The Circle of life – perennial energy that flows unceasingly regardless of location. As humans, at our baseline of consciousness, one thing is clear  – our life is a finite event; it possesses a very clear beginning and without question, a definitive end. What happens “in the middle” is mostly construed of daily choices, habits, a bit of luck and a pinch of happenstance tossed in for good measure.

Legacy is seldom a common theme for the first half of life but tends to become a major consideration once middle-age settles in. More “mature” souls may begin to search the rear-view mirror for clues, posing the question, “What is the essence of my legacy to humankind?” In certain cases, when the ending arrives rapidly and without expectation, legacy is hazy and left mostly unplanned.

In February of 2018,  Bonita Bay lost a legacy; a wildlife champion, a lover of all things natural, and one who could capture an otherwise unseen spectacular image of the wildlife within. Anne Macias was a true legacy to the original vision of this community – a place where residents and nature connect – and she so effortlessly captured images from every nook and cranny of nearly all local inhabitants.

Along with her innate ability to capture wildlife imagery from behind a camera lens, Anne was also instrumental in turning her professional passion into a hobby by developing the Bonita Bay Resident Wildlife Sponsors (BBRWS) – a select group of residents who supported a larger collaborative effort involving Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and the Bonita Bay Community Association (BBCA); a truly unique synergistic trifecta.

FGCU Ed Interns 2015
FCGU education interns attend a presentation at Bonita Bay’s Estero Bay Park.

Biannually, Anne would work with the BBRWS members to create a plan for an educational outreach program specifically involving the FGCU College of Education students. Along with their professor, Dr. Penny Finley (also a Bonita Bay resident) these future teachers would arrive at Bonita Bay for a presentation on a given topic (blue herons, butterflies, osprey, or eagles, for example). The students are given all the materials as presented to them to develop an age-appropriate lesson plan to be taught at a local elementary school – a first classroom experience for these soon-to-be teachers! Not only was this biannual event imperative to sharing local natural environments with education interns and students, but is compulsory for the BBCA to continue their prestigious and coveted 14-year certified Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary status.

Over the course of 8 semesters, over 500 FGCU pre-service teachers have been part of this program teaching 700 elementary students in kindergarten through grade five each semester. The partnership with Treeline Elementary has become a tradition involving classroom teachers who graduated from FGCU and learned about the birds of Bonita Bay when they were college students. 

–Professor Penny Finley, College of Education, Florida Gulf Coast University

Dr. Penny Finley and Anne Macias
Dr. Penny Finley and Anne Macias

During her legacy-building years, Anne’s vision and passion for not only identifying and categorizing the untold numbers of bird species found on the Hidden Harbor Lake – as known as the “bird islands” – she also acted as a community photographer for many activities and events sponsored by the Bonita Bay Community Activities department. Unsurprisingly, Anne’s passion for birds was contagious, often turning non-bird enthusiasts into newly-found feathered supporters!

After Anne’s untimely passing, her original organization (BBRWS) was transitioned by a group of like-minded residents into the Macias Wildlife Society of Bonita Bay (MWSBB) whose current Board of Directors include Bonita Bay residents Professor Penny Finley, Barbara Jackson, Jacke McCurdy, John Knapp, Loraine Tyre, and Sandy Hollenhorst. The second change for the original group was its transition into a non-profit organization. (Although the outreach programs provide extreme value to education students, they are costly to host. Because of this, it made sense to allow corporations and individuals to receive tax-deductible benefits for in-kind donations.)

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Anne Macias tours Audubon representatives around the Bird Islands.

Like many Bonita Bay residents who enjoy the birds and wildlife, Sandy and Mike Hollenhorst – Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary volunteers – met and began working with Anne on a multitude of projects. Prior to Anne’s death, and recognizing the importance of the outreach programs she pioneered, the Hollenhorsts vowed to continue these missions. Not surprisingly, Sandy and Mike are in the process of completing the Florida Master Naturalist Program.

I have always been interested in science, biology, and nature. With an undergraduate degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Biotechnology, I spent most of my career working in healthcare related companies as a healthcare stock analyst. My favorite job in graduate school was working weekends at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

–Sandy Hollenhorst

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New bird identification sign overlooking Harbor Lake

Recently, on a perfect fall evening in southwest Florida, the newly formed Macias Wildlife Sponsors of Bonita Bay held a dedication ceremony to unveil the first Birds of Bonita Bay Identification Sign. Guests enjoyed refreshments and offered a chance to mingle and view the sign overlooking Hidden Harbor Lake. Shortly thereafter, were formally welcomed by Sandy Hollenhorst as she officially dedicated the sign in Anne’s memory.

We thought to share Anne’s bird photos with Bonita Bay residents and guests on the first Bird Identification Sign in Bonita Bay was a most fitting tribute. Anne was so diligent about documenting and tracking the birds nesting on the islands, it really is a fitting dedication to her passion – and a perfect way to epitomize Anne’s legacy to our community.

— Sandy Hollenhorst

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Attendee views new bird identification sign donated in the memory of Anne Macias. 
bird sign dedication ceremony
Sandy Hollenhorst addresses residents during the dedication ceremony

The Macias Wildlife Society of Bonita Bay is sponsoring a special presentation by Florida Audubon representative, Ann Paul, as she discusses Bird Islands of Bonita Bay on Tuesday, March 5th. Wine and cheese reception begins at 4:30 p.m., followed by the presentation at 5:00 p.m. in the Estero Bay Park Pavilion. Minimum donation: $10 per person. For reservations, please contact Sandy Hollenhorst: sandyhollenhorst@yahoo.com | 612-817-2081 (For Bonita Bay residents and their guests only. This event is not open to the public.)

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Macias Wildlife Society of Bonita Bay, please contact Sandy Hollenhorst for more information. (Please note, in order to be eligible to participate in BB resident clubs, members MUST be residents of Bonita Bay.)

In memory of

 

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Written by Katie Walters
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