The Orlando tourism and restaurant scene has lost one of its preeminent figures. Bob Mervine, who wrote about wine, dining, and the tourist trade for the Orlando Business Journal, died yesterday after complications resulting from routine surgery.
Robert Francis Mervine Jr. was a longtime tourism publicist, author of the book Orlando Chow: Restaurants For the Rest of Us, and staff writer for the Orlando Business Journal, covering hospitality and tourism. He died Tuesday at Florida Hospital-Altamonte, after complications from surgery. He was 60.
With his iconic look featuring a ponytail and Hawaiian shirts, a friendly, chatty personality and a penchant for “capturing the moment,” as one colleague observed, Mervine was a well-known and easily-recognizable figure throughout Central Florida’s tourism and hospitality business community.
And it wasn’t just his work. Mervine’s love of food, wine, entertainment and the company of others made him a connoisseur of Orlando, leading to his 2005 book.
“Bob loved life, and life loved him back,” said friend and former colleague, Rick Sylvain, media-relations manager with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
A Philadelphia native who grew up in Homestead and graduated from the University of Florida in 1969, Mervine came to Orlando to work as a reporter, weatherman and anchor at WESH-Channel 2. In 1973 he became a public-relations manager for Walt Disney World, then worked in public relations for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, The Disney Institute and The Villages community before joining the Orlando Business Journal in 2001.
I first spoke to Bob Mervine shortly after he had taken over the tourism beat at OBJ from Alan Byrd.
“You’ve got big shoes to fill,” I quipped.
“I’ve got big feet,” Bob shot back.
Bob’s big feet and his bigger heart will be missed.