Longboat’s ‘Shell Lady’ found a life full of treasure on our shores

Associate Publisher

Longboat Key has lost its ‘Shell Lady’. Audrey Perkins, the ‘Shell Lady,’ passed away at the age of 94 on June 30, 2019.

Audrey treasured Longboat Key. Born on Nov. 9, 1925, she had raised a family, enjoyed many years of happy marriage and found both excitement and peace in her life-long passion combing the beaches for shells with which she creates original art and décor. She was affectionately known as Longboat’s ‘Shell Lady.’

Audrey Perkins relished her paintings made by her children that hang on her wall of her Longboat Key home. Audrey turned 90 on November 9, 2015, and celebrated in a week-long series of celebrations with friends and family, and Longboat Key News wrote a feature story on the remarkable lady.

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Audrey moved to Longboat Key over 60 years ago with her husband, Charles. She said she chose Longboat because of its quietness and solitude.

Charles Perkins was a music teacher and later a principal at Booker Elementary. Audrey stayed at home with their children, volunteered as a Girl Scout leader and Sunday school teacher, and kept up with her hobbies which included painting, collecting shells and sailing with her husband Charles.

Living on Longboat Key provided Audrey plenty of opportunities to collect her shells, particularly since she lived across from the beach. Audrey recalled many days she spent walking up and down the island collecting as many shells as she could.

“After storms there were more shells to collect, Charles and I would go out on the boat, I would get dropped off and I would spend hours out there looking for shells,” said Audrey in 2015.

Audrey had many rooms for her large collection of shells. In addition to a shell room in her home and shell artwork throughout her house, Audrey had a space with shelving and containers dedicated to holding different types of shells. There are different containers for each type of shells, and the containers were labeled with the appropriate name so she could find each one easily.

Audrey’s shells were also displayed in artistic form. She made mirrors, wreaths, frames, or adorn furniture with the shells. She sold the items in local boutiques as well as being featured in the magazine ‘Coastal Living.’

And Audrey’s artistic talent ran throughout the family. Audrey’s sons John and Mark have musical talent, her daughters Cindy and Carol are in the visual arts, and her mother had an extensive porcelain doll collection.

Audrey’s daughter Carol said that her mother was a ‘purist’ when it came to shell collecting.

“She would not keep a shell with a live animal in it. And if she gets a shell as a gift, it does not get mixed in with her collection, it goes in a separate room,” said Carol.

Audrey herself had noticed over the years that the beaches had changed, and that the number of shells had decreased over the years.

Audrey also liked to play card games with her family, her favorite game being pinochle.

Audrey is survived by her children Carol, John, Mark and Cindy, as well as five grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren.

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