PHOTOS: Marco Island says farewell to Mike Minozzi at funeral

Once upon a time three brothers with the name of Mackle saw something in a tangle of mangroves, a clam cannery and few settlement houses owned by the Collier family. Their vision laid the groundwork for a community that would become our present-day Marco Island.

Since then, each time a Marco Islander saw the potential of what the place could grow into, and pushed fellow residents to see it too, the community grew stronger, more vibrant, took baby steps from a sleepy vacation village into a fully-fledged city.

In 1993, one of those people moved here, fell in love with his Island paradise and the people in it, and proceeded to devote himself entirely to helping the Island live up to all he felt it could be. That man was Mike Minozzi.

On Aug. 1, Minozzi passed away after a long battle with cancer, leaving so many Islanders grief stricken.

It was the battles he fought openly — for our own fire and police departments, a city hall and public safety buildings, a modernized Collier Boulevard, healthy community organizations — that will leave so many grateful.

In the future, as we cross a newer, stronger Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge, without stopping for a toll, we can send a silent thank you his way.

Faith was an integral part of Minozzi’s life. What many may not know was how he used an artistic side to give expression to his spirituality.

Hilda Brosky, parish liturgy coordinator of the San Marco Catholic Church gave a tearful recall of his gift, “It’s hard, very hard. I’m going to miss his quiet leadership, his wisdom and his counsel. But we’re going to be constantly reminded of his presence because he has built so many beautiful things for our church and we will have these things to keep him before us.”

Minozzi crafted a crucifix that hangs in the church’s parish hall and the manger for the Christmas creche; these are just two examples of his woodwork and carpentry created in his workshop.

“From the sublime to the practical, he did it for us,” said Brosky.

He was a man who could follow as well as lead, recalls Vip Grover. Now current president of the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, Grover participated with Minozzi in the 2004 Leadership Marco class as a newcomer to the Island.

“He was on council at the time. I was impressed because a lot of us were new to Marco, and he was happy share everything he knew, but he also was able to step back and learn,” said Grover.

“I believe that if it is humanly possible to have a pure agenda, he had it.”

Before Marco Island was a city with public safety institutions, Minozzi worked for the safety of his fellow Islanders as a fire commissioner for the county fire district.

Fire Chief Mike Murphy recalled Minozzi’s long-time support for public safety and those who provide it for us. “The fact that he served as fire commissioner for county fire district shows his long-time commitment to the safety of his fellow citizens. He constantly dealt with (public safety) of the citizens as a city councilor and then he became an avid supporter of the fire rescue foundation. Mike was instrumental in building the foundation and stayed involved.”

Former city councilman John Arceri had strong ties to Minozzi, personally and professionally. Both went to the same college in the Bronx and served together on City Council and were close friends.

“He was an amazing guy. No one’s come close to accomplishing the things he’s done. When he believed something was right, he was not intimidated, not while he was supporting the sewer program, a new city hall, a new police building, the Collier Boulevard project,” said Arceri. “He was a great model for someone like me who was new at politics. ”

Minozzi had the tenacity and vision to defend Marco Island’s stake in the fate of Jolley Bridge for nearly a decade.

“Back then, people thought, ‘we don’t need a new bridge’, but he saw that the state would not care what happened to us if the bridge needed to be shut down. Everyone said, ‘you’ll never get the money,’ but he kept it at the top of the list. We were a shovel-ready project, thanks to him and that’s what got us the federal stimulus dollars. Otherwise, we’d be getting ready to pay tremendous tolls right now,” Arceri added.

Arceri concludes, “There are people who are visionary, but he had the rare combination of not just vision, but commitment to make the vision happen, and those people are so very rare.”

Beyond his impressive public service resume, Minozzi was a man with a gift for touching his fellow human beings as he passed through their lives. John DeRosa was a fellow Knight of Columbus with Minozzi, and he sums up the sentiments of many Islanders.

“He was just a great guy, warm hearted, and he would do anything for anybody. Those of us who knew him really appreciated him ... He was Mr. Marco Island, I really mean that,” said DeRosa.

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