You may know her as mayor or commissioner, or maybe Mom, but for many years, hundreds, if not thousands of Islanders grew to love her as Miss Duffy.
Patricia A. Geyer, proprietress of Duffy’s Tavern, died May 1, 2010, at age 79, but she will long be fondly remembered by many folks.
She was remembered at Holmes Beach City Hall Oct. 5, when the Holmes Beach City Commission officially named and dedicated the city hall chambers in her honor.
She served 18 years on the city commission and was elected mayor from 1990-94. During her public service, she demonstrated her courage and conviction, and her willingness to always listen to the people.
And listen she did. She had an ear — and respect — for all opinions that came across the bar at Duffy’s Tavern, the quaint and quirky hamburger joint she ran hands on for more than 35 years.
“Now cheeseburgers really are being served in paradise,” said one Duffy’s customer after Geyer’s death. The gang at the Holmes Beach institution known for “the coldest beer this side of heaven,” great burgers and even greater small-town hospitality mourned her passing.
“She was a longtime, good friend and an asset to the community,” said Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger. “She had a kind heart and was a very generous woman. She gave years of her life to the city of Holmes Beach.”
She was a great advocate for public safety, always looking for ways to improve the Holmes Beach Police Department.
Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine remembered Pat Geyer as a woman of few words. “She didn’t have a lot to say,” the chief said. “But when she did speak, you listened. She was one of the sweetest ladies you’ll ever meet.”
In the early 1950s, Pat and husband Ed Geyer, who died in 2009, were living in Cincinnati. They had friends there who vacationed on Anna Maria Island and returned to spread the word about their sub-tropical discovery.
The Geyers, too, journeyed to Anna Maria Island — first in 1954 to build a house in Sunrise Park. By the early 1960s, they had settled in Holmes Beach, where they raised “the girls,” as Pat and Ed called their daughters — Patti, Pam, Peggi, Polli and Penni.
“When we moved here, in the summer time, there was hardly anyone on the Island,” Pat Geyer told The Islander in 2006. “The kids could play a baseball game in the middle of Gulf Drive.”
The Geyers began operating Duffy’s Tavern on Gulf Drive across from the Manatee Public Beach in 1971.
But in 2001-02, the lease ran out across from the beach, and they moved the Duffy’s operation — funky signs, old license plates, photographs, seasoned grill and all — to the corner of Marina Drive and 59th Street, across from city hall.
It was tough for the tavern to be closed more than a year, but a makeover in an old service garage allowed a perfect view for Miss Duffy of her political achievements out the front window, and no more landlords for Duffy’s Tavern. They owned their place in Holmes Beach.
And they earned their place in history. In the 1980s, Miss Duffy was included in a USA Today article touting the 10 best burgers in the United States. There could be no doubts about the Duffy burgers, and the bragging rights brought much acclaim to the tavern. In fact, all those who made Duffy’s a stop in their weekly routine, took pride in the fame.
It was quite an honor for Duffy’s Tavern, and the first such national acclaim we can recall for any business on Anna Maria Island.
It was a time when women in business weren’t necessarily the norm, but like so many things, Anna Maria Island didn’t follow trends. Pat Geyer had a lot of firsts, including being the first female member of the Anna Maria Island Privateers, which this year celebrates 40 years, and the first female volunteer firefighter on AMI.
But it wasn’t just Miss Duffy who did the Island proud. She had loads of help from husband Ed, who kept a pot of bean soup at the ready and calls at home regarding politics at bay. And they raised five girls, who all put in their time at the grill, at the bar, or whatever was needed by Mom.
Pat Geyer was known for her quiet good humor, as well as for her fierce loyalty to family, work, causes, politics and principle, and she managed to pass that along to her girls.
And they — and now their families — all contribute to community events, fundraisers and the family business.
Miss Duffy earned many accolades, but surely none pleased her more than the simple appreciation for her family, her political service and her food.
“Great burger, Pat,” we’d say.
“Yep,’ she’d say, with a nod of appreciation.
Pat Geyer gave her family and Anna Maria Island a great gift — and they carry on her traditions.
It was a great life, and it hasn’t ended.
For that reason, and for many great memories, the Geyers are our choice for Islander of the Year 2010.