The shores of Virginia Key were the beneficiary of a day of service on Saturday, to honor the life of Juan Turro.
When Juan, a beloved father, son and brother, died of a heart attack at age 52 late last year, his partner Yvette Betancourt struggled with how to celebrate his life in the middle of a pandemic.
“Juan and I loved kayaking, Virginia Key and relaxing on its beautiful beaches and islands,” said Yvette. “Anyone close to Juan knew he loved the natural world. He was very committed to minimizing his personal environmental footprint.”
Yvette’s memory of Juan taking time to pick up trash on their kayaking trips together provided her the inspiration for a unique memorial.
Along with Juan’s lifelong friends -- Christine de la Huerta, Francis Galbin, Luisa Varona and Gina Romero --Yvette organized a socially-distanced beach side cleanup on Virginia Key to celebrate Juan’s love of nature.
Fifty-five friends and family kayaked and walked the shores of Virginia Key, picking up over 1,000 pounds of garbage. Of note, one particular section of the beach was covered in broken glass and the group spent a considerable amount of time removing the dangerous shards.
The group gathered at Virginia Key Outdoor Center with owner Esther Luft and outreach coordinator Diana Perez, who provided kayaks and cleanup guides to hit the most neglected areas on the island.
“I would like to thank everyone that came out to help us honor Juan Turro and put our love in action, beautifying and making safer the shores of Virginia Key,” Yvette said. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Juan’s life than doing something positive in his name.
“Juan believed in everyone doing their small part adding up to something significant,” she added. “And I can’t think of a better way to honor his legacy than having everyone pitch in to make beautiful Virginia Key even more pristine.
In addition to the beach cleanup, donations were made in Juan’s name to Miami Waterkeeper.
David Winker is a lawyer active in Key Biscayne civic issues.