He was in his 70s at the time.
On December 9, Ed left us to go to greener pastures and bluer skies to fly in, at the age of 94. He was one of those people in Boca Grande that was so much part of the place, he was more like the scenery than a resident. Like the huge trees on Banyan Street or the old Depot Building, Ed was a fixture, a cornerstone of sorts. Whether driving in his golf cart down Park Avenue, drinking coffee at the old Loons on a Limb or fishing in the Pass, it wasn’t an event if Ed wasn’t there.
When family and friends of Ed Seale were asked for a story or a quote for this story, many of them had to stop and think for quite some time. After all, it’s hard to describe a truly great, kind person in just a few words.
Capt. Jackie Bylaska, a great friend and fishing buddy of Ed’s, summed it up.
“He was a true southern gentleman.”
Ed was born in Woolsey, Ga. but his family was living in Florida at the time. It was so important to his mother that everything go well with the delivery that she went back to her hometown where Ed’s grandfather was the doctor and preacher.
Ed picked up a fishing pole when he was very young, and he never put it down. He was a tarpon guide and commercial fisherman for 15 years in Sarasota, and continued when he was living in Boca Grande.
His father was a guide and commercial fisherman as well.
When World War II came about Ed knew what role he would play. After enlisting, he trained at MacDill Air Force Base, then in Arcadia, and made his first flight in a PT17 on April Fool’s Day in 1942.
He continued to fly through three wars, and eventually became a flight instructor.
Constance “Connie” Whitney was 22 and Ed was 24 when they got married. They decided to tie the knot when he was promoted to flight instructor, when he would have at least a year stateside to be with her.
Connie came to the ceremony by train, and was waiting in the wings for it to finish.
When the last leg of flight instruction training ended in Montgomery, Ala. he was sent to the Marianna Islands in the Pacific. During that time the couple’s first daughter, Jackie, was born. When the war ended they had two more children, Warrena and Rebecca.
Ed and Connie settled down into commercial-fishing life and they opened a restaurant in Sarasota called The Chowder Bowl. It was a peaceful time until, once again, Ed was called to war. This time the Korean War.
Ed once said when he was called back up for service he was told it was not required, as he had four dependents.
“I told them I did have to go ... I was starving to death as a fisherman in Sarasota!”
In all, there were 18 years of active duty under Ed’s belt between Korea and Vietnam. Within that time he was a pilot with Strategic Air Command and was operations officer for his squadron. The family moved from Savannah, Ga. to California, to Massachusetts to Louisiana and then to Maine.
Ed finally retired from the service in 1970 as a Lt. Colonel. He and Connie decided to get their real estate licenses, and while still living in Sarasota they bought several lots in Boca Grande. They were soon invited by Drayton Farr to join Sunset Realty, which eventually turned into a little venture called The Seale Family, Inc.
Ed loved to hunt, and he particularly loved to hunt with Rich Caccavale and Jackie Bylaska. Rich has so many memories of his time with Ed, and he recognizes the hole that has been left in the fabric of the community.
“We were really close and good friends,” he said. “He was one of those people you meet in a lifetime and never forget. It goes without saying, I really loved that man. Throughout my whole time on the island he was special to me. We did a lot of hunting together, the three of us inseparable during hunting season. From Texas to north Florida to Alabama, we went everyplace. What he enjoyed more than anything, though, was the trip to wherever we were going. He loved traveling. He had been so many places because of his career in the military, but he remembered every base he had lived on, and the dates he lived there as well. He was just a very special person.”
Rich said that another close friend of Ed’s, Bradley Brown, passed away this year as well. The trio hunted on Bradley’s farm, and many great memories were made there.
“He still had a twinkle in his eye when he was 92 or 93, the last time we went hunting. We carried him to the hunting spots. It was great to fulfill his last wish to go on a hunting trip, and he shot two deer.”
Ed always had that same twinkle in his eye when Bonnie McGee was around. Where you would find the two together, you would find little space between them.
“For about 15 years or more, I could count on being seated beside him at every family dinner or function,” she said. “It almost made me feel guilty. He just took to me, and I was one very fortunate lady to have made his acquaintance. Years ago I bought him a sport shirt with tarpon on it from Fungate’s. He wore that shirt every time we had a get together, and he would always make a point to show me he was wearing it. He never once forgot my birthday either. He’d remind me weeks ahead that it was coming and that he wanted to take me to the Pink or the Temp for dinner. He was just so cute, so polite, and a true gentleman. I will never forget him, or our great conversations. He was a joy to know.”
Seale Paterson is Ed’s granddaughter, and she loved him dearly. Her memories of Ed involved a lot of food and fishing.
“He taught me how to fish off the back dock when I was about six years old – I spent hours bringing in catfish,” she said. “As I got older, I got to go to Okeechobee to go bass fishing, and eventually, tarpon fishing. I caught my first tarpon with him. I was 12, it was 120 pounds. I got scared and tried to make him help me, but he wouldn’t. He made me do it myself, and I did it. He taught me I could handle more than I thought I could.
“He always was cooking for me. Hot dog sandwiches and vanilla ice cream with mangos on top when I was little, tempura-fried snook when I was older. He taught me how to make key lime pie, and I, in turn, have become known for it in New Orleans.
Seale said so many memories of him center around two of her favorite foods: Oysters and avocadoes.
“He fed me my first oyster,” she explained. “I was in my early 20s and saw him out on the back dock, just off his boat and with a bucket at his feet. I wandered out to see what he was up to, and he was shucking oysters that he had just gone out and harvested. I told him I’d never had an oyster, and so he told me to open up. I wasn’t interested, but I never had and never would say no to him, so I opened up. He scraped the oyster out with his pocketknife and dropped it in my mouth, like a mama bird feeding a baby bird. It was cold and salty and delicious, and made me an instant convert. I’ve been chasing the perfect oyster ever since. Don’t think I’ll ever find one as good as that one.”
Seale remembered how Ed planted avocado trees at the houses he lived in on the island.
“I try to get as many of them as I can every year, and I still never get enough,” she said. “My newest tattoo is an avocado – a Florida avocado – in the sacred heart style, in honor of him.”
For many years Ed lived with Becky Paterson, his youngest daughter. The two not only lived together, but went to work together until recent years when he couldn’t get around as well. When she was younger and Ed was always deployed to faraway places, it was not an easy life for someone who loved her daddy. But when he came home it was always with a whistle on his lips and candy bars tucked away in the pockets of his flight suit.
“It has been an absolute honor, living my life as my father’s daughter,” she said. “By his example, I have learned there is no compromise in the truth, kindness, loyalty and love. He was devoted to my mother, and completely selfless. He was always concerned with others’ needs and never his own. He was a man of few words, with an exceptionally dry sense of humor.
One particular memory Becky has is the sum of what many think of when they think of Ed.
“As a child I was spanked just once,” she recalled. “Not for fibbing or for disobeying, but for hurting a neighbor girl's feelings. I recall being quite indignant about the public paddling in the backyard. As a teenager, my behavior was dictated by never wanting to hurt Daddy. I cannot remember anyone who did not like and respect my father. Many adored him. I cannot remember him ever being angry with anyone. He defined southern gentleman. What a wonderful legacy he has left us all. And I get to call him ‘Daddy.’ I can only hope that I’ve done half the job with my children.”
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