4th of July Grand Marshall Jewelry Judi says there is no place like home

Judi Koslen never knew that Key Biscayne existed before her life changing visit in 1973.

She and her two young children Carolyn and Patrick, then ages 4 and 11, came to visit from Ohio and she ventured beyond their stop at the Miami Seaquarium to explore further south.

“I went down the road and found this little village. We got a room at the Key Biscayne Hotel for a week and I had the feeling it would be a wonderful place to live. There was a house for rent sign and I got it sight unseen. I came back two months later and put the kids in school.

“I could never imagine living anywhere else.”

“Jewelry Judi” as she is affectionately known, first began her craft as a way to help her son get his homework done.

“My son and his friends were doing beading as an excuse not to do homework so I said I would string for him in exchange for him doing his homework. It was therapeutic and relaxing so I decided to go to the beach and make things for free.”

Her tranquil fun pastime led to a 46 year career at the Sonesta Hotel where she became a full time staff member offering a variety of jewelry-making programs for guests and their families outside on the deck, or indoors when it rained. She remains in touch with the former hotelier family.

Judi did volunteer work years ago with the Miccosukee Indian Village and perfected her patterns and designs.

Today you can find her at the Community Center where she teaches classes for adults, and for children Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 6pm. Students get to keep their fashionable works of art accessory creations.

“We can make necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, key chains, hair clips, learn Indian weaving and how to do basic stringing patterns. We welcome all ages from 3 to 103.

“The interesting thing about what I do is the connections with so many families. I have third and fourth generations of families I’ve taught.”

Jewelry Judi is in her tenth year as a breast cancer survivor. She enjoys regularly rowing with her Save Our Sisters dragon boat racing team out of the Miami Rowing Club off Virginia Key.

“Key Biscayne is a great part of my life. When I go away I can’t wait to get back home.

“You walk down the street and everybody waves and says hello…I go to the grocery store and get a hug, it’s like everybody is your family.”

She thought being named as Grand Marshall for the Fourth of July Parade was a big joke at first.

“My daughter said ‘Mom you have to go to the fundraiser at the Beach Club I have tickets’ and I said okay. I was so embarrassed when they announced it at the party.”

She was equally pleasantly embarrassed by the surprise birthday party her daughter planned for her recently at the community center when she said what a joy it was to see so many friends from the island and family that secretly flew in from out of town.

“We have a lot of people here that we can celebrate.”