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Sign doctor to the rescue

Fort Myers Beach's Mark La Fave resurrected the Bay Oaks sign for new life.

May 24, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Mark La Fave has been working in the Public Works department for 14 years, but everyone knows him as Tunes.

He's also developed a reputation as the go-to man for saving town signs.

La Fave put his skills to work for the town once again to restore the Bay Oaks Recreational Campus sign that sits along Estero Boulevard.

Article Photos

Mark “Tunes” La Fave, Parks Director Sean De Palma and Don Hanyo show off La Fave's handiwork.

"Just because the sign's been gone, Bay Oaks is still here," he said with a chuckle.

The sign sat along the pathway from the sidewalk to the Bay Oaks pool for years, letting people know the campus was there and to turn at School Avenue to get to it. Last year, La Fave said the sign was "smashed to pieces" after getting hit by a car. The Public Works department removed it and didn't replace it because of the construction going along Estero Boulevard.

Now that Segment 1 of ReFresh Estero Boulevard is mostly completed, it was time for the sign to go back.

A new sign could have cost upwards of $4,000. But with Tunes on the job, there's no need.

La Fave worked on the sign in his spare time at work, using dowel rods to reconnect the sign that had been broken into six pieces. The paint had significant sun damage, too.

He covered the cracks and applied several layers of paint and protective coating to keep UV rays from corrupting the paint. He also rebuilt the pedestal on which the sign sits, since it had been splintered.

"It's probably better than when we bought it," La Fave said.

La Fave and Don Hanyo installed the refurbished sign May 17. The two men are the "originals" on the Public Works staff: Hayno has been with the town for 15 years, and La Fave for 14.

"The layman's eye just sees a sign, but a lot of meticulous care was put into this," said Parks Director Sean De Palma.

La Fave comes from a farming background in Michigan, so he knows how to be handy. But fixing signs has become this Fort Myers Beach resident's self-taught specialty. It's not the first time La Fave has come to the town's rescue and helped avoid an expense. Last summer, a new Town Hall sign resembling a life preserver was installed at the behest of the previous town manager, Don Stilwell. The town council at that time did not like it - especially as it did not match the town's color scheme and had not come before council for approval. Luckily, La Fave had kept the old sign, thinking it could be used elsewhere. He cleaned it up and painted it to match Town Hall, and it's now been happily re-installed since November.

About seven years ago, La Fave also repaired the town's monument sign at the southern end of the island. That's been one of the harder projects, he said. It was made from wood and had gotten beat up because people drove by and slung beer bottles at it, he said. Tunes had to strip it down, repaint and repair it.

"I love this town. I'm a member of the community," La Fave said. "I think the town deserves nice things."



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