Monday, November 29, 2021

Marco Island’s VSP, “Very Special Person,” Betsy Perdichizzi, Obtains Statewide Recognition

Photos by Heather Otis of the Marco Island Historical Society


Many of our permanent and part-time residents have had the pleasure of meeting Marco Island resident, Elizabeth “Betsy” Perdichizzi and it’s not hard to see why. You could have seen her in person at one of her many productions or historical re-enactments or with like-minded volunteers serving on many local committees. Perhaps you have seen her at book readings or fund-raising events or even serving selflessly on several archeology organizations through the years. Betsy is the epitome of electric energy. She and her husband, Bill, were founding members of the Marco Island Historical Society, and the beautiful Marco Island Historical Museum and Rose Auditorium stand proudly because of her initiative, along with others, to ensure a place to educate and display artifacts of Marco Island and Collier County history. The number one, twice-vetted museum two years in a row in the state of Florida, The Marco Island Historical Museum stands proudly on the knoll at 180 South Heathwood Drive, near the Marco Island Library.

Photos by Heather Otis of the Marco Island Historical Society

Recently, near the towering replica of the Key Marco Cat on the museum grounds, dignitaries from the Southwest Florida Archeological Society (SWFAS) and the Florida Anthropological Society (FAS) traveled to Marco Island for a very special presentation. The President of SWFAS, John F. Furey, M.A., RPA, introduced the award presentation for Betsy Perdichizzi and friends of the MIHS, including Bill Perdichizzi, Executive Director Pat Rutledge, Curator of Collections Austin J. Bell and MIHS Collections Manager Heather Otis.

Mr. Furey began, “On behalf of the officers and the board of directors of the Southwest Florida Archaeological Society and the Florida Anthropological Society, I welcome everyone to this award presentation for Elizabeth “Betsy” Perdichizzi. Presenting the 2020 FAS Certificate of Achievement here in the shadow of this very full-size Marco Cat, representing the real one now inside the museum, is fitting as Betsy has helped to return the Marco Cat home three times since its discovery by Frank Hamilton Cushing in 1895.”

“This award was recommended by SWFAS to FAS in December of 2019 and the award was to be announced in May of 2020 at the FAS Annual Meeting that was to take place in Naples. SWFAS was to be the host chapter but that meeting was cancelled due to the pandemic. It would have been nice to present this award personally at that meeting, but we have delayed long enough. I will now read the full text of the 2020 Certificate of Achievement Award. “Mr. Fury continued, “The Southwest Florida Archeological Society (SWFAS) nominates Elizabeth “Betsy” Perdichizzi for the 2020 Florida Anthropological Society (FAS) Certificate of Achievement Award. Betsy joined SWFAS in 1993 and has served as Second Vice President for two years, First Vice President one year, President for two years and as a Trustee for seven years.

“During this time, Betsy participated in several SWFAS salvage operations. In 1991, SWFAS had been instrumental in assisting Collier County form the Historic Archaeological Preservation Board (HAPB). The preservation of historic and archaeological sites in Collier County is controlled by this board. Betsy has served many years on this board in various roles and continues to serve today to preserve our local heritage in Collier County.

“Additionally, Betsy was instrumental in spearheading the 1995 loan of the Marco Cat from the Smithsonian Institution to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1896 Cushing excavation and, again in 1999 to obtain the loan of the Marco Cat to celebrate the millennium. These early displays were through a local bank where “the Cat” was exhibited in the bank during the day and locked in a bank vault overnight.”

“Betsy and her husband, Bill, were founding members of the Marco Island Historical Society (MIHS) and were active in the quest to build the Marco Island Historical Museum (MIHM). Fast forward. For the last two years, residents and tourists alike have joyously visited the Marco Cat and other special artifacts from the famous 1896 Frank Hamilton Cushing excavation. Owned by the Smithsonian Institution, the Marco Cat is back on Marco Island, under intense security at the beautiful Marco Island Historical Museum.

“While Betsy’s interests in pre-history was served through the SWFAS and the HAPB board, she had an overriding interest in the history of Marco Island and Collier County, Florida.  Remember the ‘epitome of electric energy’ description? Through the Historical Society, Betsy was inspired to create the “Marco Island Reenactors” in 1998 and began a series of historical pioneer reenactments that gave performances for the public and in the schools, most recently, “The Voyage of the Silver Spray – 1895-96.” She founded Caxambas Publishing and published four non-fiction books on the early pioneer people and families on Marco Island. In 2004, she was awarded the Golden Quill Award from the Florida Historical Society for these stories.

“Betsy Perdichizzi continues to contribute to the community through her membership in SWFAS, serving on the HAPB board and the Marco Island Historical Society. She continues researching and creating historically accurate plays about the fascinating past of Marco Island and Collier County. With this award, her contributions to archaeological and historical preservation, as well as her many other accomplishments, are recognized and appreciated.”


Photos by Heather Otis of the Marco Island Historical Society


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