Sometimes people come into your life—seemingly from out of nowhere—and you make a connection. And, despite your best wishes or intentions, down deep you know that your newfound friendship will be short-lived; a memorable, but fleeting chapter in your life. This is especially true when you, or the people you meet, are traveling away from home. Odds are, once you, or they, return home, you’ll never see them again. But upon occasion, fate may overcome such odds, and the friendship will endure. Ian was blessed with a number of these chance encounters, and more often than not, the friendships did endure, both distance, and the test of time. As a result, Marcia and I were also similarly blessed, because many of his friends became our friends, and our friendships remain to this day.
Ian was a natural at making friends on the boat; invariably with girls. The first of these encounters, at least as far as I know—or can remember— was with a wonderful young lady named Kristen Bourassa from Arizona.
Ian first met Kristen on July 4th, 1997. She and her family were visiting the Keys and she came out on Keys Diver with her mother’s friend, Pat. Kristen caught Ian’s attention when he noticed that on the way to the reef, she was sitting on the windward side of the boat, taking spray in her face. Ribbing her about this was, of course, a good icebreaker, so that is where the conversation began. Kristen explained that she was from Arizona, where this was not a common occurrence, so she enjoyed the spray. They continued to talk throughout the trip, and by the end of the afternoon the seeds of friendship had been planted. On the return ride, not quite ready to call it a day, Ian invited Kristen to a Fourth of July party that he was planning to attend later that evening.
Returning to the dock, Ian had the chance to meet Kristen’s mother, Celeste. The introduction went well, and he apparently made a favorable impression; however, Celeste was not entirely comfortable with her daughter running off with some strange kid she had just met, in a new place to boot. That would have to wait until the next year.
Ian and Kristen said goodbye, but stayed in touch throughout the year; and by the time the summer of ’98 rolled around, they were anxious to see each other again. Returning to Key Largo, Kristen’s family stayed just a few miles south of our house, close to Keys Diver. This was convenient for Ian, as Kristen was within easy bicycling range, and he could either see her on the boat, or he could take the occasion to neglect work, and just hang out with her and her parents.
It was during this stay that Marcia and I first met and came to know Kristen, Celeste, Kristen’s father Steve, and her brother Nick. One evening, Ian made arrangements to take Kristen out to dinner, and so Marcia and I met up with Celeste, Steve, and Nick over dinner at Gus’s Grille.
It was very easy to talk with Steve. He was a firefighter, we shared a number of common interests, and the conversation flowed freely over a couple beers. Marcia and Celeste also hit it off, and although Nick was probably bored to tears, he didn’t seem to mind hanging out with the “old folks.” We toasted the moment, and moments yet to come, and before long, dinner was over; signaling the end of a very pleasant evening, and the time to bid our new friends adieu.
Later that evening, Marcia and I agreed that we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the Bourassas, and that the evening went all too fast. As for Ian, his feelings were all too apparent; there was really no need to solicit his opinion in the matter. Fortunately, this was not the Bourassas’ first trip to the Keys, and it certainly would not be their last. This picture of Ian and Kristen was taken at Senor Frijoles in June, 1999, shortly after Kristen graduated from high school, and she and Celeste came down for a visit.
Kristen, her parents, and her brother Nick have returned to the Keys many times since that first, fateful meeting. All grown up with families of their own, Kristen and Nick have blessed Celeste and Steve with beautiful grandchildren, and together they have introduced this next generation to our Keys’ paradise.
Someday, we’ll have to make our way out to Arizona, but for now, Marcia and I will continue to be thankful for the near annual visits Kristen and her family make to the Keys, and for that first introduction aboard the Keys Diver.
Ian’s next chance encounter to make lifelong friends was midsummer 1998. One fine summer day, at the end of a glorious afternoon on the water, Keys Diver was inbound Port Largo Canal, returning a group of tired, contented snorkelers back to shore. As we approached the Marina Del Mar Resort and our slip, Ian was making his way up to the bow to secure our mooring lines when his attention was suddenly diverted by the appearance of not one, but two, similarly distracted, attractive young ladies gazing his way. The girls were on a sailboat moored in a slip at the resort, and they were obviously identical twins—that or Ian was seeing double.
At this point in our maritime careers, I was mating the boat, and Ian was second mate. This means that I was supposed to schmooze the customers, and he was supposed to do most of the work. Once we docked and began to offload the passengers, Ian said, “I’ll be back in a minute,” and quickly disappeared around the corner in the general direction of the sailboat—so much for he was supposed to most of the work. He did eventually return, but only after yours truly had finished rinsing the boat from stem to stern, and all other cleanup work had been completed.
He was all giddy, and it was all he could do to contain his nervous excitement. Thankfully, Ian’s vision was fine; the girls were twins, Jillian and Jamie. They lived in Maine with their father, and were spending summer break in the Keys on the sailboat with their mother and stepfather, Shannon and Brent. What began as a happenstance sighting was the beginning of an enduring friendship between Ian and the girls, and also between us parents. Ironically, although she had never met Jillian and Jamie, Marcia already knew Shannon and Brent, as she had briefly worked for “doctor” Brent, not long after we first moved to the Keys. She thought the world of them, and once I got to know them, I did as well.
During what little was left of Jillian and Jamie's summer vacation, Ian hung out with them as often as he could, while Marcia and I spent many a happy evening in the company of Brent and Shannon, enjoying dinner at a local restaurant, or simply relaxing over a “Silver Bullet” on the sailboat, admiring Brent’s latest teak restoration, catching up on Keys’ gossip, or simply pondering our lazy island existence.
