Remembering Pat Geyer — an Island icon
Mom, grandmother, great-grandmother.
Pat Geyer died early May 1 at Blake Medical Center at the age of 79. Mrs. Geyer was born Oct. 29, 1930 in Cincinnati.
She was predeceased by her husband Edward E. Geyer in May of 2009, and is survived by five daughters; Patti (Rodney) Reid of Holmes Beach, Pamela (Fiancé Willie Herschberger) Geyer, Peggi (Bruce) Davenport and Polli (Erick) Stroup all of Bradenton, and Penni Geyer of Hendersonville, N.C., one brother, Bobby Klein of Nashville, Tenn., one sister Margie (Jim) Zentmeyer of Cincinnati, Ohio, four granddaughters and two great-granddaughters.
“Now, cheeseburgers really are being served in paradise,” said one customer of Duffy’s Tavern, the Holmes Beach institution known for “the coldest beer this side of heaven,” great burgers and small-town hospitality. Mrs. Geyer was known on Anna Maria Island and beyond as “Ms. Duffy” and she owned and operated the beloved joint for some 40 years.
Mrs. Geyer also served two terms as mayor of Holmes Beach, as well as multiple terms on the city commission. Her political career spanned four decades — and that is not including Mrs. Geyers’ work in party politics. She was first elected to the city commission in 1978 and was last elected to the commission in 2006 with the slogan “Put Pat Back to Work for You.” She served as mayor from 1990-94.
“She was a longtime, good friend and an asset to the community,” said Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger. “She had a kind heart and was a very generous woman. She gave years of her life to the city of Holmes Beach.”
In the early 1950s, Pat and husband Ed Geyer, who died last year, were living in Cincinnati. They had friends who vacationed on Anna Maria Island and who would return to the Midwest state to spread the word about their sub-tropical discovery.
The Geyers too journeyed to Anna Maria Island — first in 1954 to help build a house in Sunrise Park. And by the early 1960s, they had settled in Holmes Beach, where they raised “the girls,” as Mrs. Geyer called her daughters.
“When we moved here, in the summer time, there was hardly anyone on the Island,” Mrs. Geyer told The Islander in 2006. “The kids could play a baseball game in the middle of Gulf Drive.”
The Geyers began operating Duffy’s Tavern on Gulf Drive across from Manatee Beach in 1971.
Mrs. Geyer joked, more than once, to the press, to colleagues, to friends and to customers that she and Ed operated the family business to keep her daughters out of trouble.
In 2001-02, the Geyers’ lease ran out, and they moved the Duffy’s operation — funky signs, old license plates, photographs and all — to the corner of Marina Drive and 58th Street, across from city hall.
Over the weekend, the American flag at city hall was at half-mast in Mrs. Geyer’s honor on May 1.
Last fall at city hall, Mrs. Geyer received an award from the Florida League of Cities for her more than 25 years of service to the city. FLC president Carmine Priore hailed Mrs. Geyer as a role model for other public servants who worked “tirelessly every day to provide the best city service and enhance the lives” of citizens.
Mrs. Geyer once said she learned that it’s essential to run a government like a business: “You know what your budget is, and that’s what you stick to.”
Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine remembers Mrs. Geyer as a woman of few words. “She didn’t have a lot to say,” the chief said. “But when she did speak, you listened. She was one of the sweetest ladies you’ll ever meet.”
Carol Whitmore, former Holmes Beach mayor and current county commissioner, said Mrs. Geyer “was always there for advice.” Whitmore described Mrs. Geyer as the “soul of the Island.”
Others described Mrs. Geyer as an Island legend.
“My family’s been coming here for as long as there has been a Duffy’s, and Ms. Duffy has seen me grow from a kid to a man with kids of my own,” said regular vacationer Pat Hicks. “She was someone we always looked up. It wasn’t a vacation if on Anna Maria if you didn’t see Ms. Duffy.”
Tributes to Mrs. Geyer grew long and numerous on the Facebook fan page for Duffy’s.
“Your mother was a great mother, grandmother, friend, woman, humanitarian, politician, businesswoman, and the list goes on and on,” wrote Lisa Varano. “There are thousands of hearts and lives that she touched. She was truly one of a kind.”
At Island institutions — the Island Branch Library, the Anna Maria post office, the Publix super market — Islanders shared the news of Mrs. Geyer’s death and remembrances over the weekend.
“I don’t think I ever left the company of Pat Geyer without a smile,” said Islander Jack Kates. “She had this way.”
Mrs. Geyer was known for her quiet good humor, as well as for her fierce loyalty to family, work, causes, politics and principle.
Ed Chiles, president and CEO of the Chiles group and son of former Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles, recalls that loyalty.
“She was a big supporter of my dad,” Chiles said. “And if someone said crap about my dad, she’d stand up and throw them out of the bar.”
Duffy’s welcomes all, but is obsequious to none, Chiles said.
“It wasn’t a place where they said, ‘Thank you for stopping by’ or ‘Thanks for coming’ or ‘Appreciate you being here,’” Chiles said. “It was never like that. You couldn’t ingratiate yourself to the group. You had to earn respect with the group.”
On the other hand, Mrs. Geyer needed only to look up and say, “How you doing?” in her genuine manner that made people feel welcome.
“She was Ms. Duffy.”
Visitation will be Wednesday, May 5, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Shannon Funeral Home Westview Chapel, 5610 Manatee Ave. W.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday, May 6, at 10 a.m. at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Holmes Beach with interment to follow at Sarasota National Cemetery.
Memorial donations may be made to TideWell Hospice, 5955 Rand Blvd., Sarasota, Fl. 34238. Condolences for the family may be made online at www.shannonfuneralhomes.com.