ST. LUCIE PIONEER FAMILY
BY PATTIE DURHAM
Fisherman. Father. Friend. Herman Roy Summerlin Sr.
was all of these and more.
Son of Richard R. “Dick” Summerlin Sr. and Claudia
Ramsey Summerlin, he was born May 4, 1938, in St. Lucie
Village and raised along the shores of the Indian River where
his father worked as a fishing guide. A proud member of a
pioneering family, he was a third-generation resident of St.
Lucie County. He died March 20.
Summerlin, 81, spent most of his life fishing on the water
or running one of his many businesses. He opened his first
business, Summerlin’s Seafood, in 1963. Three years later, he
bought a seafood market on the South Causeway, renaming
it Summerlin’s Baywood Fisheries. His brother, Astor, joined
him in the venture.
Never a man to stay idle, he began a marine construction
business, Seven Seas, in the 1970s and built many of
the docks in St. Lucie County and surrounding area. This
company, now known as Summerlin Marine Construction, is
being run by his children. He visited daily during his retirement
years, checking on how things were going.
John W. “Boo” McCulley, who worked with Summerlin for
around 50 years, said Summerlin designed more docks than
anybody else in Florida.
“He would take the blueprints from the engineers and look
them over,” McCulley said, “and then he would say, ‘that’s
not gonna work,’ then he would suggest changes to make it
all work out. Herman knew this area and what needed to be
done to put docks in.”
McCulley worked with Summerlin in a salvage business
back in the 1970s and said the State of Florida decided to do
a cleanup of derelict and sunken vessels. “We removed boats
from Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Brevard
counties,” McCulley said.
Ronnie Rohm, a longtime St. Lucie Village resident, grew
up with the Summerlins and once worked on a Summerlin
fishing boat. He said one of the important lessons Summerlin
taught him was “to be nonjudgmental and to help everybody
“He helped a lot of people,” Rohm said.
“You never know how you are going to touch
somebody’s heart. He was always like that.
He didn’t make a big deal about it. I think a
lot of people sometimes didn’t even know he
“He helped a lot of people,” Rohm said. “You never know
how you are going to touch somebody’s heart. He was
always like that. He didn’t make a big deal about it. I think a
lot of people sometimes didn’t even know he helped them.”
Well-known around St. Lucie County for his philanthropy,
Herman Summerlin holds open the mouth of a shark caught off Fort Pierce.
In the 1960s, Summerlin assisted the State of Florida with a study researching
the migration and feeding habits of sharks along the east coast. Over
the years, he became a point person for state officials working on historical
or scientific projects due to his immense knowledge of the area waterways.
Summerlin would supply fish for a charitable cause or come
with his children to run the fish fry benefit. His children
worked hard and learned from his example, just as he, in
turn, learned from his parents.
Diamond Litty, a St. Lucie County public defender, met
Summerlin many years ago. Her father also was a fisherman.
She said simply, “Herman was a great man.”
“He was part of a dying breed,” she added. “The breed that
says what they mean and means what they say. The breed
that shakes your hand and he’s good for it. His word is his
bond. He had that old-fashioned goodness, common sense
and all of the things my daddy stood for and taught me.”
Summerlin is survived by his wife, Karen; sons, Herman
“Roy” Jr. Ann, James “Sam” and David; along with daughters,
Susie Quandt, Jan Hagan, Peggy Allen Bobby and Joy
Yancy Robbie; also, step-children Jesse Davis Anna, Jamie
Davis and Jennifer Davis; and his sister, Mary Ann Price.
He is survived by 18 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren
and numerous nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by his
daughter, Pamela newborn, his brothers, Richard R. “Dick”
Jr., Bryant A. “Astor”, Joseph A. “Archie,” Charles Ramsay
“Charlie” and Dennis Summerlin; along with sisters, Manetta
Gould, Charlotte Summerlin and Lucille Richardson.
A private burial was held at Riverview Memorial Park due
to the pandemic. A celebration of his life will be scheduled at
a later date.
— Ronnie Rohm