By Steve “Stef” Stefanides
Marco Island lost one of its most respected citizens late Thursday afternoon with the passing of Richard “Dick” Shanahan when he lost his battle with a disease that he had committed so much time and effort to beating. During the last several years Shanahan and his wife Debra have chaired the Imagination Ball of the American Cancer Society on Marco Island and have helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to beat a disease which would contribute to his passing at the age of 89.
Shanahan would leave the cold winters of Chicago behind him and would relocate to the then quiet little island that he would now adopt as his new home. He and his first wife Catherine would make that move in 1987 and never look back.
Shanahan became a fixture in Collier County and Marco Island politics going back almost 30 years and was a prolific volunteer for many organizations on Marco that included the Sunrise Rotary Club, the Greater Marco YMCA, the Marco Island Seafood Festival, Christmas Island Style, the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, the Marco Island Police Foundation, San Marco Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors, the United Way, and many others.
He and Catherine had five daughters and they would sustain him during Catherine’s long battle with her own medical challenges until her passing.
Shanahan and his second wife Debra were coming up on the fifth anniversary of their marriage, which took place in 2011. He would pass late in the afternoon with her at his side and surrounded by family members and friends at the Naples Community Hospital, after being admitted earlier last weekend.
“Today we lost a great member of our community, but more so than that, Rebecca and I lost a great friend and confidant,” said Neil Snyder, a local attorney and president of the Sunrise Rotary Club.
“Sweet man,” “Terrible loss,” “Great individual, mentor and amazing man,” were just some of the words that came flowing across email messages and social media in reaction to the loss when it was announced.
“Dick was one of the first persons to come forward out of the community to ask what he could do to assist us in settling in,” said Roger Hernstadt, city manager of Marco Island. “His friendship and counsel has been invaluable over the last three years, and Jessica and I will miss him immensely.”
Sandy Lazarus, executive director of the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, and her late husband Monte were extremely close friends of Dick and Debra Shanahan, and the two couples vacationed frequently. “Dick will be missed by so many, but it will be future generations that will benefit from some of his leadership roles here on the island, it will be a void difficult to fill,” said Lazarus.
“There is much sadness across the island tonight as the word continues to spread about the passing of my friend. There was never a challenge that Dick would walk away from and that is why I will always hold him in high regard, both as a friend and a fellow Knight,” said Bob Brown, chairman of the Marco Island City Council and fellow member of the Knights of Columbus at the San Marco Catholic Church.
It was appropriate that a light shower passed over the island at sunset on Thursday night in recognition of the loss of one of Marco Island’s favorite sons, as the community learned the news, and sadness settled in so many hearts.
Funeral Services will be held on Wednesday, October 26th at 10:00 AM at San Marco Catholic Church. A celebration of life will be held immediately following in the San Marco Parish Hall.