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News Section: Local news

Island icon Ed Geyer dies

Co-proprietor of Holmes Beach’s Duffy’s Tavern was 89

Published Saturday, June 6, 2009 5:00 am

No longer will Ed Geyer preside at Duffy's. Sitting on his stool behind the bar, Ed would monitor the creative chaos of eager eaters jostling to order cheeseburgers and beer. Rarely did he speak, and then only answer in terse phrases.


Ed Geyer enjoys himself
Ed Geyer would preside at Duffy's. He was a veteran of World War II.

Ed Geyer died Saturday, May 30, from a long illness that withered his body to under 110 pounds.


"Ed started to go downhill last July," recalled Pat Geyer, his wife for 54 years. "The girls and I just tried to make it as comfortable as possible for him."


Ed Geyer was born in Maysville, Ky. A D-Day veteran, he fought in Europe with the 969th Engineers. He was a member of the American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.


He is survived by his wife, Pat; daughters Mary Jean Wilk of Cincinnati, Patti Reid of Holmes Beach, Pamela Geyer, Peggi Davenport and Polli Stroup, all of Bradenton, and Penni Geyer of Hendersonville, N.C.; nine grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.


Geyer returned from the war and lived in Cincinnati, where he worked for an air conditioning business. On New Year's Eve, 54 years ago, Ed married Pat.


Every spring a good friend of the family would return to Ohio, regaling Pat and Ed Geyer with more tales of a tropical paradise called Anna Maria Island.


They visited Florida, and in 1960 moved to Holmes Beach with their daughters Patti and Pam.


The Geyers wanted a business they could eventually give to their girls. In 1971, they took over Duffy's Tavern, and an institution was born. Soon word spread about Miss Duffy's dynamite burgers, and soon the place was packed with natives and tourists craving to check out the grub.


Island rats, clinging to surfboards taller than they were, stood at the bar chomping down on another cheeseburger before hitting the waves.


"Oh, I have fond memories of Duffy's," Matt Bowers said. "I must have been about 10 years old, and we would take a break from surfing and go into Duffy's and I would get a cheeseburger and Mellow Yellow."


Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore remembers when she was just 14 years old and also an island rat, and she lived across the street from Duffy's, at the Surf Shop.


"I've known the Geyers for 40 years, and Ed was a real character," Whitmore said. "He was Miss Duffy's rock. Always there for her."


Definite lines of authority were established between Pat and Ed. "He knew I was the boss at Duffy's," Pat Duffy said with a smile. "And he was the boss at home."


The girls learned to obey his strict rules. "He was an Army man," Penni Geyer said. "He believed in the Army. This is the way it is done. Strict, but loving. If we screwed up, we were punished, but we knew he loved us. In the summer, Dad would take us up to our cabin he built all by himself in Almond, N.C. We would go swimming in a creek, and sit around a campfire in the evenings."


Their oldest daughter, Patti Reid, fondly recalls her father teaching her the fine art of car maintenance. "Every week Dad insisted I clean the battery cables on the car," she said. "Dad was very protective and insisted we learn how to do for ourselves. He even helped me remodel my home."


Ed Geyer passed his Army no-nonsense self-sufficient attitude to all the girls. "When I was just 16, and about to get my driver's license, Dad made me change a perfectly good tire," Peggi Davenport said. "And thanks to Dad when later I had a flat, I knew how to change the tire."


As the girls grew, so did Duffy's fame. Seizing upon Ed Geyer's hobby of collecting things, customers began bringing from their hometowns caps and pennants, and they festooned the ceiling and walls.


And no silly air conditioning impeded the languorous Gulf breeze from entering through screened windows. When a new front door was installed, serious rumors floated that Duffy's was sold to some stuffy carpetbagger intending to a gussy up the prices and premises.


"Ed was one of a kind," said family friend Melissa Williams. "The first time my husband and I met him was at Duffy's. He was shouting at everyone to get out, time was up; we had to go home. When he came over to us and heard my husband's English accent, he immediately pulled up a bar stool and started telling us about his D-Day landing and serving our country during World War II. We didn't leave the place for two hours. Ed kept telling his daughter Peggi to keep serving us. That evening, to this day, rates as one of our top 10 memories of our lifetime."


West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price remembers when he and his father would go for lunch at Duffy's. "Ed would be sitting there, listening to all the experts at the bar solving all the current problems," Andy Price said. "Rarely did Ed speak, and when he did you all knew exactly how he felt."


For 31 years, Duffy's thrived, and then Ed and Pat Geyer were informed that the owners of the property wanted Duffy's back. After cushioning the trauma of the move to family and friends, the Geyers moved to their present Holmes Beach address.


Sadly, Ed now has a new address, but we can rest assured that many residents up there are savoring heavenly cheeseburgers.

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