|By Doreen Hemlock, Sun Sentinel,
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
February 26, 2009 - George W.
"Bob" Gill Jr., whose pioneering hotels on Fort Lauderdale beach
earned him acclaim as the father of Broward County
hospitality, died Wednesday at home of natural causes. He was 93.
Born in Chicago, the U.S. Navy veteran moved to South Florida after
World War II to develop real estate in warmer weather.
He and his father first built houses, but Bob turned to hotels with the
Escape, which opened New Year's Eve 1949. It was first on Fort
beach to offer a swimming pool and to stay open year-round beyond the
Mr. Gill developed six properties on Fort Lauderdale beach, including
Roger in 1952, the first in the area to offer in-room air conditioning.
probably best known for the two largest: the Yankee Clipper and Yankee
sold in 2005.
Tourism veterans call Mr. Gill a marketing genius. He pioneered
agents from wintry U.S. cities to stay at his hotels and see the area.
helped to lure the New York Yankees' spring training camp to Fort
Lauderdale in the
1960s, to promote college Spring Break and later, to move the area from
Break to its more upscale image.
As an innovator
and doer, Mr. Gill personified "crusty," tough on the outside but
soft inside, said Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort
Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. He'd call in and either
"Good job" or "What the hell are you doing over there?" she
"Most anybody in hospitality in South Florida — not just Broward —
something from him," Grossman said.
Jim Pancallo, former general manager for the Yankee Clipper who worked
with Mr. Gill, marvels at the risks his boss took at hotels in the '50s
'60s: opening a bar looking into a swimming pool, offering a Polynesian
and hosting ice-skating acts.
"He did it like the old Frank Sinatra song — his way," Pancallo said.
Mr. Gill is survived by Mary, his wife of 59 years; daughter Linda;
grandchildren and a great grandchild. Visitation is set for 6 to 8 p.m.
and services for 11 a.m. Saturday at the First Baptist Church of Fort
Lauderdale, 301 E. Broward Blvd.
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