When Mary Lou Griffith first came to Cape Coral, it wasn't much more than
farmland and empty lots.
More than 50 years later, Griffith's contributions to the city were
celebrated with her receiving the prestigious sixth-annual Tabor Award at a
ceremony Wednesday at Tarpon Point.
The award is part of the Cape Coral Community Foundation's annual meeting,
during which it hands out its yearly grants to community organizations.
The Tabor Award, now in its sixth year, goes to someone who most gives of
themselves to the community, philanthropic, financially or otherwise.
Any future recipient of this award will have an awfully high bar to clear to
surpass Griffith's accomplishments, which go back to when the city was in
its infancy, when you could buy land for "$50 down and $50 a month."
"When we came here, there were 200 people," Griffith said, who got a job as
a hostess for Gulf American, the company that developed Cape Coral. "I was
in public relations and later in their flight program, where we would fly
people in from all over."
Among those who flew in were Phylis Diller, Jayne Mansfield, Rip Torn and
Bob Hope. Griffith's job was to make sure they were happy.
She would also write community news for the newsletter would eventually
morph into The Daily Breeze.
Griffith was the natural choice for the job. She and her first husband,
Chris Ketridge, worked at the newspaper in Kenawee, Ill., before moving to
"The community news was mimeographed to all the residents for Col.
Crawford," Griffith said. "It became The Breeze, but I was never an owner in
She also picked up the mail that was boated in from Fort Myers.
"We picked up the mail and took it to a store building, where it was put in
boxes according to the alphabet," Griffith said.
Mary Lou had the first concession stand in Cape Coral. She set up a card
table and sold crackers, potato chips and soda at each softball game played.
The money collected would go back to the teams.
She also helped set up the first bleachers at the new Cape Coral High
"We were building the school and I saw the bleachers at an old race track
while driving through Punta Gorda," Griffith said. "I contacted Dave Gomer,
who was working on the fields and he came and got them. Today's they're the
visiting bleachers at the football stadium."
Griffith volunteered as a pink lady for Lee Memorial Hospital until Cape
Coral Hospital was built in mid '70s, when she volunteered for six years in
Griffith also volunteered for six years at the Fort Myers Soup Kitchen, at
cancer drives, Red Cross programs, and the We Care program at Faith
Presbyterian Church, among other things.
"We were real pioneers. We had no grocery story and had to go to North Fort
Myers for everything," Griffith said. "It was amazing to be a part of it."
Chris Ketridge passed away in 1976. Mary Lou married Carl Griffith in 1991.