Saturday, June 25, 2022

Looking Back at Looking Forward

Former Marco YMCA presidents reminisce during reunion function

Photos by Quentin Roux | Former board presidents line up with CEO Cindy Love-Abounader, far right. From left: Skip Merriam, Tom Wagor, Jim Curran, Pat Neale, Mel Ollman, Ernie Bretzmann, Craig Woodward, Marv Needles and Ashley Lupo.

Nostalgia and pride were the overriding emotions recently when the Greater Marco Family YMCA hosted a reunion of past board presidents.

Ten former presidents were able to attend the function, which included a luncheon and tour of the campus to view all the recent upgrades.

A highlight was the presence of former president Mel Ollman, whose 100th birthday celebrations coincided with the visit to the Y.

Between them, the former presidents traced the Y’s progress from a couple of trailers and a wooden shed in the early days, to the multi-faceted campus of today.

Credited with designing the building that replaced the trailers and shed, Ollman remembered the motivation behind it.

“Seeing the trailers inspired me,” he said during a round table reminiscing session. “The two buildings got us started, but we just had to build something better.”

“He (Ollman) is responsible for a great deal of what the Y is today,” said former president Paul Tateo earlier during an invocation prayer.

In her (also informal) welcome, current president Ashley Lupo said the Y as it is today was “built on tons of hard work.”

She added that the Y is always looking for ways of better serving the community.

Skip Merriam praised the Y’s impressive history, and said he was most proud of starting an endowment fund during his tenure.

“I would encourage everybody to contribute to it,” Merriam said.

Jim Curran recognized the “tremendous growth over the years” and recounted an anecdote about how well the auctioning off of Bob Hope memorabilia had done for funds at the time.

Former presidents Marv Needles, Ernie Bretzmann and Craig Woodward.

Tom Wagor said that he and his board’s best accomplishment around his 1994 term was hiring Cindy Love, who went on to become the long-serving and current CEO of the Y.

Pat Neale spoke about “scratching dollars and cents together to get the more permanent building open,” and then having staff wondering what to do with all the extra space.

That space, of course, was quickly filled with a variety of programs and activities that continue to expand to this day.

Ernie Bretzmann spoke about breaking away from an original partnership with the Naples Y despite predictions that Marco wouldn’t be able to go it alone.

“It was a huge collective effort,” Bretzmann said. “Today, everyone can stand tall. “The fun we went through to get this done … I want to commend every one of you.”

Tateo said he was proud that the new Youth Development Center was finished with minimal outstanding debt, and Craig Woodward said the transition from trailers to today’s campus had resulted in a “great asset to this island.”

Lupo, in the chair for her second term, described the Marco Y of today as a “well-oiled machine” that was filling community needs.

For more on the Y’s wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit or call 394-YMCA (9622). Follow on Twitter at greatermarcoymca, or on Facebook at marcoymca.

Mel Ollman, instrumental in the design and construction of the first permanent Marco Y building, celebrated his 100th birthday at the luncheon.

Mel Ollman Celebrates a Century

Former mechanical and industrial engineer Ollman admits he’s a little slower out of the saddle these days, largely due to a hip fracture some while back.

“I spend most of my time relaxing in my easy chair,” he said. “I don’t look at TV very often … I just don’t care for it. It’s usually a repeat of something they’ve already had. I like the radio, because they give news updates every 15 minutes.”

Ollman was an avid pilot, and says his greatest memories are flying his Mooney aircraft around the world not once, but twice.

“The first time it was North to South, and then East to West,” he said.

Asked about any tips on longevity, twice-married Ollman said: “I don’t have the slightest idea. I’m subject to some physical problems, but here I am, and I feel like going on for another six or seven years.”

“And,” he added with a twinkle in his eyes: “I live on Marco.”


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