“She had a great love for this city,” said longtime friend and business associate Art Broderick. “In the many hours I spent with her over the years, our conversations almost always involved something to do with the city — how to help, it, improve it. That was her life.”
Mrs. Shontz moved to the city 55 years ago from Pennsylvania and quickly became a vital part of city life, business and politics.
She and her late husband, George, owned and operated three city restaurants. She also was an active member of many civic and social organizations, served on several city boards, and was elected six times as a city commissioner and served one term as mayor.
While sitting on the commission dais, Mrs. Shontz’s eyes often sparkled with humor as she uttered her familiar refrain, “This is just my opinion, perhaps not held by all,” as she weighed in on issues facing the city.
Those opinions were often heeded. In recognition of her many contributions to the city, the commission’s meeting room was renamed in her honor as the Patricia A. Shontz Commission Chambers after she ended her career last summer.
City Manager Shane Crawford, who became a close friend and confidante of Mrs. Shontz during the past year, said she told him the renaming ceremony was “one of her proudest moments.”
Mrs. Shontz’s list of accomplishments is long and varied:
• She served as the first female president of both state and local chapters of the Gulf Beaches Rotary Club, as well as holding leadership roles in the John’s Pass Merchants Association, the Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce, the Old Salts Fishing Organization and the Church by the Sea.
• In addition to serving on the commission, she was appointed to the city’s Planning Commission and the Board of Adjustment, served as chairperson of the 9/11 Ad-Hoc Committee which planned the city’s 9/11 Memorial Park, and was a member of the Pinellas Planning Council and the Tourist Development Council (now the Visitor’s Bureau).
• She was actively involved in building the city’s marina, the recreation center and numerous city parks; the development of the John’s Pass Village Boardwalk; the creation of the marine science center at Madeira Beach Middle School; and widening Gulf Boulevard to four lanes.
• Pet projects included helping to initiate the city’s Meals on Wheels and after-school Latch Key programs, the Christmas Boat Parade, the John’s Pass Seafood Festival and the city Fishing Tournament.
Mrs. Shontz retired from elected office last summer when she resigned her post as vice mayor amid what she described as “vicious” attacks on city officials by a group of residents opposed to two hotel redevelopment projects.
Len Piotti, another longtime friend and former city commissioner, said Mrs. Shontz was “frustrated and heartbroken” over the “venom” of some residents opposed to the projects.
In contrast, what he remembers best about Mrs. Shontz was her joy for life and how they would laugh a lot when getting together.
“She was such a giving person and had a wonderful, big heart and was always there to help,” said Piotti, recalling how Mrs. Shontz organized meals for his family while his wife was recovering from an injury.
That giving extended to the city, as well.
Broderick recalls Mrs. Shontz repeatedly writing checks for her causes, including the city’s Fourth of July fireworks, which some officials at the time said the city could not afford.
What he remembers most was her battle decades ago to persuade the city to clean up and rejuvenate John’s Pass Village. At the time the tourist area was plagued with youth gangs and decaying infrastructure.
“There were people in town who complained, but the Village would not be what it is today if it were not for Patrish,” Broderick said.
“The city has no idea what they have lost,” he said. “She was the ambassador for the city. She will be missed.”
Mrs. Shontz’s death was unexpected and the result of complications from a fall she suffered several weeks ago, according to Mayor Travis Palladeno.
He is planning to call a special commission meeting in the next weeks to honor her.
“I was blessed to have her on my commission,” Palladeno said. “She was a great mentor to me.”
Patricia J. Shontz
Born: March 19, 1933 • Died: Jan. 19, 2017
Survivors include her daughter, Sandra Lee Amodio (Kibler), and husband, Stephen, of Waynesville, N.C.; granddaughters Kristin Elizabeth Kibler (and fiance Edgar Bergollo) and Annalee Patrece Brewer; grandson Benjamin “Bryan” Kibler; three great-grandchildren, Edgar Jr., Jackson and Olivia Bergollo; sister-in-law, Mary Ellen Buckley of Toledo, Ohio; brothers and sisters-in-law David and Bonneva Shontz of Madeira Beach, Linda and Toby Rhoades of Greenville, Pa., and Donna Shontz of Pinellas Park; nephews and nieces Greg Shontz, Tina Shontz, Lori Shontz Gagen, Terry Buckley, Tim Buckley and Tonia Adkins; Michael Sopher and Mindy Sopher.
A private service will be held for close family and friends. The mayor of Madeira Beach will hold a special meeting for the public to pay respects at a date to be determined.