Our Community - Jerry Shisler - "Kickin' back on the Caye"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 31            August 14, 2003

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Jerry Shisler

Thousands of tourists visit Ambergris Caye every year. Some come back, some don't; and others decide to make San Pedro their permanent home. This week, The San Pedro Sun is proud to feature a person who visited so often, it was only natural he should eventually reside here, Mr. Jerry Shisler - the proud owner of Jerry's Crab Shack.

     "Mr. Jerry," as he is known on the island, was born on September 3rd, 1933 and grew up on a tree farm and nursery in central Ohio. In college, he majored in Geology and after graduating in 1955, prospected for uranium in Utah, Arizona and Mexico. He then went to work at a Douglas Aircraft flight center in the Mojave Desert, testing rocket planes for one year.

     Following that, Shisler spent the next four and a half years in the United States Air Force training to be a pilot, and learning armament and electronics. During this time he was assigned to the first base to receive B-52 bomber aircraft, at Castle Air Force Base in Merced, California. Jerry left the air force, having earned the rank of captain.

     Over the years, Jerry married and had two daughters, but divorced in 1989. In the meantime, he also started Outdoor Advertising Company, a paint dealership and a tool rental business, all in the state of Indiana.

     Jerry then established a custom paint business, supplying companies like IBM and General Electric. Following this, the next twelve years of his life were spent selling signs, decals and displays. In 1972, he started the Cannon Corporation, manufacturing interior decorative trim parts for automobiles and appliances. He worked at this company for twenty-six years, until he retired in 1998.

    Jerry Shisler first discovered Belize in 1974 through the Indiana travel club, Ambassadair. He recalls staying on the edge of town at Paradise Hotel. "You couldn't find anything further north, except mangroves and mosquitoes," Jerry commented. He explained that, at that time, the island was nothing compared to what it is now: the beaches were covered with big balls of black tar and littered with garbage. There were no vehicles, no televisions, no radios, and the banks were only open one day every week for two hours.

        Having found his "paradise," Shisler continued to visit the island for one week out of every year. On one of his first trips to San Pedro he met Ramon Nuñez of Ramon's Village Resort. Ramon later suggested that Jerry buy the Pentecostal Church across the street from his resort entrance. After purchasing the property in 1984, Shisler constructed apartments, then a gift shop and eventually a restaurant. Originally leased out as "Duke's Place," it was Belize's first theme restaurant filled with John Wayne memorabilia. Following a subsequent lease ("Island Cuisine") and then the flurry of Hurricane Keith, Jerry assumed management of the restaurant himself and "Jerry's Crab Shack" was born, a business which he currently maintains.

     Although he was enjoying retirement, "Mr. Jerry" soon realized that something was missing in his life so, in 1998, he invited his high school sweetheart to visit San Pedro. Separated some forty-five years before, she had left college to pursue a career on the Broadway stage while Jerry finished school and then enlisted in the air force. A year after their fateful reunion on "La Isla Bonita," Jerry and Pat were married.

     Jerry Shisler considers himself a lucky man not only to have found a new life, but also renewed love, in paradise. Although technically "retired," he continues to provide housing, employment and business opportunities to the many who have welcomed him into their lives, and into "Our Community."

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