Robert Frederick Buntrock passed away peacefully at home the morning of January 9th, 2023. He was 91 years old. He will forever be in our hearts (and ears). Bob is survived and missed by his loving partner of 7 years, Diane Hader, his children; Kip Buntrock, Robin Buntrock Lee (Don), and David Buntrock (Michelle), his grandchildren; Jaimie Lee, Jordan Lee and Jenna Lee, and Alex Buntrock and 4 great-grandchildren. Bob was predeceased by his wife Arly in 1988 and second wife Lee Gorgone Buntrock in 2015. He will be dearly missed by his sister Mary Buntrock Johnson and all the Minnesota and Wisconsin relatives too many to name.
Robert was born to Walter and Hazel Buntrock November 5th, 1931, on the “Iron Range” in Virginia, MN. He was always a go-getter from a young age, starring in football and swimming for the Virginia High School Blue Devils and was the sports editor of the school newspaper, where he graduated in 1949. Buntrock enrolled in the Navy and after completing his service, he went to Milwaukee, WI where he graduated from Marquette University in 1954 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism. He also was a graduate of the Institute for Organization Management from Michigan State University.
After college, Buntrock worked as an editor and reporter for a chain of weekly newspapers in the suburbs of Milwaukee. As life moved on, so did Buntrock. In 1956 he took on the role of the Public Relations Director of the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce where he remained until 1961. More good things fell into place when he was appointed as Executive Director of the Greater Milwaukee Builders Association and he continued to serve the Milwaukee real estate and development community with diligence until 1972 when he made the “big move” to Sanibel Island.
The move to Sanibel was a leap of faith on Bob’s part. He accepted an offer from the Wimmer and Blatter Corporation as the on-site developer of Loggerhead Cay Condominium. In this new role he took on responsibilities including Sales Agent, Developer, and Rental Manager. He sold out the project in 2 years and was ready to tackle his next big life event.
In 1974, Buntrock created Executive Services, Inc. (ESI). His previous 2 years of developing Loggerhead Cay opened his eyes to the great need of management and rental services on the Island. ESI was created to provide property management services to both homeowners and condominium associations. He expanded the services in 1975 to include general real estate, short term vacation rental management, as well as long term rental management services. Throughout the 1980’s ESI expanded its services to the mainland of Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, and Gasparilla Island, eventually becoming the largest combination Real Estate Sales, Rental and Property Management company on Sanibel/Captiva Islands and Southwest Florida.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Buntrock in 1974 to 1989 co-founded and was co-owner of Sanibel Realty, Out Island Properties and Horizon Development Inc.
When his wife Arly died in 1988 Buntrock and co-owner cousin Kip Johnson sold ESI to Priscilla Murphy Realty and decided to get out of the Florida heat (at least for a while) and back to his childhood roots up North.
Buntrock was always tied to Northern Minnesota where he owned a cabin on Lake Kabetogama built by his father “the Great Walt” in 1931. He spent time planning and pondering all his next big projects at the cabin and in doing so, he provided an unparalleled destination for his friends and family to enjoy. He created Bunt’s Bed and Breakfast and Bunt’s Billiards Bar and Grill, both of which entertained many visitors over the years. People would come from all over Minnesota to try their luck against him playing pool. The catch was they got to use two arms while Bob only used one (by choice of course). In one stretch he tallied 98 wins versus only 2 losses. He was almost better playing his signature one armed, no touchy rail pool game than with two!
In 1991 he started Buntrock Realty Group which operated in both Northern Minnesota and Florida It operated until 2011. In 1999 Bob became a consultant to Waterside Inn on the Beach on Sanibel eventually becoming their General Manager the following year. Following this in 2001 he became an Operations Consultant for Vacation Rentals, Condominium Management, Project Sales, and General Real Estate assisting such clients as Sanibel Accommodations and Seashells of Sanibel as well as many other SWFL condo communities and companies.
As mentioned, Bob was an unbelievably exceptional and talented pool player although some would argue that his stellar win-loss totals were influenced by his constantly running mouth! He started in his teenage years and learned the game at pool halls in Virginia, Minnesota. He often said that while his father Walter was in Germany for WWII his “dad” so to speak were those pool halls and their assortment of misfits and characters that inhabited them. It was during that time that one character taught him how to master playing pool with one arm. Since he was off to the Navy after high school the enterprising misfit explained that Bob could make ends meet easier honing that skill. That man was correct and the one-handed, no touchy rail bar hustle paid off handsomely from then on!
In 2006 Bob, assisted by his oldest son Kip, organized, and founded the Sanibel-Captiva 8-Ball League. They had no idea if they could find enough players to participate but more than expected signed up! He became Commissioner and for a few years the league was run at 2 locations on Sanibel, Gasparilla’s Grill (later George and Wendy’s) and American Legion Post 123. Since 2009 the league has operated principally at Post 123. In 2020, the new commissioner Richard McCurry proposed that the league from then on would be called the Bob Buntrock Sanibel-Captiva 8-Ball League.
The number of friendships that Bob enjoyed is a sure testament to Bob and his unique ability to bring people together. He mentored countless people in the rental, property management and real estate business. Similar to a Vince Lombardi coaching tree, there are many individuals still working on the island that got their start from Bob.
A Celebration of Life is planned at a date to be determined.