Humor dispensed lovingly and a deep well of respect highlighted the dedication ceremony for what is now known as the Herbert R. Savage Bridge.
The former Smokehouse Bay Bridge was renamed to honor the man known as the city’s “unofficial mayor” for his role as a chief architect for the developers of modern Marco, the Mackle Brothers, and his decades of civic involvement, unceasing good cheer and enthusiastic support for all things Marco.
“Everyone here knows how lucky we are to have Herb and Emily Savage as residents of our island,” said local historian and attorney Craig Woodward, during his remarks. “Herb is an emblem, a symbol of Marco Island and I’m pleased that the people and City of Marco Island have chosen to honor him in this fashion.”
Held on Memorial Day morning, the ceremony took place inthe median of the former Smokehouse Bay Bridge. A line of observers several rows deep occupied the sidewalk alongside the northbound lane. Traffic crept along, controlled by officers from the Marco Island Police Department, while the southbound lane was closed during the festivities.
Also in attendance were members of city council, City Manager Roger Hernstadt and his wife Jessica, Police Chief Al Schettino, City Clerk Laura Litzen and other city officials. They were joined by two of the Savage’s daughters, Charlene Butler and Sharon Stewart, Butler’s daughter, Alex Gullotte, and other family members.
Woodward was the primary speaker and he began by inviting the audience to take a moment to think of three words to describe Herb Savage, before he divulged his choices. The first adjective he announced was “humble,” which like the others he selected – shy and non-opinionated– drew a hearty laugh from the crowd, the Savages included.
“Okay, humble may not have made your top three list or even the top hundred words that you might use to describe Herb,” Woodward added, before going on to list but a few of the accomplishments of the 96-year-old Savage. Aside from being a top architect for the Mackle Brothers, Savage also designed:
The original Deltona home, a mainstay for the Mackle’s company
The Mackle’s Marco Island Beach Hotel, now the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort and Spa
Marco Island City Hall
“Herb has a street named for him and now a bridge,” said Woodward. “How many of you can match that?”
Woodward praised the World War II veteran for his staunch support of veteran’s causes, the island’s Rotary clubs, Marco Lutheran Church and the Marco Island Historical Society, and for his unshakableoptimism regarding America’s youth and the country’s future.
He also lauded Savage for the value he places on family and friends. “Herb is always supportive and positive leaving everyone he meets with a warm, uplifting feeling,” Woodward added.
Bob Brown, chairman of Marco City Council served as the master of ceremonies.
“I think you’ve been roasted, toasted, saluted and never muted,” he said to Savage, before his remarks and the unveiling of the marker designating the bridge’s new name, “As our favorite architect, I think it’s only fitting that we present you with something as monumental as you are.”
The Savages shared the unveiling and then the honoree said a few words.
“My boss (Mrs. Savage) just reminded me to take two minutes to say thank you and it’s very difficult to take short time to tell you how I feel having beena part of the Mackle family who developed Marco Island for us many years ago,” said Herb Savage. “It’s a great pleasure to be a resident here. It’s a great pleasure to be a member of the Historical Society and all the organizations that I belong to.”
Herb added, “This year and last year, we’ve been so very fortunate with the weather, that we haven’t had a hurricane and I promise you we’re not going to have one yet, we hope.”
As was fitting, the Savages led the crowd in a rousing rendition of the tune that is synonymous with Herb, “God Bless America.”
“Herb has always insisted that I sing the verse,” said Emily Savage. “I’m emotional. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it, but I’ll try.”
Her husband then enthusiastically chimed in with, “And we want everybody to join us on the verse.”