Mike Verdream decided to ride out Hurricane Ian in Matlacha — a tiny island between Pine Island and the southwest Florida mainland — and planned to go to his boss’ two-story home if things got too bad, his niece told CNN.
Stacy Verdream said she spoke with her uncle briefly on Wednesday, the day the Category 4 storm crashed ashore. Her cousin spoke with him later that day and he said the water was 4 feet deep before telling her he had to go.
“It was a very brief call because he said he was very scared and she'd never heard him like that because he wasn't that type of person. He's always put on a brave face,” Verdream said. “But she said, he sounded absolutely terrified.”
On Monday, the sheriff’s office informed her brother that Verdream had died — and on Tuesday a detective told Verdream that her uncle's remains were found Friday in a canal.
Authorities used medical records to identify him, Verdream said, and an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.
Verdream said her uncle was a very giving person.
“He would give you the shirt off his back, the last dime he had if someone was in need,” she said. “Always worried about helping other people and not himself.”
Her uncle had moved in with her family after her father died when she was young, she said.
“He was always there for me growing up, teaching me how to drive and taking me to the fair,” she said. “The cool uncle that would buy me like a dirt bike and bought the jet ski for us to, like, go out on the lake.”
He also was an amazing cook and could whip up a delicacy of a meal even when it seemed like the kitchen was empty.
“He’s just funny and goofy and very smart,” she added.