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By Dorie Cox
Jorge E. Kates, general manager of Miami Beach Marina (MBM), died March 18 at home in Miami. He was 63.
“He was the face of Miami Beach Marina for more than 10 years,” said former MBM general manager Marieke van Peer. “He was a master at the jigsaw puzzle that is yacht placement.”
Mr. Kates started work at the marina in spring of 2005.
“He left once briefly but came back, missing the bustle and controlled chaos we had going there,” van Peer said.
Mr. Kates was the first one in the office in the mornings, said Brian Mundey, now marina manager. Mundey worked closely with Kates as his “right hand man” for the past year and a half.
“I’d be in after him in the morning, so we sat and swapped stories about life, politics and the way the world is,” Mundey said. “Jorge was well-versed and cultured, with a huge laugh. He was easy and fun to talk to. I absolutely have big shoes to fill.”
He gave good advice based on his experiences, Mundey said.
Megan Lagasse agreed. She is currently general manager at Bahia Mar Yachting Center in Ft. Lauderdale and met Mr. Kates when she worked in the office at MBM in 2005.
“He was always that guy you could call for anything,” Lagasse said. “He was more than a boss, he was a dad to everyone. If you were at the marina, you were part of Jorge’s family.”
She recalled how he offered advice in a kind manner.
“Before he said anything bad, he would say, ‘You know, I love you but…’.”
Mr. Kates would sit back, watch a situation, let the marina team work and then stand up and say, ‘You know, I love you but …’ and no matter what bad decision someone had made, every incident would end with a hug from him, Lagasse said.
His familiar way was not just with marina staff. Mr. Kates treated customers like family, also, and it showed with return customers.
“Ten years later, boats would come back and say ‘Jorge, I brought you this,’ and it would be chocolate from Sweden,” Lagasse said.
Boaters across South Florida’s yachting community reminisced about Mr. Kates this week.
“It’s a huge loss for Miami Beach Marina,” Lagasse said. “Even our customers here are going to his memorial service.”
Mr. Kates was known for enjoying Cuban coffee and Jelly Belly jelly beans.
“I remember him walking down the dock back to the dockmaster office after getting coffee and taking too long because everyone wanted to chat with him,” van Peer said.
On coffee runs, marina staff learned that Mr. Kates ordered his with lots of traditional foam on top. And many would request the same.
“So everyone orders Jorge’s coffee,” said Sherrie Pisetzky, accounting manager at MBM. “If we order for him we have to say, ‘It’s really for Jorge.’
“He would say, ‘Stay off my Jelly Bellys’,” she said. “He loved them. I would bring him four bags for his birthday and he would eat them all in one sitting.”
Mr. Kates was skilled at managing the marina, especially the diagram of the slips in the marina, known as “the board”, Pisetzky said.
“He could make a 200-footer fit if it had to,” she said. “He was a go-getter that made things happen.”
She often fielded customers requests to talk with him.
“Every captain only wanted to speak to him,” she said. “If he couldn’t make it happen, then it couldn’t happen.”
Although Mr. Kates was head of the marina office, he never really wanted to be general manager, Lagasse said.
“The top, it wasn’t him,” she said. “It was not about title but that people were taken care of. If you asked his title, he would answer, ‘Jorge, just Jorge’.”
Mr. Kates was born in Havana in December 1958. He is survived by daughters Jackie, Megan, and Michelle; granddaughter, Emilia, and his companion, Alix Weil.
A memorial service is scheduled for Friday, March 24, at Van Orsdel Midtown Miami Chapel, 3333 N.E. Second Ave. (33137). The family will receive visitors at 6 p.m. with a memorial service at 7 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org/donate/donation in the name of Jorge E. Kates.
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.