Advertisement
  1. Florida

Jim Igler was always near the water or under it, cleaning, teaching, helping

Volunteer devoted time, energy to environmental groups around the region
Jim Igler lived in Ruskin and later St. Petersburg. (Images courtesy Patricia Deplasco and Debbie Evenson)
Published Apr. 15

Jim Igler cleaned the gravel that went into displays at the Florida Aquarium before it opened for the first time.

He planted mangroves in the wetlands gallery.

He waded hip-deep through muck in reservoir ponds, picking up plastic bags, bottles and straws.

“It’s kind of like, what didn’t Jim do?” said Eric Hovland, the aquarium’s associate curator.

Mr. Igler poured concrete into molds for 200-pound oyster domes.

He built nesting rafts for Least Terns.

He drove to boat ramps and collected the fishing lines people slipped into PVC tubes, removed the lures and hooks and sent the lines to be recycled.

“This is stuff most people don’t want to do,” said Lorraine Margeson, an environmental activist who worked with Mr. Igler monitoring shore birds at Fort De Soto Park. “It’s not like feel-good volunteering. It’s like work-your-butt-off volunteering.”

Jim Igler, left, built and installed rafts in lagoons for Least Terns to nest on as the beaches crowded with people. (Image courtesy Lorraine Margeson)

Mr. Igler transplanted sea grass, snorkeling as he pulled it from one spot to place in another.

He stood behind booths at festivals, explaining the work of any one of the many environmental organizations he was volunteering for that day.

He removed derelict crab traps.

He never complained, said Serra Herndon, habitat restoration director at Tampa Bay Watch. He always worked with a smile.

Jim Igler, third from the left, at a cleanup in 2014. (Image courtesy Patricia Deplasco)

Mr. Igler planted magnolias, live oaks, maples and bald cypress trees at Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful’s Florida Learning Garden.

He laid mulch.

On the stormy day a man came from out of town to install hydroponics, Mr. Igler worked alongside in the rain.

“He was that type of person,” said Debbie Evenson, executive director of Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful.

"I really believe that he was living his best life. He was doing exactly what he wanted to do the way he wanted to do it," said Tampa Bay Watch’s Serra Herndon of Jim Igler, right. (Photo courtesy Rachel Arndt, Tampa Bay Watch)

Mr. Igler led dive cleanups, scouting out sites ahead of time, recruiting volunteers, hauling out supplies, directing parking, leading safety training, then diving in.

He directed packs of middle schoolers on cleanups along Causeway Boulevard.

He connected people from all the organizations where he volunteered.

“When you get nonprofits together, sometimes people are a little territorial, you know?” said Patricia Deplasco, executive director of Keep Pinellas Beautiful. “But if you’re here for the right reason, it doesn’t really matter what your territory is. The earth is our territory. That was his philosophy.”

Jim Igler, right, was on the board of and volunteered with several area environmental organizations. (Image courtesy Patricia Deplasco)

Before his super-volunteering, Mr. Igler worked as a teacher. Then a trucker. He lived in New York and the Midwest. After he moved to Florida, he wore tie-dye shirts and mutton chops. When it was time to dress up, like when he won a national award from Keep America Beautiful, he returned to his vest and bolo tie.

A few years ago, Mr. Igler suffered health issues that slowed down his volunteering, including undergoing heart surgery.

“He didn’t really share his pain. He shared everybody else’s,” said Daisy Packer, executive director of Keep Indian River Beautiful, who met Mr. Igler when she worked at Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful.

The story Mr. Igler told often, the explanation for why he was always there, went like this: “When I moved to Tampa Bay in 1987, the bay was brown,” he told the Tampa Bay Times in 2012. "Now when I cross the Skyway bridge and other bridges in Tampa Bay and look at the water, the water is blue again.”

Mr. Igler played an essential part in that transformation, Packer said.

“He wasn’t the decision-maker, the policy maker,” she said. “He was the guy getting it done.”

Mr. Igler died on March 28 due to injuries he sustained at a crosswalk in a hit-and-run accident in St. Petersburg.

