Maria Rodriguez Foundation

Maria Isabel Rodriguez (Van Heurck), grandmother, mother, sister, daughter, celebrated pilot, friend, Virgin Islander, and so much more passed on the 15th of February, 2021. Maria was doing what she loved most, piloting a helicopter and spreading happiness.

Maria Rodriguez

Maria clearly inherited the entrepreneurial spirit of her parents and made the decision to start her own business, Caribbean Buzz, in 2011. The company is known for its bright yellow aircraft and smiley faces, smiley faces almost as bright and beautiful as the one Maria always wore. 

Through Caribbean Buzz Helicopters, Maria spread her brand of happiness throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and other neighboring islands. She became the go-to-girl for the rich and famous, but at the same time never forgot her roots: offering Easter egg drops, helping Santa Claus with his deliveries, emergency evacuations, search and rescues, and services for the disadvantaged.

Maria was an instrumental lifeline between the islands after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Without hesitation, she provided non-stop evacuation services and supply drops to those who needed it the most. This selfless dedication to her community earned her the Helicopter Association International 2018 pilot of the year award. 

Maria excelled in both her professional and personal worlds — approaching all things with fierce love and passion, whether that was with her family, her community, or her flying. And she did it all with grace, ease, and the trademark Caribbean Buzz smile on her face. 

Family and friends of Maria have established the Maria Rodriguez Foundation at the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) to recognize those who selflessly serve the community of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Additional details about the Foundation forthcoming. 

To make a donation to the Maria Rodriguez Foundation, please click the link below:

The following poem, entitled “Inscription at Drake’s Seat,” is dedicated in memory of Maria Rodriguez, Neisha Zahn, and Daniel and Tyler Yannone. (Published in The Virgin Islands Daily News May 29, 2021)

Light burst through clouds

drenching the

flamboyant tree

in a wash of scarlet red,

the flowers are on fire today.

Waves breaking

off Hans Lollik,

locked in a covenant

of salt and rock.

A hawk soars

on thermal

currents over

an endless sky

of blue glory.

A sad donkey hobbled

with knotted rope,

the witnessing presence

of the mountain

stands waiting.

And to the west

twilight gathers

In the hills

of Botany Bay,

a bird in flight

has fallen to earth.

An island mourns

its own.

— Filippo Cassinelli, St. Thomas