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Issue 580

03/22/2012 at 5:11pm

Larry Kiker awarded a very surprised Ceel SpuhlerA Most Deserving Lady

"All I do is volunteer…” Ceel Spuhler

At Monday night's council meeting, Mayor Larry Kiker awarded a very surprised Ceel Spuhler the Town's top honor for its residents – the Mayor's Special Award for Citizens of Distinction. Spuhler, an unassuming dedicated volunteer who prefers to 'fly under the radar', was tricked into coming to the podium by Kiker, who asked her to deliver an update on Mound House visitation. With a large group of her fellow volunteers looking on – most of whom were in on the secret – Kiker refused to allow Ceel to return to her seat by asking her questions about her volunteer work before inviting the rest of the council to help him give her the award, whereupon an astonished Ceel nearly fainted in surprise as Town Hall erupted in applause.

"I'm just a gofer!” she cried in protest. "All of this people deserve this more than me!”

Mayor Kiker told us that he'd been planning for months to give Spuhler the award, saying it is about time she was recognized for all the work she's done over the years.

"How could you not choose her?” he said. "She's one of our most distinguished citizens, a cherished volunteer not only of the Town but also the Fire Department, the Library, the Historic Society. She's everything to us!”

The award reads 'For Exceptional Community Service', and that describes Spuhler to a 'T'. A resident of our island for 16 years, she spent her first weeks here at the library, poring over island history to learn everything she could about her new home. In the years since, she has indeed volunteered for just about everything and is present at every meeting and event to see where she can help out. Currently, she serves on the Cultural and Environmental Learning Center Advisory Board (CELCAB), as a member of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), as a member of the Friends of the Library and as the founding member of the Friends of the Mound House – something that she is the most proud of.

"I am originally from Silver Lake, Ohio, and my husband and I moved down here 16 years ago because my sister – who was living in Bonita Springs – told me that there was no beach more beautiful than Fort Myers Beach and she was absolutely right!” Ceel told us once we'd talked her into an interview after she received the award. "I started volunteering for the Ostego Bay Foundation doing programs for visitors on the sail boat they had – the 'Island Rover' - until it was sold.”

But it was a project Ceel became involved in not long after the Town's incorporation that has brought her the most joy.

"When the Town got the Mound House, they leased it until the grant money from the Florida Community Trust came in and they could buy it,” she said. "They decided to have an Open House so people could see what it was, and I was asked to volunteer. I became the first volunteer there and spent the summer interviewing people who had some knowledge of or relation to the house in order to sign up more volunteers.”

"The house just took me over,” she said. "It means so much to me!”

When we asked Ceel about the award, she characteristically sounded astounded that the mayor would choose her.

"He really got me,” she said, laughing. "I thought all those people were there to talk about parking! Only in this town would this happen to someone like me – all I do is volunteer, just like anyone else.”

Self-effacing words from an amazing lady who truly does deserve recognition!

Congratulations to Ceel Spuhler and to all our hardworking volunteers.

Keri Hendry