Inter Miami midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi, is the reader's choice for Person of the Year in Key Biscayne (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)
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When it came to inspiration, it was hard to argue with the readers’ pick of “Benja” Cremaschi. The 18-year-old phenom is not just playing with Lionel Messi but is starring alongside him, notching two goals and four assists in first pro season for Inter Miami.

Cremaschi, who is of Argentine descent, beat out a host of worthy candidates, including a fictional letter writer, Paul Nichols, and the late Lolita, the killer whale who spent 50 years entertaining tourists and locals at Miami Seaquarium. 

“He represents everything our kids can accomplish,” wrote a reader.

“He is an inspiration for the youngest: commitment, hard work and discipline,” another reader wrote.

Marcelo Radice, director of the Key Biscayne Soccer Club, said, “We are delighted to have been one of the many steps that contributed to his professional development in achieving his goals at Inter Miami CF. We are proud of his selection and wish him continued success on the pitch.”

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The Cremaschi family said it has been an amazing 2023 when told of readers’ choice.

“That’s incredible. I mean  my little brother being voted the Key Biscayne Independent’s Person of the year is crazy,” said Juana Cremaschi, reached in Argentina. “Even in Argentina, he is being recognized. So obviously it’s mind-blowing, but very inspiring.”

Benjamin Cremaschi, approximately age 9, on a soccer field in Key Biscayne, Fla. Cremaschi is now a midfielder for Inter Miami, where he is playing with Argentine soccer legend Lionel Messi (Cremaschi family via KBI)

Besides Lolita, others getting votes were Mayor Joe Rasco, Council Member Brett Moss, Key Biscayne Community Foundation Executive director Melissa White and condo official Louisa Conway.

RUNNER UP: Paul Nichols

The imaginary Paul Nichols –the one-time mysterious letter writer to the Islander News who turned out to be the nom de plume of former Council Member Dr. Jorge Mendia – ended in second place.

While many readers voted for Nichols, the impact the story had on Village life seems as ephemeral as his moniker. Prior to court action, it was a name most Key Biscayners never heard of. And you may be one of them. 

A Mendia letter in 2021 under Paul Nichols name  sparked a court action in which it was suggested he had defamed a Village resident, although no court complaint of defamation was ever made.   This year, some islanders poked fun at the drama and sported Paul Nichols t-shirts. The letters — and the mockery — enraged a handful of keyboard warriors on small social media chats. 

No one knows why Dr. Mendia chose to write under a pseudonym – he’s not telling. 

Here the (non-scientific) survey responses

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