Captain Tony Tarracino fathered 13 children. One was named after him. A daughter, Toni. A legend and icon in her own right. She died last week in Tarpon Springs where she had been residing in recent years with her daughter. She died in her sleep.

She loved her dad Captain Tony deeply. It was obvious. Her goal in life seemed to be to keep his memory alive and loved. She spoke and wrote frequently of him. For many years following his death threw a birthday party in his honor at Captain Tony’s. I was one of the invited guests. Honored to have been invited.

Toni grew up in a bar and a boat. With her dad by her side. The stories she could tell and did tell.

I wrote several blogs re Toni. One 11/15/18 titled Toni Tarracino Shares Her Legacy. I share with you the portion applicable to her today.

Captain Tony is a Key West legend. An icon. Remembered. Revered.

His former bar on Greene Street still bears his name. The bar inside and out as it was in his day.

Toni one of his children. Today, a concierge at the Marriott Beachside. Plus involved in a multitude of other things like marrying people, planning weddings, painting and blog writing.

Her blog is titled Sharing My Key West Legacy. One of the best I have read. She has her hands on everything Key West.

I told Toni her material was so good I would be plagiarizing her recollections on occasion.

She wrote of the West Martello Fort. Its history. Today home of the Garden Club and a wedding venue. She mentions the Autograph Tree. Never heard of it. Yet, she knew.

The tree stands at the entrance to the Fort. People have scratched and otherwise written their names and initials on the leaves over the years.

Another story involves the fish sitting on the outside of Capt. Tony’s bar.  Second floor level. People always turning their backs to the fish and trying to throw quarters into its open mouth.

Toni shared the origin of the custom.

As a girl, she helped out at the bar. There actually was a slow season then. The summer. The bar was hot. She and other staff would take benches outside and sit on them. The heat inside too much.

One of those sitting with Toni was a rabid Larry Bird fan. He used to stand, yell “top of the key” and try to throw quarters in the fish’s mouth.

Toni and friends thought it too hot for him to do it as he was. They convinced him to stand on the curb on his toes with his back to the fish. And then try to successfully throw quarters into the fish’s mouth.

A tradition was born. You know the story. A continuing event born out of heat, boredom, and today a bit of alcohol.

May Toni rest in peace. A better daughter no man could have had.



  1. Sincere condolences and RIP my Second Cousin Toni … l am so sorry l never got to meet you Toni and your sister Coral . Your Grandma Tessie (nee Laico) Cortese and my Grandpa Salvatore Laico were brother and sister. Our mothers were first cousins , Your mother Mae was a sweetheart and especially close to my Aunt Marie . I have only happy memories of my Great Aunt Tessie and Uncle Gussie … my Grandma Katie took me there every week as a child in East Orange as we lived right up the block on Tremont Avenue. I loved Michael the white cat and hanging out in the back yard under the grape arbor with the fig and peach tree , Aunt Tessie would bring out a pitcher of fresh cut peaches soaking in Uncle Gussie’s homemade wine , delish ! I last saw your mom Mae when I was about 31 years old … I just turned 76 on August 15 th … your mom gave me a beautiful mug with my name ” Cathy” on it , l use it all winter for my hot cocoa . Say hi to cousin Joanie and everyone else for me . I LOVE AND MISS THEM ALL … Your Cousin Cathy in Jersey .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *