Among born-and-bred Floridians, “fifth-generation” is a venerated title, a rare claim that gives its bearer singular stature.
Yet though William Ludlow was indeed fifth-generation, he shrugged off prestige, status and the like.
Kindly and soft-spoken, he was a fisherman by trade who spent his Depression-era childhood in Goodland, on the southeast end of Marco Island and lived as an adult in the oldest house in Fort Myers. He died earlier this month at 93.
To his friend and neighbor, Robert Gates, Ludlow was an adoptive father. They shared a love of old times, fishing and the two little dogs who owned them both, Max and Pop, and attended Sons of Confederate Veterans events together.
"People used to say if they saw one of us around without the other, they knew something had to be wrong," Gates said. "We were always together."
Ludlow’s grandfather William Collier was a Confederate soldier who owned much of Marco Island in the late 1800s. Both sides of his family farmed; the Ludlow Fruit Company’s pineapple fields once blanketed acres of the island until the saltwater overwash from a 1910 hurricane rendered the fields useless and put the family out of business. A mural depicting the family's pineapple plantation is part of the permanent collection of the Marco Island Museum of History, as are farming implements.
Though a heart murmur kept him from active duty in World War II, Ludlow later worked at a missile tracking station at the south end of the island, monitoring military rockets fired from Eglin Air Force Base in Pensacola. The road to the station later became the island’s first runway, according to the Marco Island Historical Society.
He and his wife, Marie, moved to Fort Myers from Goodland in 1971. They bought a house on Poinsettia Street that once belonged to Fort Myers pioneer Thaddeus Park, who had its hand-hewn heart pine timbers shipped by schooner from Cedar Key, according to local history expert Joanne Iwinski Miller, who researched the 1884 house. Originally situated on First Street, the two-story, eight-room Victorian was moved to its present location in 1926.
The Ludlows lived there until Marie died last year, then he moved to Alva to live with his daughter, Glinda, his only child.
She cared for him until his death last week and will remember him as "the best Daddy."
As his health failed, Glinda says, she'd ask him, "Do you want to talk to anybody? Do you want me to call anybody? Do you want to see anybody?'
"And he'd say, 'No. When I'm gone, just tell everybody — my family members and my friends — especially my friends — tell them that I love them all and I'm thankful for their friendship.'"