ST. PETE BEACH — In the motel, Bill Curotto is all around.
In the teal green awnings and doors he personally selected.
In the white paint, which he thought looked clean, crisp, serene.
In the landscaping, the towering palms and the unscathed view to a glass ocean.
"He had the vision," said his daughter, Cathy Grace. "You see him everywhere."
Mr. Curotto owned the Bon-Aire Resort Motel, a summery slice of Americana on St. Pete Beach. He died Tuesday after a sudden and brief battle with cancer. He was 71.
Born in Chicago, Mr. Curotto moved to St. Pete Beach with his family as a teenager. His father opened the motel in 1953 and young Bill helped out with the sweeping and the weeding and the laundry.
He was outgoing and interested in cars — by 16, he had his very own T-bird. He thought about going into the auto business after getting out of the service, but his father beckoned.
"He wanted me to come back and do this, so it was fine by me," Mr. Curotto told the St. Petersburg Times in 2002.
When his father died in 1969, Mr. Curotto took over fully. He bought the property next door and expanded the motel. His own children helped out with the sweeping and the weeding and the laundry. They were thrilled to take dips in the pool.
He was savvy when it came to business. He guided the Bon-Aire through bad economies and hurricanes, building it to emerge stronger.
"Like everyone else, you do it day by day. You borrow when you can and you pray when you can," said Grace. "It's amazing that our grandfather built it and our father continued to run it and create such a business."
Mr. Curotto didn't really advertise. Most Bon-Aire guests — 80 percent — are regulars, Grace said. The success came from happy stays and word of mouth. Mr. Curotto spent seven days a week at the property, joking and calling guests by name. They called him "the entertainer."
In 1990, he built Sandbar Bill's, a grill and bar on the property. His theory was that people shouldn't have to leave the resort to find things to do.
He was often seen buying rounds.
They weren't forced into it, but inevitably his kids came back.
Grace has worked at the Bon-Aire since she was 13. She's good at the business side like her dad. Her brother has the knack for entertaining, for walking the property and calling guests by name.
They plan to keep the motel open, keeping their father alive in everything.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.