In memory of
Robert (Roberto) de Varona
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In memory of
Robert (Roberto) de Varona
Robert (Roberto) de Varona 1942-2016 Robert (Roberto) de Varona died Tuesday, October 11, surrounded by family at his home in Gulf Breeze. Robert was born in Cuba in 1942 into a politically active family. After leaving Cuba at the age of 17 in 1960, he answered a call to join an operation to overthrow Fidel Castro. When the Bay of Pigs invasion failed, he was captured and imprisoned, along with his father, for nearly two years in Castro's Cuba. Stripped of their Cuban citizenship, Varona and his fellow captives were released to the United States in 1962, given $100 and a set of clothes and sent off to seek their fortune. "Mr. D", as he was affectionately known to his employees, opened his first airport concession, the first minority-owned airport concession in the nation, in 1972 at Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado. In addition, he had airport concessions in Dallas/Ft. Worth, St. Louis, Orlando and Pensacola. He began operating the gift and news concessions at Pensacola Airport in 1990 and ran the airport food and beverage concessions from 1995-2014. Always community minded, Robert served on the boards of several regional organizations, including Pensacola Symphony, Five Flags Rotary and Pensacola Junior College Foundation. In June 2007 he was named a Paul Harris Fellow by Five Flags Rotary, one of the highest awards bestowed by Rotary Clubs. He was a knight of the Court of De Luna 2006 in the Fiesta of Five Flags celebration. In 2004 Varona Enterprises was nominated for a philanthropy award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Robert was twice nominated for the Ethics in Business Award by the Combined Rotary Clubs of Pensacola. He served on the board of the Pensacola State College Foundation and was a member of the Voices of Pensacola Inaugural Advisory Committee. Robert was an active supporter of many regional not-for-profit organizations, including Tri Gulf Coast, Santa Rosa Island Triathlon, the Pensacola Humane Society, Artel Gallery, Leaning Post Ranch, Pensacola Symphony, Pensacola Opera, Ronald McDonald House, and WUWF Public Radio. In 2014 he became a tutor and mentor at Global Learning Academy, where he spearheaded efforts to get their greenhouse garden operational and added to the curriculum, and organized a summer math camp. He was passionately interested in national and local educational issues for a number of years. He was preceded in death by his parents, Roberto Ernesto and Delia Villar de Varona. Robert is survived by his wife, Eloise; his daughters, Christina and Natasha de Varona; five grandchildren, Zoe, Joe and Lucy Girkin; Liam and Aidan O'Malley, all of Denver; his step-daughter, Claire Lautier (Geraint Wyn Davies), Stratford, Ontario; his step-son, Erik Lautier (Elena); two step-grandchildren, Mila and Dorian Lautier, all of Houston; a sister, Delia Garcia of Miami; and a brother, Manuel, of Jaco, Costa Rica; and by numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the Pensacola Humane Society, 5 North Q Street, Pensacola, FL 32505, ; Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County, 3300 North Pace Blvd., Suite 210, Pensacola 32502, ; or Emerald Coast Hospice, Pensacola. Special thanks to Dr. Thomas Sunnenberg and the staff of Sacred Heart Oncology Center and to Mendi McCormick and Myka Miles of Emerald Coast Hospice. A Celebration of Life will be held Monday, October 17, at 3 pm at Sanders Beach Community Center, 913 South I Street, Pensacola 32502. Express your condolences in our guestbook at
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