About 35 years ago, Eve Haverfield followed some footprints in the sand. They were huge, and led from the beach to the sea oats on Sanibel, where she was a new resident.
Those tracks led her to a passion for which she’d become known for 35 years: the protection of sea turtles. She was a group of one in 1989, the “Turtle Lady” who wandered the beaches convincing people to dim or shield or even turn off lights so the turtles could nest in peace. It wasn’t hard to convince Sanibel residents to conserve and protect. But Haverfield had a harder time carrying the message to more tourism-minded Fort Myers Beach.
She succeeded. The turtle population increased. The nonprofit she founded, Turtle Time, now includes 100 volunteers.
Haverfield grew up in Germany, an only child whose parents shared their appreciation of nature. While young, she immigrated to Canada with her parents. She and her mother left Germany first and endured a hurricane on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Haverfield also survived speaking no English in a new school; she made it through the University of Florida clutching a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She earned a master’s in counseling and taught classes at Edison State College.
Those challenges helped Haverfield develop the armor she needed to follow her passion and defend the sea turtle, despite what others might think of her life choices or her devotion. She said she’s proud to be “the voice of the sea turtle.”
“Sea turtles have been on this planet 130 million years. They provide a function in the sea that ultimately benefits us,” she said. “I love it. I love the excitement. I love the excitement of sea turtle season.”