He was 74.

Even after Daisy Packer moved across the state, Jim Igler stayed in touch, texting to check in on holidays, "even the little holidays, I think even the solstice." (Image courtesy Debbie Evenson)

A memorial celebration for Jim Igler will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1, at Tampa Bay Watch, 3000 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde.

Senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Want to know more about Jim Igler? Head over to Instagram and @werememberthem and see one way he will be remembered. Know someone who has recently died whom we should write about? Send suggestions to Kristen Hare at epilogue@tampabay.com.

Read recent Epilogues:

Don Barco was everybody’s best friend (or at least he made them feel that way)

Brady’s Backyard BBQ owner loved a good time

Catholic nun found her calling in the classroom and left lasting impression


ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Mohammed "Mo" Haitham, 19, was a track star at Lakewood High School. He was one of the victims of the Naval Air Station Pensacola shooting on Friday, according to his mother and Lakewood High principal Erin Savage. CARRY PRATT  |  Photo by Carrie Pratt
    Mohammed Haitham just finished boot camp and had been reassigned to Pensacola.
  2. This photo taken from video provided by WEAR-TV shows emergency responders near the Naval Air Base Station in Pensacola, Fla., Friday, Dec. 6, 2019.  The US Navy is confirming that an active shooter and one other person are dead after gunfire at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. Area hospital representatives tell The Associated Press that at least 11 people were hospitalized. The base remains locked down amid a huge law enforcement response.   (WEAR-TV via AP) AP
    Family members on Saturday identified one of the victims as a 23-year-old recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who alerted first responders to where the shooter was even after he had been shot...
  3. A huge number of homes owned by Baby Boomers will sell in the next 20 years. How will the trend affect the Florida housing market? CAMERON GILLIE  |  NAPLES DAILY NEWS
    The enormous generation born between 1946 and 1964 owns about 40 percent of the homes across the country.
  4. In this Dec. 5 photo authorities investigate the scene of a shooting in Miramar, Fla. The FBI says several people, including a UPS driver, were killed after robbers stole the driver’s truck and led police on a chase that ended in gunfire at a busy South Florida intersection during rush hour. (Taimy Alvarez/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP) TAIMY ALVAREZ  |  AP
    A lawyer for the union where Rick Cutshaw worked said Cutshaw had just left his office before being killed. “He was going home.”
  5. Congressional aides maneuver a Christmas tree to the office of Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, on Capitol Hill earlier this month. No word on whether they washed it first, but experts say hosing down a live tree can be a good way to keep allergens from causing respiratory problems during the holiday season. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    Hosing off a live tree or wiping off an artificial one are two ways to keep allergens at bay during the holidays.
  6. Motorists head north of Key Largo on U.S. 1, in anticipation of Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6, 2017.  Keys officials announced a mandatory evacuation Wednesday for visitors, with residents being told to leave the next day. [Associated Press]
    Elevating less than 3 miles of Old State Road 4A by 2025 could cost $75 million.
  7. Frank Ordonez was the UPS driver who was taken hostage by two armed robbers and later killed during a shootout with police in Miramar Thursday. Facebook
    Frank Ordonez, was a father to two young girls and had worked with UPS for five years.
  8. Four people, including a UPS driver, were killed Thursday after robbers stole the driver’s truck and led police on a chase that ended in gunfire in Miami. Youtube
    Family members have identified the UPS driver to be Frank Ordonez, a father of two young girls.
  9. Bryan Bruton, as seen in a still image from one of his videos, hosts a YouTube channel dubbed "Crazy Prison Stories" in which he discusses his experiences during the 11 years he spent in Florida's prison system. YouTube
    Bryan Bruton’s YouTube channel is part of a niche of prison-focused video blogs that offer a frank look at life incarcerated.
  10. A helicopter lands at Tampa General Hospital, one of 66 Florida hospitals that could benefit from a proposal contained in Gov. Ron DeSantis' new budget, a new analysis finds. JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tampa General is among the hospitals that would receive money from a proposal seeking to hand out $10 million in new funding.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement