For many of Estero’s 35,000-plus residents who have migrated into our paradise, Estero seems the product of amazing growth and development from just the last 20 years. Most people are unaware that Estero has a truly profound history with great depth and significance, dating back more than 500 years!
This issue is dedicated to celebrating the area’s uniquely rich history, along with the personal histories of Estero veterans who have served valiantly through several eras and wars. We take special note of the Estero Historical Society’s 20th anniversary, and we thank longtime historical society members for their eagerness to help compile a comprehensive timeline of Estero’s major milestones.
We also go way, way back in history to the cradle of Western civilization to celebrate Greek culture and cuisine. Read about our experience dining as “family” at Mykonos Kuzina in North Naples. Opa!
Before I continue highlighting more of this month’s content, I must address the unusual publisher’s photo(s) on this page! As you have probably ascertained, it is a collection of my own “historical” milestones. Against my better judgement, but encouraged by my editor and production staff, I have agreed to offer a very brief personal history.
I was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1951 and raised in the historic town of Lebanon, Ohio (photos 1 & 2) – those familiar with the area would know the Golden Lamb Hotel. My family moved to West Carrollton, Ohio, when I was almost 13 years old, where I graduated in 1969 (photo 3). I studied biology and Spanish at Ohio Northern University and graduated in 1973 (photo 4). Beyond that was a 15-year musical career, 22 years in cemetery/funeral sales, 10 years in retail advertising sales for The News-Press and the last 10 years as publisher and now owner of Estero Life Magazine. I feel incredibly blessed and privileged!
Our cover story this month reveals the fascinating past of our beautiful city on the Estero River. Estero’s storied history includes a famous explorer, infamous pirates, a charismatic cult leader, pioneering entrepreneurs and more. We know you will be enlightened!
And we would be remiss not to include the historical value and intrigue of the pioneer sports activity of the area, the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track, once the biggest spectator sport in Southwest Florida from the 1950s through the 1980s. As we have had to say “goodbye” to the greyhounds, we welcome the opening of a new, state-of-the-art gaming facility, the Bonita Springs Poker Room. An impressive sports bar and grill also is part of this new facility.
And speaking of what’s new on the local sporting events scene, we highlight the new fitness facilities at Florida Gulf Coast University, benefitting student athletes and aiding recruitment efforts. Philanthropy has enabled FGCU to create opportunities of “historic” significance to their athletic department and the young campus. The Sublett Family Strength & Conditioning Center will help athletes of all sports condition for peak performance. Also included in this feature are the 2020-21 men’s and women’s basketball schedules (of course, subject to change).
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to make schedules uncertain, and due to precaution, the annual Village of Estero Veterans Day program had to be suspended this year. Estero Life Magazine has stepped up to instead offer a first-ever, two-page version of our Village Connection to enable our community to honor five local veterans whose service spans WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. To all veterans of every war and conflict, we say, “Thank you for your service.” We will never forget your sacrifices.
Finally, I wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving as you continue making personal history with those you hold dear. We should all be grateful for the many Estero residents throughout our community’s history, from its early pioneers and entrepreneurs to the more recent efforts of Estero’s government, business and community leaders, who have shaped our local paradise into what it is today. We are truly blessed.
Until next month, we invite you to…
Enjoy the Good Life: Estero Life!
Gary Israel, President & Publisher
Estero Life Magazine