Marco Y presidents reunite at special function and tour


It was another "first" for the Greater Marco Family YMCA. Looking within, just for a change, the Y recently hosted an informal luncheon for a group of its past board presidents.

The nostalgic get-together was sprinkled with equal amounts of humor and tributes that traced the Y's progress from a couple of trailers and a wooden shed in the early days, to the multi-faceted campus of today.

Special guest was past president Mel Ollman, whose 100th birthday coincided with the luncheon.

Past Y board presidents Ernie Bretzmann and Craig Woodward (yellow shirt) enjoy a tour of the fitness facility with CEO Cindy Love-Abounader after the luncheon.

Credited with designing the building that replaced the trailers and shed, Ollman remembered the motivation behind it.

“Seeing the trailers inspired me,” he said during a round table reminiscing session. "The two buildings got us started, but we just had to build something better."

"He (Ollman) is responsible for a great deal of what the Y is today," said former president Paul Tateo earlier during an invocation prayer.

In her (also informal) welcome, current president Ashley Lupo said the Y as it is today was "built on tons of hard work."

She added that the Y is always looking for ways of better serving the community.

Skip Merriam praised the Y's impressive history, and said he was most proud of starting an endowment fund during his tenure.

"I would encourage everybody to contribute to it," Merriam said.

Jim Curran recognized the "tremendous growth over the years, and recounted an anecdote about how well the auctioning off of Bob Hope memorabilia had done for funds at the time.

Former board presidents line up with CEO Cindy Love-Abounader, far right. From left, Skip Merriam, Tom Wagor, Jim Curran, Pat Neale, Mel Ollman, Ernie Bretzmann, Craig Woodward, Marv Needles and Ashley Lupo.

Tom Wagor said that he and his board's best accomplishment around his 1994 term was hiring Cindy Love, who went on to become the long-serving and current CEO of the Y.

Pat Neale spoke about "scratching dollars and cents together to get the more permanent building open," and then having staff wondering what to do with all the extra space.

That space, of course, was quickly filled with a variety of programs and activities that continue to expand to this day.

Ernie Bretzmann spoke about breaking away from an original partnership with the Naples Y despite predictions that Marco wouldn't be able to go it alone.

"It was a huge collective effort," Bretzmann said. "Today, everyone can stand tall. "The fun we went through to get this done ... I want to commend every one of you."

Tateo said he was proud that the new Youth Development Center was finished with minimal outstanding debt, and Craig Woodward said the transition from trailers to today's campus had resulted in a "great asset to this island."

Lupo, in the chair for her second term, described the Marco Y of today as a "well oiled machine" that was filling community needs.

For more on the Y's wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit or call 394-YMCA (9622). Follow on Twitter at greatermarcoymca, or on Facebook at marcoymca.