June 26, 2009
DeeVon & Craig
Recognized by County Mayor George Nugent
State Representative Ron Saunders & Craig
My somewhat sad nostalgic trip down memory lane continued this week when I attended the 22nd annual Reef Relief membership meeting held in the ballroom of the Casa Marina resort. I’ve attended every annual meeting since 1991, five as a volunteer and eleven as a staff member and I have continued to go each year since leaving Reef Relief and beginning work at the RPM Nautical Foundation three years ago.
Board Member Vinny Boyle with Mark Howell
Of the many that I have attended, this one was indeed special because it marked the final Reef Relief meeting for the founders, directors and driving force behind what has developed into one of the foremost coral reef conservation organizations in the world, DeeVon & Craig Quirolo.
Dr. Jim Porter interviewed by US1 radio's Bill Becker
Old-timers Amy, Michael & Joel
Roger Bernstein, Craig, DV, Marci Rose & Amy Lachat
DV with Sebastian & Dr. Brian LaPointe
The meeting was a virtual parade of luminaries lined up to recognize and honor the Quirolos and the many accomplishments that they contributed to protecting coral reef ecosystems throughout the Keys and the wider Caribbean. I feel fortunate to have been a part of it all through the glory years and seeing so many old friends who turned out to honor Craig & DeeVon made me appreciate what a deep impact my time there had on me.
Dr. Porter & Mill
DV & Craig awarded by Lee Witwer & Paul Johnson
Recognition for Reef Relief is nothing new, they received a Point of Light Award from the first President Bush, the Re-New America Award as the best Conservation organization in the US, the Keep America Beautiful Award for best Marine conservation non-profit and hundreds of other various honors, yet somehow watching this parade of recognition seemed more concentrated and somehow more poignant. Perhaps it is thinking that the heart and soul of Reef Relief will be leaving Key West and retiring to their new home in Brooksville that got to me, I’m not really sure.
Dr. Bob Ginsburg, Carol Colburn, Michael & Billy Causey back in the day.
Jean Michel Cousteau
Cayo Door Crew, Brettny, Jamie, Autumn, Bruce, Bonnie, Rick, Kathy & Kerry
Dark Hair Days
I know that the past few years have probably been the most difficult in Reef Relief’s existence as the sagging economy has created havoc and dissension on the Reef Relief board. The future direction of the organization is uncertain, and I’m sure this realization made the Quirolos departure more stressful than they might have hoped, but none of that diminishes the tremendous accomplishments of their illustrious and dedicated career.
Laura Urian, Wendy Weir, Sylvia Earle & Michael
Discovery Coral Reef Program
I could list the many, many amazing accomplishments, but that would take many, many blog entries. You can check out the Reef Relief website to get a taste of the good fight that Reef Relief led in protecting the coral reefs. Often in the face of countless detractors and opposition that sometimes came from the very agencies and officials who should have been fighting with us. Vindication, when it often came, was rarely reported with the zeal as the original attacks. Though if imitation is the highest form of flattery , one need only to look at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary programs like The Eco-Discovery Center, Team Ocean, The Coral Nursery and Coral Reef Classroom which all owe a debt to incredibly similar programs initiated by Reef Relief.
Myself, Craig & DeeVon being presented Honorary Conch Award by the late, great Wilhelmenia Harvey
Winning the fight against Shark Feeding
I doubt I will ever encounter two more dedicated and zealous defenders of the environment than Craig & DeeVon Quirolo. The 15 years that I spent fighting alongside them were some of the most exciting and interesting of my life. I learned so much from them through difficult times, impossible odds and came out the better for it. The experiences I will always treasure and the amazing opportunities that came my way, from scuba diving with the likes of Sylvia Earle, Wyland or Norbert Wu, to helping Wyland paint not one but two of his huge murals, to meeting and working with amazing scientists like Dr. Brian LaPointe, Dr. Jim Porter (who spoke at this year’s meeting), Dr. Drew Harvell and Dr. Kiho Kim, to organizing the biggest locals party of the year Cayo Carnival for 16 years.
Diving with Sylvia Earle
Installing Mooring Buoys
But most of all I miss the incredible people that entered my life through my work there, many who remain to this day among my closest friends. So many talented and wonderful people passed through the doors that I can’t possibly list them all, staff member, interns, board members, volunteers, members and colleagues, but DeeVon & Craig were there through it all, and they along with my dear friend Joel Biddle and myself made up what I consider the core of the organization, at least we were all together the longest.
Cheva Heck & Craig at Mooring Buoy Splicing Party
My simple thanks may not carry the weight of an award from the President or a letter from the Governor, but I wanted to add it to the plethora of accolades that have been heaped upon Craig & DeeVon this week. In addition to photos from the meeting, I have added a few from the archives to supplement them. It harkens back to a simpler time when they sported darker hair and I carried a few less pounds.
Tabling with JoelReef Relief Site