October 27, 2008
CUROTTO, Bill 71, of St. Pete Beach, died Oct. 7th, 2008, at home. He was born Jan. 7, 1937, in Chicago, IL, the son of William and Gladys Ramsey Curotto. Bill is survived by his wife, Leslee Garner Curotto; daughters Cathy Grace of St. Petersburg, Missy Curotto of Derry, NH; sons Bill, Joe and Tony all of St. Petersburg; 4 grandsons; 3 granddaughters and his sister, Carol Ann Upham of St. Pete Beach. Bill Curotto grew up with an entrepreneurial father who opened restaurants at the 1942 world’s fair and downtown Chicago as well as eventually opening the M&C manufacturing company. In 1950, the Curotto family moved from Chicago to St. Pete Beach, and built the Bon-Aire Motel in 1953. During the early years, Bill not only worked at the Bon-Aire Motel with his father but also attended both St. Leo High School and Admiral Farragut Academy. After finishing High School, Bill was drafted into the United States Marines, doing his basic training at Parris Island, SC, and eventually transferring to Quantico, VA, where he completed his service. After completing his service, Bill came back to run the Bon-Aire Motel with his father for the next 11 years. Bill’s mother and father passed away in 1955 and 1969, respectively, and then Bill began running the Bon-Aire Motel full time. Taking the entrepreneurial spirit from his father, Bill in the 1970’s created and expanded the Bon-Aire Motel, opened a car rental business, owned a gas station and eventually built Sandbar Bill’s and the Emm & Cee Pasta Seafood Grille. Bill guided the motel through many difficult times over the years, including the 70’s financial crisis, the OPEC Oil Embargo as well as multiple tropical storms and hurricanes. In the 90’s and 00’s, Bill’s family and his extra curricular activities continued to grow, these included golfing, boating and enjoying time with his grandchildren. During this time Bill joined the St. Petersburg and Feather Sound Country Clubs as well as the PolyWog’s. The Curotto family is grateful to the people at the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, their help allowed the family to keep Bill at home with family, friends and animals during his short illness.
Taken from the St. Petersburg Times Obituaries
Iconic St. Pete Beach Bon-Aire Resort hotelier Bill Curotto dies at 71
By Stephanie Hayes, Times Staff Writer
In print: Saturday, October 11, 2008
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.