Sarasota lost one of its “Old Coots” this week.
Community activist and philanthropist Robert “Bob” Tate died Oct. 5. He was 89.
Tate was one of five founders of “Mobility Now,” a citizens action committee that formed in 2003 to oppose the city’s plans to narrow the downtown highway corridor from four lanes to two lanes.
Four years later, when the group rallied neighbors to oppose the construction of two roundabouts, Andres Duany, author of the city’s downtown master plan, accused city commissioners of succumbing to “a little mob” of elderly people born out of “four old coots” (the group actually numbered five) hell-bent on halting plans to connect downtown to the bayfront, according to a 2009 Sarasota Observer story.
The nickname stuck, and the group began calling themselves “the Old Coots Lunch Bunch.”
Asked by the Sarasota Observer in 2009 if he embraced the nickname, Tate said:
“I didn’t embrace it. It stuck.”
Fellow Mobility Now founder/Old Coot Bob Johnson — one of two surviving members — said Tate had great concern for the vision and future of Sarasota.
“He always wanted to know what the meeting was going to accomplish and how we were going to accomplish it,” Johnson said. “He was a bottom line person.”
Said Gil Waters, the group’s other surviving member, “I would describe him as a wonderful person.”
Born June 13, 1924, in Baltimore, he graduated with honors from Tufts University. He was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy and served during both World War II and the Korean War.
After receiving his master’s degree in economics from George Washington University, he returned to Baltimore to lead his family’s business, Tate Engineering Inc. He went on to grow the business from a small marine-parts supplier and expand it into a major supplier of engineering components throughout the industry and also founded Tate Andale Inc. and Tate Access Floors.
He retired to Longboat Key and later moved to the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota.
Mr. Tate and his wife, Joyce, actively supported many local charities, including the Ringling Museum of Art, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the local chapter of the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders (NARSAD).
“He was very concerned about the future vision of Sarasota and things like the arts and education,” Johnson said. “He strongly believed in education.”
Tate is survived by his wife of 67 years, Joyce; three children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A celebration of life will take place at a later date.