Thomas Robert was a Massachusetts-born man who traded four seasons for one: the constant heat of Southwest Florida.
He was a leader, a laugher, a smiler, a musician, a New England Patriots fan, a James Bond enthusiast, a dog father, and an appreciator of mermaids—to the point of having a mural done on the side of his Cape Coral home. .
Moira O’Regan, Robert’s friend, remembers him as her “brother”. They met in Cape Coral and bonded quickly after realizing they had Massachusetts, the Red Sox and the Patriots in common.
“The guy was just amazing. He was just a funny, down-to-earth, real good guy,” O’Regan said in a phone interview. “Always smiling. Very caring. Very, very, generous.”
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O’Regan also had the honor of painting the nautical mural on Robert’s house, completing the work in July 2021.
“His house was completely empty and he always felt it was pretty boring and it was on the corner. After one of our boat regattas he asked if I would paint a mural in the middle of his empty wall. ‘Really?!’ O’Regan said.
She catered to his love of the sea and decorated his home with jumping dolphins, floating seahorses and a blonde mermaid greeting a sea turtle.
The leading lady was the first to be painted as O’Regan said that Robert “liked mermaids”.
Robert lost his life due to a heart attack after evacuating Cape Coral before Hurricane Ian. He and his wife left their Cape Coral home on September 27 for an apartment in Naples.
The apartment’s lobby flooded during the storm and the elevators stopped working, forcing the couple to take the stairs to higher ground. Robert, who had a history of chest pains and heart problems, collapsed after climbing seven flights and was pronounced dead Oct. 3 at North Naples Hospital. He was 58.
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A report by the Florida Medical Examiner’s Board cited “stress from Hurricane Ian” as a contributing factor in Robert’s death. O’Regan confirmed that Robert’s house was “totaled” during the storm.
‘Thank you for sharing your joy with us’
Robert was an active member of the New Resident Club of Cape Coral, a social club that helps members meet and make friends in the area. One of the club’s team exercises was participating in the city’s Cardboard Boat Regatta, an annual event where participants build boats from scratch and race them on the water.
In 2016, Robert put on the Gilligan (Island) crown and led the USS Minnow to victory: winning first place for best spirit.
“You were a better Gilligan than Gilligan himself,” Robin Moore Rolllinger wrote on Facebook. “On behalf of the cast of SS Minnow and all of the Cardboard Crew, thank you for sharing your joy with us. You will be missed.”
After the 2016 regatta, Robert led his group in singing and strumming the guitar in unison to the joy of the others.
“He was a fantastic musician – guitar, piano,” O’Regan said. “He had a career in the entertainment industry in Massachusetts, booking bands and stuff.
Robert was also a loyal member of Pets Are Working Saints, a ministry of Grace Church in Cape Coral. His wife, Jeanne, is a team leader for a group that visits The Opal, a retirement community. They were usually joined by Martha, their dog.
“Tom regularly accompanied Jeanne on monthly visits,” Claudia Helms wrote in an email to the Naples Daily News. “The mission of PAWS is to visit people who are lonely in nursing homes or enjoy connecting with animals, as the children in some of our ministries do. Tom really enjoyed being involved and especially enjoyed spending time with the people in the memory care unit.”
“He will be sorely missed as part of our team as he brought encouragement and good cheer to everyone we spent time with,” Helms wrote.
“I will miss this man,” Anne Beck wrote on Facebook.
“My boss, my boyfriend and my cribbage challenge. I can’t believe you’re gone.”