Unfortunately, time really does fly when you’re having fun, and in the blink of an eye the girls' vacation was over. It was time for the them to return home to Maine, and time for Ian to give serious consideration to his upcoming freshman year at Coral Shores, each hopeful that their newfound friendship could endure their half-continent separation.
It did, and in a little less than a year’s time, Ian and Marcia would be on a plane bound for western Maine to visit Shannon and the girls, and so that Ian could join the girls and their friend Brock at their eighth grade prom.
’98 was a good summer for Ian, and he stayed very busy at Keys Diver. By now he was spending mornings in the pro shop, selling tours and equipment, and learning more about the business side of the operation. Afternoons were spent on the water, attending to the needs of many of the same guests that he had booked earlier that morning.
Keys Diver is a forty-seven passenger vessel, and like most dive, snorkel or fishing vessels of her size, for the crew, work is either feast or famine. During the slow times, you wonder where your next customer may come from; but when you’re busy, you’re really busy. Since the Keys tend to be a family destination, Keys Diver is most busy any time the kids are out of school; which often requires running three trips a day during the summer.
Working a full boat during the long, stifling summer months was exhausting, but the “office environment” was beautiful, and it provided a wonderful opportunity to earn spending money and to set aside a little something for the future, as Ian was already planning on turning in his two wheels for four.
The busy days flew by more quickly than Ian could ever have imagined, and in no time at all, summer came to an end. Overall, this summer turned out to be outstanding—good thing, since Georges was lurking on the horizon. Third Key’s summer behind him, it was time to say goodbye to the water, and time to pick up the textbooks. Ian was never crazy about school, but this year things were different. He was at the very least a little excited, and perhaps a bit apprehensive, wondering just what the future might hold for him as a new freshman entering into a new school system.
Once school started, Ian continued to work. Not wanting to return to bagging groceries at Publix, a job he held the previous spring, he started what would become the first of many years working for the Stokey family at Sundowners Restaurant. Ian began busing tables and running food, but that was only the beginning . . .
Ian began his freshman year at Coral Shores with football on his mind. That was after all, a huge part of the reason he wanted to go there. But for an incoming freshman, new to the school and new to the school system, competing in a field already crowded with underclassmen, that dream would have to wait until his sophomore year. Nevertheless, the wait to participate didn’t dampen his support for the Hurricanes, or his enthusiasm for the game and all the festivities surrounding the play.
As the football season began to come to a close, so too came the anticipation of spirit week, with all of the traditional homecoming events. This would be Ian’s first, so he was naturally excited just to be a part of it; however, this year things would be complicated by a handful of students, whose actions overshadowed the entire week’s events.
School spirit was high leading up to spirit week, and a few students became a little too exuberant; when, during the traditional, non-sanctioned float wars, eggs and paint balls were used in an attempt to damage other, competing class floats. During the course of this assault two parents were injured, leading the school to cancel the upcoming early release and homecoming parade.
Reacting to what they believed to be an unjust, overreaction of the school, penalizing the entire student body for the unwarranted actions of a few, a number of students joined in solidarity, and took to the football field in a peaceful, but determined protest. Their display of unity resulted in a meeting with Principal Dr. Al Rother and other school administrators; whereby representatives from the junior and senior classes were given the opportunity to state their case. At the conclusion of this lengthy meeting, administration was still not prepared to reverse their decision. They were however, faced with another problem which warranted their attention—and dismissal of school—the approach of Tropical Storm Mitch.
A few days later, having ridden out the storm, students, teachers, and school officials returned to school, and what was left of spirit week. The storm had forced the cancelation of the powder puff game, bonfire, and pep rally. What remained was the homecoming game and dance; that is, if administration decided to acquiesce to the students’ earlier pleas.
Calling a student assembly, Dr. Rother announced the long-awaited decision. The school agreed to reinstate early release and the parade; however, students would have to agree to forfeit their class floats, as competing floats would not be permitted. Instead, they would simply walk in unity, irrespective of class, to demonstrate unified school spirit and remorse for the conduct which led to the injuries. The students agreed, and although the parade was short, it was a success, with students from all grade levels participating, joined by faculty and staff.
Imposed parade restrictions aside, one tradition remained; the ride by of the homecoming court.
In spite of all the controversy and uncertainty which surrounded what should have been a simple week of celebration, spirit week was everything that Ian hoped it would be and more. The best part of the week, was not the homecoming game—the ‘canes took a beating—it was the homecoming dance, which was held at Volcano’s in Islamorada.
As a freshman, Ian should have been ecstatic just to have been invited to the homecoming dance. Forget that it was a chance to hang with the upper classman, and make a name for himself; most importantly, it was the opportunity to spend the evening with his beautiful date, Bobby-Jo.
Once Ian had his outgrown his obsession with Michael Knight, he quickly moved on; up to a whole new succession of very diverse, although similarly respectable good guy heroes, each inspiring new educational and occupational goals—one, even a change in citizenship.
Nevertheless, he could relate to each, easily imagining himself in their shoes. For a time, this even helped to shape his career plans—albeit at a still early age. First he fancied himself as an actor and therefore could have portrayed any of these roles. Later, as he matured, he began to consider more realistic careers, and for a time even considered law enforcement.
An interest in law enforcement led to an interest in the practice of law, and for a brief time, Ian even pondered becoming an attorney. By now he had narrowed his career choices, apparently realizing that there was little hope of an appointment to Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Ian’s interest in law climaxed with real court room drama when he was given the opportunity to defend a student in Teen Court. Suddenly he wanted to be a defense attorney. These dreams; however, quickly faded once he learned of the academic requirements!