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Sarasota Thursday, Mar. 14, 2019 1 year ago

Bob Skalitzky, who helped develop Sarasota and Lido Key, 'had a huge presence everywhere'

Developer dies at age 95.
by: Amelia Hanks Community Reporter

Bob Skalitzky should be synonymous with the Sarasota skyline, developing enough high-rises and other important buildings over five decades to make a real impact.

Skalitzky, the man who started Florida Sun Realty on Palm Avenue, died on March 8. He was 95.

Skalitzky, who was married to Eva Skalitzky for 73 years, moved from Ontario, Canada, in 1967 to begin working on developing Sarasota. He founded Florida Sun Realty with business partner Helen Gallagher, with whom he worked for 52 years.

Over the years, Skalitzky developed projects from Sarasota to Lido Key, ultimately completing around 27 buildings, including the Marina Tower, Royal St. Andrew and Watergate Condos.

“The word ‘I’ never entered his vocabulary,’’ Gallagher said. “He was so humble and honorable and stood behind everything he did. I wish more developers were like him.”

Michael Saunders was a real estate colleague of Skalitzky’s for many years.

“When I got into the business, I was seeking out trend makers, and Bob was someone I looked to,” she said. “How could you not love someone who greeted you with a big smile every time he saw you?”

Saunders said Skalitzky was a visionary and forged a path in Sarasota that many other developers have followed.

“He only chose prime locations to develop,” she said. “Bob got it, even in those days. Selling real estate is about the experience, not just about selling four walls.”

Skalitzky, who didn’t seem as old as his age, never completely retired from Florida Sun Realty, according to his oldest daughter, Sylvia Skalitzky.

“He had a huge presence everywhere. He had that Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, the Austrian accent he never lost. When he entered a room, he was the kind of guy everyone gravitated to,” she said.

Sylvia said Skalitzky was always loving, almost fiercely so. 

She remembered one time when the family still lived in Canada when her father went above and beyond after her appendix burst and she was rushed to the hospital.

“I was in the hospital and the staff wouldn’t let my dad back to see me. I don’t remember why, maybe it was after visiting hours or something,” she said. “My dad climbed the fire escape to come to see me.”

Skalitzky is survived by his wife, three children, two grandchildren, four great-great-grandchildren and one great-great-great-grandchild. Sylvia said balancing family and business was easy for him.

Skalitzky emigrated from Austria to Canada, where he raised his three children, Bonnie McDowell, Sylvia Skalitzky and Robert Skalitzky. 

From Canada, they immigrated to Sarasota.

Skalitzky retained his Canadian citizenship until last June when he became a United States citizen at the age of 94.

His daughter, Sylvia, said there were a few things of great importance to Skalitzky. 

He loved his country, he loved Sarasota, his family, and he loved to fish.

“He fished off Anna Maria pier so much that the (Rod and Reel) restaurant gave him a shirt because he was such a regular,” Sylvia said. “He and mom had a house on Marathon in the Keys, and they bought is so dad would only have to walk a couple of steps from the house to start fishing.”

Fishing is an excellent practice in patience. If anything, this explains the way that Skalitzky did business.

 Steady, strong and always willing to wait for the perfect time to reel them in.

“To meet him once was to know him. You wouldn’t need to ask a single question about him if you had met him once,” Gallagher said.

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