Stephen Garber, a GCBR columnist and business leader, leaves behind many friends.
Community Leader Remembered
By Rob Brannon
The East County Observer
Business people are likely to remember Stephen J. Garber as the coach, a successful entrepreneur who shared the secrets to his success as a consultant and GCBR columnist.
To Lakewood Ranch Rotarians, Garber was the founder, whose selflessness and deft leadership created one of the regionis most active civic clubs.
iHis guidance, his mentoring for all of the new young Rotarians recruited here, led Rotary through the first hectic growing pains,i says Jerry Hearn, the Lakewood Ranch Rotaryis district governor. iHe had a lot of humility, guidance and mentoring in Rotary.i
Garber, 66, died Dec. 24 of cancer.
In 2001, Garber was a Sarasota Rotary member when he was chosen to start up a Lakewood Ranch branch. The groupis first meeting was held within four months of his selection. He served as president for 16 months, four months longer than usual.
iHe could get (Rotarians) to perform or do the service Rotary requires without offending,i Hearn said. iHe was a natural leader.i
Born in Cambridge, Mass., Garber lived most of his life in and around the Boston area. During college, he met Norma, whoid later become his wife.
iIt was a college romance, one of those that stayed together,i Norma Garber says of their 42-year marriage. iThis one was very precious. We had a wonderful, wonderful life together.i
After college, Garber went into the family business, a liquor and spirit retail company. He expanded the business, developing a wholesale branch that imported wine from Europe and other locations around the world.
iWe would go on wine buying missions to these different wineries,i Norma Garber said. iWe did that into the 1990s.i
Garberis success was evident. The family owned a log cabin in New Hampshire and a historic house in Georgetown, Mass.
Others wanted to know the secrets to his success. After writing a magazine article, Garber began a second career as a business coach and he became a regular contributor to GCBR, writing iThe Coachis Playbook.i
iHe assisted CEOs and presidents of companies. He helped to maximize potential,i Norma Garber says. iIt was important for Stephen to teach clients to listen, (that) to be understood you have to understand.i
In 1999, the Garbers decided to move to East County after visiting a Sarasota convention, organized by a friend. Theyid fell in love with the area.
Garber passionately worked on behalf of the Rotary club and its four principals: truth, fairness, goodwill and benefit to all concerned, his wife says.
iWe felt we made the most cherished friends we ever had through the members of the Rotary club,i Norma Garber says. iIt became our life. To us it was a wonderful lifestyle.i
Jeff Travis, Garberis neighbor and fellow Rotarian, says Garber was high energy.
iSteve was not very good at doing nothing and [he] wasnit very good at letting me do nothing,i Travis said during a Dec. 29 eulogy.
But it was their time together fishing, when theyid talk for hours, that Travis says heill miss the most.
iIt was sort of like two kids in a sand box,i Travis says.
Among Garberis legacies is Shelter Box USA, started by an English Rotary club. It provides shelter to people affected by disasters. Lakewood Ranch Rotary, under the leadership of Garber, joined forces with the English club to bring the Shelter Box program to the United States.
Garberis legacy is apparent in the groupis recent efforts to help tsunami-ravaged countries. Shelter Box USA sent 550 Shelter Boxes to the relief efforts, enough to shelter 5,500 people for up to six months. And additional boxes should be sent soon.
Garber was proud of his accomplishments and satisfied with his life, his wife says.
iMy husband said there was nothing to regret and nothing to yearn for,i Norma Garber says. iThere wasnit anything unfulfilled at the end of his life.i
What a legacy.
Memorial donations can be made to the Hospice of Southwest Florida, 5955 Rand Blvd., Sarasota, FL 34238, or at www.hospice-swf.org.