Florida Keys

Once the only deputy in Upper Keys, an Islamorada pioneer dies at 86

Joe Pinder, in a 2008 photograph
Joe Pinder, in a 2008 photograph Keynoter

Joe Pinder, a Florida Keys native who survived two major hurricanes and six years as the only Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputy in the Upper Keys, has died at age 86.

Pinder, from a Keys pioneer family that traces its Islamorada roots back 146 years, also served 17 years as a board member of the Monroe County Mosquito Control District.

He and wife Roberta, best known as Bobby, were married for 63 years.

Memorial services for Pinder, who died Aug. 7, will be held at Matecumbe United Methodist Church. The family was making arrangements this week with a date and time to be determined.

He died of a medical complication just hours after talking to family members on an Alaskan fishing trip that Joe regretted missing.

“He wanted a fishing report,” son Buddy said. “The stories my dad could tell.”

“Once President Harry Truman asked him to drive Bess Truman from Key West to Miami for a shopping trip,” Buddy related. “Truman leaned into the car and asked him to take care, because he’s carrying precious cargo.”

Mr. Pinder was 5 years old when the deadly Labor Day hurricane devastated Islamorada in 1935. He escaped when his father put him on a floating bed mattress. His mother was hospitalized after being hit by a collapsing building.

He was a deputy when he rode out Hurricane Donna in 1960, a storm that washed out Keys bridges. Mr. Pinder also worked at Cheeca Lodge and ran an appliance business when air-conditioning was new technology.

“It’s nothing like it used to be in the Keys,” he told the Keynoter in 2008. “I told my sons: You don’t have fun like I used to, and your sons won’t have fun like you did.... We’d go to the beach, where Port Antigua is, for swim parties on hot days. We’d relax and cook hot dogs, if the mosquitoes didn’t run us off.”

Survivors include wife Bobby; sister Alma Pinder Dalton; sons Jack (and daughter-in-law Teresa), Buddy (daughter-in-law Cerise), and Henry ( (and daughter-in-law Barbara); seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206