“I’m licensed in real estate, cosmetology, phlebotomy and nursing,” she said. “I hold all four licenses, and they’re all current and active. As you can tell, I like education.”
Believe it or not, she said, they all intertwine. Even real estate and cosmetology, and sometimes real estate and family.
She used her real estate license to help her older son, Travis, buy a home three years ago.
Someone might naturally ask if she has any time to sleep.
“No,” she said. “Sleeping is for the birds.”
She’s been living in Gulf Cove for the last 17 years and has been working at the Courtyard Hair, Etc. on the north end of the island for two seasons.
Her two sons, Travis and Adam, share their mom’s love of education. Travis, 26, will graduate with his MA in environmental sciences and soil hydrology from the University of Florida at the end of August. He’s a hydrologic technician for the United States Geological Service.
Adam, 19, will be starting his sophomore year at Flagler in St. Augustine, studying history and international studies, with a minor in anthropology.
“They’re both brain children,” she said. She kept their noses in their books, she said, and believes that has helped them get along so well in the academic world.
She has deep roots on the island; her family has been here for several generations and they’ve seen a lot of changes.
Her grandfather, George, built Journey’s End on 18th Street, the only home on the island to be placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Her father, Johns, was a law enforcement officer and ran the Knight Brothers boatyard from 1968 until 1989, when he sold it.
She went to Charlotte High School during a time when options were a bit more limited, before Lemon Bay was a high school, before North Port High existed and before Port Charlotte High was much more than a glimmer in the Charlotte County School Board’s eye.
When she was 29, her family moved east ... slightly.
“We sold the boatyard and moved over to Arcadia,” she said. “Daddy decided he wanted to buy 40 acres and have an orange grove and cattle.”
She found that a lot of people in Arcadia were familiar with Boca Grande already, so there were some familiar faces around.
She worked at her father’s boatyard until shortly before it was sold, and got a job working nights at the Boca Grande Club as a switchboard operator. One of the salesmen convinced her to get her real estate license, and so she did. That would be the first of many professional hats she’d wear.
She sold real estate in Arcadia for eight years, but said she found the water too distant. So she returned.
“That place is too dry,” she said. “Their water doesn’t look like our water over here.”
She went to school for nursing and phlebotomy upon returning to Boca Grande and worked in that field for seven years, before she finally decided she was tired of watching bad things happen to good people.
“I wanted to help and I couldn’t do enough to help them,” she said.
The last straw was having to watch a close friend receive a tragic diagnosis.
“I was standing in the room with her when the doctor told her she was going to die,” she said. “I thought, ‘I have to do something a little different so I’m still with people, and making them happy.’”
As a cosmetologist she has found a profession where she can do just that and where people leave smiling every time.
“They come in, I strike up a conversation, away I go,” she said.
She has no trouble keeping men conversing, either, because she loves to talk fishing, shooting and boating.”
Virginia said she shoots skeet in Myakka City with a group of friends and also likes shooting .357 and .38 caliber pistols. True to her nature, she shoots rifles and shotguns left-handed and pistols right-handed.
“But I can fish with both hands,” she laughed.
Her talents and hobbies aren’t too surprising considering that she grew up with three brothers on a boatyard.
Virginia’s been hooked since the day she was born. Growing up at the boatyard, she played with fishing rods and reels in lieu of dolls. Every chance she got she said she would walk out her front door, down the stairs and she’d be on the dock with her rod in hand.
“I’m always fishing,” she said. “My hobbies are boating, fishing and the beach. Anything to do with the water. I can catch my own fish, clean them and cook ’em.”
She said she loves grouper and snook, and is patiently awaiting the chance to have another one.
She did try to move to New York once, she admitted, but she did not have a gentle introduction to northern winters.
“I was up there about six months and had a pair of long johns on the whole time,” she said. “It was the coldest winter they’d had in about 100 years. I had never seen snow.”
She said she woke up one morning with the insurmountable urge to go to the beach.
“Within 24 hours,” she said, “I was on Boca Grande beach in my swimsuit, and vowed I’d never go back north.”
When the boatyard was sold in 1989 her brother, Johns Jr., kept their charter boat, the Moonraker, at the Waterfront motel. They still have the Moonraker, which incidentally was not named after the James Bond film. It was built in 1960 and named by a woman that Johns Sr. was chartering.
As an interesting sidenote, the tarpon hanging in Lew Hastings’ office was caught on the Moonraker.
“That boat has rescued everybody around,” she said. “When dad did the boatyard he did towing and salvage as well. If anybody ran aground or if they were sinking, they called him.”
She said Johns Sr. was basically the man to call if it was the middle of the night and you were having troubles. And they did call, she said, but he was always there for everyone. Whether it was in his capacity as the local law enforcement officer or the boatyard proprietor, it’s a wonder Johns Sr. got any sleep at all.
“It’s 4 a.m. and I’ve got a charter going out and my boat won’t start,” she laughed. “Johns, can you help me out?”
She has a deep admiration for her father because he was always helping people, she said.
“He was the cop here for 26 years, as well as having the boatyard,” she said. “He was a constable for six years and a Lee County Sheriff’s deputy for 20 years. He raised his family and was a very caring and giving man. If someone came to the boatyard and said, ’I need help,’ he’d be right there to help them. He helped everybody.”
She said she’s always tried to follow that example, and her religious belief has helped her do so as well. She seems to have distilled her faith to a few simple Christian values.
“You should be able to walk into any church and go to church,” she said. “You’re there for one reason: Worship.”
She is full of youthful energy, the type of person who rides every roller coaster at the park when she goes.
“When people tell you to grow up, refuse,” she said, “because when you grow up you get old. My philosophy is when I reach 100, I’ll have reached middle age.”
That youthful energy may be a luxury to some, but given Virginia’s interests she may need every bit of it.
After all, when you’re out in the Pass and a tarpon jumps up and puts a hole through the bottom of your boat, you need the energy to get out of the way.
E-mail (required, but will not display)
Notify me of follow-up comments
Click for a larger view