tropical rock, they bring along an unusual "instrument": a 1952 Johnson 5.5-horsepower outboard motor used to blend margaritas for the audience. Click here to learn what inspires Livingston's musical mindset.
Andrea Paulson: Exploring the Unspoiled Lower Keys
Many people seek to explore the Florida Keys by kayak, but none explore like Captain Andrea Paulson. Click here to learn how this eco-adventurer is bringing visitors face-to-face with the unspoiled Florida Keys.
Loren Rea: 'Hooked' on the Florida Keys
An accomplished graphic designer and website programmer, director of two fishing tournaments and proud mother and wife, Sugarloaf Key resident Loren Rea has made a name for herself in the Florida Keys during the last 17 years. Meet the multitalented Rea here.
Kim Workman: The Art of Fish Rubbing
Lower Keys artist Kim Workman, skilled in the traditional Oriental art form of gyotaku or fish printing, memorializes finned Keys denizens by inking or painting actual fish and pressing paper on them to create exact replicas. Meet the unique artist here.
Alan Maltz: Capturing the Keys' Essence in Passionate Photography
Since 1977, Alan Maltz has indulged his passion for photographing the natural wonders and beautiful eccentricities of the Florida Keys — wandering far off the beaten path with his camera to capture faces, places, lavish or tumbledown houses and hidden haunts of birds and wildlife. To meet this master photographer, click here.
Valerie Fecher: Viewing the Keys Through a Camera Lens
Nature and the water play a large role in the work of Lower Keys photographer Valerie Fecher, so she often takes off in a kayak right from her property on Big Pine to seek compelling images. To meet the island-inspired shutterbug and longtime Keys resident, click here.
Profile of a Place: Richter Clyde Perky's Bat Tower
In the late 1920s, Lower Keys landowner Richter Clyde Perky had a problem. To solve it, he built a strange shingled tower that remains a beloved Keys landmark. Learn the tale behind the unusual Bat Tower and its creator by clicking here.
Tiny Chihuahuas Live Large at Strike Zone Charters
Four engaging Chihuahuas delight divers and snorkelers who visit Strike Zone Charters, a leading excursion business on Big Pine in the Lower Florida Keys. Meet the tail-wagging ambassadors, who even have their own shades and life jackets, by clicking here.
Bill Becker: Voice of the Keys
For 30-some years Bill Becker, news director at Lower Keys-based U.S. 1 Radio 104.1 FM, has provided a soothing, authoritative presence that appeals to Florida Keys listeners. To meet the "voice of the Keys," click here.
Randy Roberts Embraces Entertaining and Key West
Marathon Community Theatre actor Randy Roberts pays tribute to some of America’s most iconic stars, from Cher to Joan Crawford, in his popular shows at Key West’s La Te Da. But that’s not all — the outstanding entertainer has appeared in musical theater and film, off-Broadway, with symphonies and even on television’s "America’s Got Talent." To meet the renowned Roberts, click here.
Paul Menta: A Triple Threat on a 4-Mile Island
Paul Menta is a champion kiteboarder, founder of the Key West First Legal Rum Distillery, chef and author of "Native Fuel," a two-volume Florida Keys cookbook/food history book. Meet the multitalented Menta and learn about his latest Keys enterprise here.
Visitors touring the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum might find a six-toed cat sprawled in the late author's writing studio or napping on his bed. Click here to meet the unique felines that roam the museum grounds.
David Sloan: Key Lime Pie and the 'Spirit' of Success
David Sloan, prolific author and founder of attractions including Ghost Tours of Key West and the Key Lime Festival, attributes his success to his love for Key West and the never-ending support of the close-knit island community. Meet the high-spirited Sloan here.
Rick Worth: Painting the Town
Rick Worth shares his love of art through large-scale murals, "art-o-mobiles," lively painting classes and creations that capture the character of Key West. Click here to meet the low-key man who's had such a high-level impact on the island's art scene.
Corcoran's Tantalizing Tales ... And Tacos For Tennessee
He peddled tacos from a three-wheeled bicycle when he first moved to Key West — and Tom Corcoran has never forgotten the irreverent, weird, magical island he discovered from that vantage point. Find out how he became Key West's master mystery writer by clicking here.
Lorian Hemingway: Key West Heart
The granddaughter of legendary writer and former Key West resident Ernest Hemingway, author Lorian Hemingway fell in love with the Florida Keys in the late 1960s. Learn more about the director of an internationally recognized short story competition based in Key West by clicking here here.
Henry Flagler: The Railroad Visionary Who Changed the Keys Forever
Henry Morrison Flagler never lived in the Florida Keys, but he left a more lasting and valuable mark on the island chain than many lifelong residents. Click here to meet the man who built the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad.
Heather Whitehead: Adventure-Seeking Innkeeper
From surfing and cycling to standup paddling, the always-busy Key West hotelier Heather Whitehead keeps her drive alive surrounded by the great outdoors and healthful pursuits. Meet the adventure-loving innkeeper here.
Diane Schmidt: Hotelier at Heart
Diane Schmidt's tenure as general manager of the Westin Key West Resort has been filled with memorable moments — like hosting a live broadcast of NBC's top-rated "Today Show" on the property. To meet the gracious GM, click here.
Bobby Nesbitt: All the World's a Stage
He has performed for audiences around Europe, starred at a famed San Francisco venue and been the first American singer/pianist to play in the American Bar of London's Savoy Hotel. Nevertheless, Key West keeps calling Bobby Nesbitt home. To meet the acclaimed pianist and entertainer, click here.
Captain Tony Murphy: The Light-Tackle Limey
As well as being a skilled fishing guide, Captain Tony Murphy has created an acclaimed guide service for virtually all types of Florida Keys fishing. He also owns a top Keys fly fishing outfitter known as the Saltwater Angler. To meet the multitalented Murphy, click here.
Charlie Wilson: 'Real Food' Restaurateur
After calling many countries home and indulging in plenty of "junk food," Charlie Wilson established roots in Key West and opened Help Yourself, offering natural and healthy foods. Click here to see how she's bringing "real food" to the Florida Keys and inspiring people to help themselves.
John Richmond: Piloting The Conch Flyer
When John Richmond stopped piloting DC3s to take the helm of a Key West bar and restaurant, his workplace didn't change — he still plies his trade at Key West International Airport. Click here to meet the man behind the Conch Flyer.
Bobby Mongelli: Envisioning Stock Island
When Bobby Mongelli looks around the Hogfish Bar and Grill, he sees far more than the funky, quintessentially casual locals' emporium he created overlooking the water in Stock Island's Safe Harbor area. Click here to learn more.
Key West Artisan Makes Bath Products Her Medium
Longtime Key West resident Crystal Ruffo has turned her passion for potions into a thriving business, offering bath and personal care products that she handcrafts in her tropically decorated Purely Paradise boutique. Meet the affable artisan here.
Nadene Grossman: Key West's Go-To Planner for Upscale 'I Do's'
Florida Keys weddings are conducted on beaches and boats and in historic homes, hotels, guesthouses, gardens and elsewhere. Nadene Grossman, Key West's go-to planner for upscale "I Do's," guides nervous brides and traveling guests through the nuptial gaieties with ease. Meet the personality-plus planner here.
Robert the Doll: Key West's Eerie Icon
He stands only three feet tall, but Robert the Doll is internationally renowned for his mischievous deeds, receives letters and e-mails from all over America and has more than a thousand Facebook friends. To meet the unusual icon, click here.