Farewell Sandi Riedemann Lazarus – Longtime chamber executive and newspaper publisher dies
Another longtime Marco Island leader is no more.
Sandi Lazarus, longtime executive director of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, and publisher of what was then the Marco Island Eagle before that, passed away Friday night after a lengthy illness. She was 74 years old.
Lazarus was a Marco resident for decades, and ran the Chamber of Commerce for 25 years, said her successor, current chamber executive director Dianna Dohm, and left her stamp on the organization and the island.
“It’s a sad day. We’re seeing a legend passing,” said Dohm. “These are legends that really molded Marco Island into what it is today.” Now, she said, “it’s our turn. They passed the sword on to us.”
Sandi Lazarus formed one half of a classic Marco Island power couple with her last husband, Monte Lazarus, who preceded her in death in 2015. While Monte served on five city advisory boards including a long stint on the Planning Board, Sandi tried to stay in the background, said longtime friend island attorney Patrick Neale.
“Sandi always put somebody else on the pedestal. She didn’t want to take credit for anything,” said Neale. “I knew Sandi for over 30 years. She had a heart of gold, cared about Marco Island deeply, and cared about everyone around her.”
Another attorney friend, island historian and lawyer Craig Woodward, said that while Monte Lazarus won the Marco Island Citizen of the Year award in 2011, Sandi, who was in the thick of the nominating process, would never allow her name to be put forward.
“Her name was always brought up for awards. She always said no,” said Woodward. “She didn’t think she should be in the running.”
Both Neale, who was at one time law partners with Monte Lazarus, and Woodward reminisced fondly about the many cruises and international trips they took with Sandi and Monte Lazarus, as did Debra Shanahan, who with her late husband Dick Shanahan was perhaps the quintessential power couple. The Shanahans and the Woodwards spoke of taking lengthy repositioning cruises, flying to Europe or other locations and sailing back. With the number and duration of cruises, it’s almost surprising that Sandi was able to get anything done at the chamber, but Woodward said she was an excellent choice for executive director and took some credit for that. He was chamber president and responsible for hiring her for the post.
“That was one of my better moves. She knew everybody on the island, and really helped build the chamber up to what it is today.”
Vicki Williams, who spent 22 years at the Marco chamber and retired as marketing director in 2011, said Sandi was a great boss. While they worked hard, they didn’t let that get in the way of having fun.
“My fondest memories of her was all the laughter,” she said. “We called each other Lucy and Ethel. I have so many stories. Sandi was an amazing woman” and “a pioneer – a trailblazer. She was always a lady – didn’t swear, didn’t drink.”
“Sandi was one of the originals, the old-time movers and shakers on the island,” said Mary Quinton, advertising executive and longtime chamber board member. “She helped shape this island.”
Sandi was Sandi Riedemann before she was Sandi Lazarus, and Sandi Trapasso before that, both while she was on Marco Island, and Sandi Robinson before that. She clocked in at four marriages, one more than Donald Trump but only half as many as Elizabeth Taylor.
Sandi was born Sandra Mae Bonney in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, on September 11, 1947, said Lori McElroy, her only child, who lives in Golden Gate. Sandi lived with Lori and her husband Robert once she moved off the island in 2018, but spent a great deal of time in medical facilities dealing with the complications of diabetes. She suffered leg amputation and “had a lot of pain and suffering the last few years,” said Lori McElroy. “My mom was one of the strongest people I know,” but dealt with debilitating pain and incapacity. “They were about to do another surgery, but her heart just gave out.”
She also lost her health insurance, had no life insurance, and has serious medical bills to be paid off, as well as funeral expenses, said Lori. The family has set up a GoFundMe page for donations.
“I don’t want flowers. Help me pay her bills,” she said. “She wasn’t as rich as everyone thought.”
Sandi Lazarus is survived by Lori and Robert McElroy, their children Michael Anderson (Amanda), Krista Renner (Christopher), Eric Anderson, and James Clark (fiancé Rebecca Blackwell), and nine great-grandchildren, as well as numerous step-children and grandchildren. She is also survived by her sister Diane Bonney Beshenich and brother Richard Bonney (LuAnne), who all still live in Phillipsburg.
“As per Sandi’s wishes, there will be no services on Marco Island. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the family at Lori McElroy, PO Box 147, Marco Island FL 34146,” said Lori, or go to gofundme.com and search for Sandra Lazarus.