Kappy Stephens was born on Marco Island on March 10, 1917, the daughter of James and Josie Bostick Stephens. She went to live with her father’s sister, Tommie Barfield, when she was 3 1/2 or 4 years old.
Kappy spent happy growing up years as a legal ward with her Aunt Tommie, Uncle Jim Barfield, and three cousins: Elsie, Elva and Ava Elizabeth. She tagged along after her Aunt Tommie helping people in trouble, visiting schools, working at the hotel, the boarding house, the mercantile store, post office, and the Marco Lodge. When Aunt Tommie asked Kappy to teach school for a teacher who became ill, she finished out that year, and attended summer school to get a teaching license.
Kappy married Bud Kirk on Feb. 23, 1941 and together they raised three children: Tommie Dee, Damas, and Kara. She ran the little store in Caxambas with Bud fishing at night to keep the store supplied with fish during the day. The store and most of the homes, including Kappy’s, were moved from Caxambas to Goodland during the summer of 1949. Kappy ran the store and post office in Caxambas and Goodland, and served as post master for 35 years.
Kappy lived in some of the island’s most historic buildings in all three settlements. She lived in the Heights Hotel, located on the Heights now known as Indian Hill in the Estates area; the Barfield House, where teachers boarded in Caxambas. She lived in the Marco Lodge before it was moved to Goodland in 1965. Today she resides in her own historic home in Goodland built from lumber found after the 1910 hurricane.
Kappy is an island woman. Her life story is the subject of the two books she helped author: “A Girl Called Tommie, Queen of Marco Island” 1999, and “Island Voices.”
In answer to the question we asked last week, we received a message from Leonard Llewellyn, former resident of Marco, who assured us that Jim Vensel was indeed a historian and did name the street Tigertail in honor of the Seminole chief, not for its curvature.
We still do not know for sure about the naming of the beach — the secret lies buried in the county archives.
Marion Nicolay and Betsy Perdichizzi of the Marco Island Historical Society are compiling this report on a weekly basis for the Eagle. Shirley Beckwith oversees the archiving of photos for MIHS.
History in Motion can be found every Wednesday in the Eagle.