GOODLAND — Of the hundreds of stories told at his memorial service Sunday, no single tale can adequately sum up the life of Stan Gober.
But this one comes close.
Joe Voss often traveled for his job, which left his wife, Judy, home alone on Marco Island.
So a few times a week, Judy went to Stan's Idle Hour Restaurant on Goodland. She got to know Stan. Became a regular. Felt at home.
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In January, at age 63, Judy died. Joe wanted to host a memorial for her, so he called up Stan and asked if he could use the restaurant. Stan said yes. Joe said to expect 40, maybe 50 people.
Three hundred people showed up. Yet Stan took it in stride. He never complained.
He just helped a friend.
"He's always had a big heart," Joe Voss said. "Stan's always been here for us."
Six days after he died of congestive heart failure at age 86, Stan Gober was laid to rest Sunday. The eccentric Goodland icon went out with flair, as hundreds of people gathered at his restaurant, a crew as eclectic as the man himself.
The mourners wore T-shirts, flip-flops, shorts, sundresses, bandannas. They listened to Stan's famous, perhaps infamous, "Buzzard Lope" song on loop. They walked past Stan in his casket, dressed in an American flag shirt, his trademark hat atop his head.
They laughed, cried and swapped Stan stories, remembering a father, a businessman, a patriot, a philanthropist, a friend. It was equal parts memorial and celebration — exactly what Stan requested.
"I'll never forget this day," said Steve Gober, one of Stan's three sons. "This is what he would have wanted."
By now, Stan's story has become Southwest Florida lore. He first came to Goodland in 1958, then permanently moved there from Miami in 1969. He bought a motel, then the restaurant, then started the Mullet Festival in 1985. His Sunday afternoon shows soon became renowned, filled with unorthodox songs, goofy dances and the same crass jokes.
The restaurant and show attracted hundreds, inviting locals and tourists. For some, the Sunday routine became appointment viewing. For others, like Sandy Sida, it was a first stop when visitors came to town.
"People share tables, everyone sits with everyone, and it's just fun," Sida said. "I've heard young people describe it as 'spring break for old people,' and that's exactly what it is."
Behind all of it was Stan. He'd sit down with strangers and regulars alike, instantly establishing connections. His friends ranged from the townies to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, who frequents Marco Island.
"It didn't matter if you were a millionaire, pauper or anything in between. You were always welcome here," said Charles Jones, who met Rosemary Strong at Stan's 70th birthday party in 1996. They shared a piece of cake and have been together ever since.
Mourners marveled Sunday at how Stan's restaurant stayed true to its island feel decade after decade. It's why Bobby and Dot Woodall, Tennessee transplants living in south Fort Myers, have made the 60-mile drive to Goodland each Sunday for 23 years.
"It hasn't changed a bit," Dot Woodall said. "He might have put down a couple planks of wood, but that's it."
Stan used his local fame to advance charitable work, helping raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer causes, needy children, Avow Hospice and countless other organizations. His love of children became legendary. He even cleaned up his off-color jokes in the presence of youngsters.
"He wanted a successful business, but that was just one part of him," said his son, Jay Gober. "He just loved people of all walks."
Beyond his public persona, Stan was a dedicated family man, doting on his four children and 11 grandchildren. Depending on the time of year, eight to 10 family members still work at the restaurant, which will stay open after his death.
"I'll miss most of all the private times with the man, him making me a better man," Steve Gober said. "That's why I'm running the business today. He taught me that it doesn't matter if you're a construction worker or a president, you treat everybody the same."
At about 2 p.m. Sunday, Stan's grandchildren, all wearing black T-shirts bearing his name, carried his casket out of the restaurant and loaded it into a hearse, bound for Marco Island Cemetery. A rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In" played in the background.
As the hearse idled and the song ended, a silence fell over the crowd. Then, a gentleman stood up on a table. He shouted, "Can we all sing 'God Bless America' for Stan?"
They all sang, and Stan was driven away.