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‘River Rat’ passes away at 67

July 11, 2012
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Pine Island Eagle

A man who kept to himself and lived near the mangroves in Matlacha upon his 1960s Norwegian lifeboat passed away last week.

David Dailey, 67, otherwise known as "River Rat" to the locals, died July 5, 2012.

Those who visited with him on a daily basis said he became sick for a little over a month and although they tried to get him to see a doctor, he declined. River Pat was experiencing chest pains and bad headaches.

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David Dailey, who was known as “River Rat” to the locals of Matlacha, died July 5. He lived near the mangroves in Matlacha on his 1960s Norwegian lifeboat for 12 years.

Jeff Meyerson said River Rat lived out in the little bay behind his house. He said he met him after he arrived in Matlacha in 2000.

River Pat had a freezer set up outside of Meyerson's house and used his dock once a day. Meyerson said he also had food delivered to his house.

"A very nice gentleman at peace with himself and his lifestyle," he said.

Meyerson said one of his fondest memories of River Rat involved his son.

"My 14-year-old kind of grew up with him," he said, because they both had a love for fishing. "Every time we go up there to visit, he would take my youngest out fishing and sit on the dock and spend hours with him."

According to an assistant manger at Knoll's Court Motel, he traveled to S.W. Florida in a boat from Wisconsin. Since arriving in Matlacha he had accumulated three more boats that were all located near the mangroves.

Meyerson said River Rat sailed down the Mississippi and ended up working on shrimp boats in the Panhandle before he made his way down to Pine Island. He said he acquired the old Norwegian lifeboat, which has a hand-made wooden roof on it, by trading a bag of shrimp for the boat when he was in the Tampa area.

"He lived a rather simple life," Meyerson said. "Very honest, very trustworthy and did whatever he could to help you."

Although he moved his boat about every 90 days, he remained in the same spot because he did not have to row far into town to pick up a few essentials he needed. He also lived by Bert's Bar and between the bridges in North Fort Myers once arriving in the area.

River Rat also wrote a few self-published books.

As of Friday, friends of River Rat were trying to track down his son, who they believe is living in Ohio at the present time.



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