Obituary: Gil Waters loomed large in Sarasota’s growth

SARASOTA — Gil Waters, an engaged public official, entrepreneur and philanthropist known in Sarasota for his restless intelligence and ardent opinions, died Thursday in the home on Golden Gate Point at age 90.

Elisabeth Waters, his wife of nearly twenty years, stated Friday that her husband died peacefully after 4 years of long lasting the progressive brain disorder referred to as Lewy body dementia. His quiet finish came after decades of feisty social discourse over topics he thought about, varying in the destruction from the old Lido Casino to the making of the brand new Ringling Causeway Bridge.

“The only real factor I understand about myself is the fact that I am never wrong,” he declared inside a 2013 interview with Herald-Tribune reporter Billy Cox, “and that i only be truthful. The greater a task is within Sarasota, the greater people oppose it.”

In those days Waters was quarrelling in support of his last valued cause, a land bridge, or “Sky Plaza,” that might make the Sarasota Bayfront readily available to pedestrians downtown. His wife stated she wished the concept will at some point be realized like a memorial to her husband.

“He was unique, a really special man,” she stated. “His mind was always centered on the requirements individuals have. Everything he did wasn’t to make him wealthy or making them famous he was always considering people and what they desire. He then pressed until it happened.”

Waters, born April 2, 1927, in Studying, Pennsylvania, finished Yale College in 1946 having a commission being an ensign within the U.S. Navy. In 1949, based on his longtime friend Harris Johnson, he required employment like a reporter in the Herald-Tribune, covering beats that ranged from municipality towards the arts. In 1956 he left to begin their own pr company, along with a year later was hired executive secretary from the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange.

This brought in 1959 to Waters’ formation of the self-insurance fund that will help builders satisfy the costs of workers’ compensation insurance. The organization, referred to as Waters Insurance Management Corp, went onto end up being the FCCI Insurance Group, now headquartered in Lakewood Ranch with 822 employees and $2.2 billion as a whole assets. His work chose to make this region a magnet for other firms specializing in workers’ compensation.

Also, he would be a property developer along with a fixture in local company circles, appreciated like a “legendary and passionate man who cared deeply about Sarasota,” stated Christine Robinson, executive director from the Argus Foundation.

City service and bridges

Within the 1960s, a pivotal amount of time in Sarasota’s transition from the small Southern town to some mecca for tourism and retirement, Waters offered like a city commissioner. And that he was the final surviving person in the Volunteer Architects Downtown Improvement Committee, several aesthetically minded citizens who banded together in 1959 to counter the things they saw because the disastrous aftereffect of rerouting the Tamiami Trail to sever the what’s now Bayfront Park from the remainder of downtown.

But possibly his most permanent legacy was the vista from their own window — a elegant fixed span connecting the landmass to Bird Key, resisted in the 1990s as a “Bridge Excessive” that will spoil the good thing about the bay and make more problems of computer solved. Waters countered by developing Good Bridge 2000, that they claimed had 900 contributors, to survey local residents on their own preference. After many years of contention as construction costs mounted to $68 million, the bridge that Waters fought against for was dedicated in 2003.

“Gil was this type of visionary!” Margaret Wise, another philanthropist, said Friday. Without his efforts, “we will not have the bridge that everybody loves now — but many didn’t need it! He really loved the town, and wanted it to complete better in roads and methods for getting round the traffic he understood was coming.”

But enough sour feelings continued to be that in 2008, once the Florida Legislature gone to live in relabel the causeway in Waters’ recognition like a gesture of thank you for his activism, pushback from the local people ensured it would be referred to as Ringling Bridge.

“He earned lots of opponents around,” acknowledged Williams, who understood Waters using their days together in the Herald-Tribune. “However when you think back, he was right. The main one factor about Gil was he was authentic. Should you understood Gil moving in, you understood where he was originating from.”

Waters, he added, might be a variety of people at the same time. He enjoyed collecting art together with his Austrian-born wife, and later in life he always had the capacity for discussing Sarasota history and talking politics with his buddies within the Lengthy View Society in the Field Club.

“For many years, Gil Waters would be a pressure locally,” appreciated Herald-Tribune opinion editor Tom Tryon. “He wanted Sarasota is the best it may be. He’d strongly held beliefs regarding how to make that happen status, and recommended all of them with uncommon tenacity.”

Following a private memorial service along with a military funeral, his wife stated, a meeting of Waters’ existence is planned for Feb at Michael’s on East.

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