READY: Destin loses another city founder

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

The Ace Hardware sign on Main Street heralds the sad news. This last week, the words “In fond memory of Captain Olin Marler” reminded me of when that sign read “In fond memory of Captain Frank Ready.” Both of them joining the ranks of Destin’s many unique characters, departed now after years of stirring things up in this once-upon-a-time little fishing village.

Of Olin Marler, a fellow captain told me, “He wasn’t scared to get into the business in a big way. He built a lot of boats and kept a lot of fellows busy and employed. Because of Olin and other captains, Destin, which no one outside of the Panhandle had ever heard of, became associated with the big charter boat industry.”

Another long-time Destinite called Olin an “Icon” of the city’s image, and his colorful life, although controversial and flamboyant at times, was one spent in doing a lot of good for the city. A city where he was born, raised, and spent all of his 80 years. In Destin’s history book, he merits the distinction of being named a “founder.”

My son James, who delivered Captain Olin’s eulogy, recalled meeting him at six years old. James was down at the docks with my husband Frank and was introduced. He still remembers what Olin said to him: “So, when are you gonna start deck-handing for your Daddy?” For a little boy to be acknowledged as a young man with adult potential was a thrill for James, who grew up to work not only for his father, but to crew for Captain Olin as well. According to my son, “Olin was a teacher captain like Dad; he expected perfection. They were both hard to work for, but you learned how to do it right and how to please customers.”

James also remembers Olin’s wicked sense of humor and love of pranks (which was inherited from his father Clarence Marler). Olin’s widow Donna added that he loved his family and “spoiled his kids,” Andrew, Hannah, Greg, and Tim.

   Donna recalled that the birth of his grandson Caden, just months before Olin’s passing, was a joy to him in his final days. Grandpa and little Caden “spent precious time” together, and there were lots of “baby kisses.”

As a university graduate in business management, Olin was successful because he worked hard and had a spirit of working together with other charter boat captains. He knew Destin’s fishing industry would only prosper if team work and mutual respect were involved. If his boats were all booked up, he would send customers to other captains. He hated to see any charter boat sitting idle on a summer day.

He saw fellow charter captains as a community of like-minded citizens with common goals, to earn a living, to help others earn a living, and to increase awareness of what Destin had to offer vacationing visitors. During off-season, he and Donna hosted many get-togethers for members and families of Destin’s Charter Boat Association. In fact, I first met Olin and Donna in the 80’s, at a Christmas party they held at The Wharf. The price of admission was canned goods for needy Destin families.

Those who knew Olin also knew his mantra when it came to customers. He would calm the complaints of deckhands and all naysayers with his oft-spoken, “Ain’t nothing else matters; just make sure they have a good time.”   It became something of a mission statement for his business philosophy.

 He cared so much for his customers, and the success of his business, that he never wanted to see a trip get cancelled, especially from the woe of engine failure which plagues all charter boats. I remember when Olin, his son Greg, Frank, James, and mechanic Ted Baggett worked throughout one hot July night to get the Sportsman 2 going again so as not to miss a morning charter. That sort of team effort was typical down at the docks to ensure customers weren’t disappointed, and no boat sat in a slip when it could be bringing in fish.

A hard-working fisherman who loved family and his community, Olin Marler died peacefully after a long illness and now is free of the suffering this life often brings. There is no wondering where he went when he left this earth.

In the words of his wife Donna, “He had the glory of knowing the Lord, so we knew where he was going.”