ST. PETERSBURG — Residents of Bayfront Tower, home to some of the city's wealthiest retirees, have no shortage of social amenities. There is a Monday night bridge club, joint trips to watch the Rays games and get-togethers whipped up on short notice.
Families throw wedding receptions on the 28th floor, or gather there to watch fireworks with unobstructed views from Hillsborough County to the gulf beaches. Many have lived there for decades.
Over the last 28 years, some got to know the gaunt man downstairs with a graying crew cut and blue uniform shirt, who greeted them cheerfully and without fail, a man who seemed to enjoy the camaraderie he found at work but never sought in his private life.
Valet Bob Kron parked cars after residents pulled into the tunnel by the lobby. He brought the cart out for groceries and accompanied residents to their floors.
He answered questions like, "How are you?" with a chipper, "Super-fantastic," but delivered directions thoroughly.
Residents only knew Mr. Kron in bits and pieces. They knew he lived alone. That he was proud of the electric scooter he drove to work. That he had no family.
"His job was his life," said lawyer Louie Adcock, a 20-year Bayfront Tower resident. "He really enjoyed the people, and he did everything he could to make people happy."
Mr. Kron's supervisor found Mr. Kron dead in his apartment Monday. He was 70. Authorities consider his death the result of natural causes.
The news has triggered shock and reminiscences. Elizabeth Hammer recalled the time Mr. Kron brought up music. "I guess he didn't care for the kind of music that was playing in my car," Hammer said. "He asked me if I liked Sarah Brightman. He said he had some old CDs that were gathering dust, and he wondered if I might like to have them."
Hammer, who was already a Brightman fan, has been playing them ever since.
Judith Bick, another resident, said she used to run into Mr. Kron at places like Mazarro's Italian Market or the Fresh Market, where they would talk gourmet cooking. "He was a lonely person," Bick said. "I believe in this building, the staff and residents were his family."
Edgar Gonzales, a valet for seven years and Mr. Kron's closest friend, said Mr. Kron used to show up even during his vacations to say hello.
"I'd say, 'Bob, why don't you go to the beach?' " Gonzales said.
He played computer games at home and became absorbed in multilevel marketing schemes.
"They told him he could become a millionaire," said Gonzales, who told Kron he was investing too much money in the companies.
He wore an anklet, telling Gonzales it was "to remember to be happy."
Mr. Kron told co-workers and residents he was born in 1940, in Latvia, and that his family had fled the Soviet-occupied country to Germany at the end of World War II. He told Gonzales they lived by a river and that it was beautiful, and also that he remembered bombs.
"He cried when he talked about it," Gonzales said.
Another resident, Emil Pavone, said he heard Mr. Kron once speaking rapidly in German. "He said, 'I came here from Germany when I was 11 years old,'" Pavone said.
"I didn't press him with further questions," Pavone said.
According to Gonzales, Mr. Kron settled with his parents in Cincinnati and grew up there. He drove a taxi before moving to St. Petersburg around 1982. He started at Bayfront Tower in January 1983.
"To be in this job for 28 years, you have to be doing something right," said Eddie Feliciano, Mr. Kron's supervisor.
On Aug. 27, after a week's vacation, Mr. Kron called Gonzales to say he was in pain. Gonzales went to Mr. Kron's apartment and found his co-worker disoriented. He called 911.
Mr. Kron signed a waiver saying he did not want to be taken to a hospital, said St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Lt. Joel Granata.
At about 2 p.m. Monday, a concerned Feliciano went to Mr. Kron's home, where he found Mr. Kron on the floor. Authorities pronounced him dead.
Staffers and residents will hold a memorial gathering Friday at Bayfront Tower, the one place he seemed to feel at home.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2248.