When Gil Nordell came to Marco Island, he was 50 years old. Gil had been born and raised in Minnesota, and with the monumental age of 50, Gil felt that it was time to find Florida.
The year was 1965, the Deltona Corporation was well under way with the development of Marco Island, and when Nordell drove his brand new Cadillac over the Goodland Bridge, he found a new home, new family and friends, and a new career that would span the following 43 years.
After finding employment at the newly opened Marco Beach Hotel, Nordell found that in early 1965, multi tasking was much more of a chore than it is today. He also quickly learned that within the Deltona Corporation everyone did everything. There were no well-defined job descriptions and anyone from Frank Mackle down would gladly do anything to make the miracle of Marco Island work.
Nordell was the first working beach boy on Marco Island. When the sun came up over the dredges that were creating Marco’s canal system, he single handedly pulled a fleet of Sunfish sailboats down from the grounds beside the Voyager pool to the high tide line at the Gulf of Mexico. During the day, Nordell would rent the sailboats, set umbrellas for sun sensitive guests, and take food and drink orders for everyone at the beach and pool. At the age of 50, Nordell had a twenty-eight-inch waist.
After serving drinks at sunset, Nordell would take down the sunfish sails and pull the sailboats back up the beach for safekeeping. Darkness falls fast in the tropics and after nightfall, Nordell’s second shift became even more challenge-filled and interesting.
Normally the small airplanes that flew guests of the Deltona Corporation into Marco arrived during the day. This was because the runway didn’t have lights for planes landing at night. When a plane was late, special, or even unscheduled, Nordell was on airfield duty as soon as he got the word a plane was coming in after dark.
When the radio squawked into life, and signaled an incoming plane at night, Nordell would hop into his car and drive between the mangroves over the shell road to the airfield where Landmark Street is today.
After a quick survey of the runway — to make certain there were no possums or raccoons in the way — Nordell would park his car at the end of the runway and turn his headlights on high.
When the airplane landed, Nordell would load the newly arrived passengers and their luggage into his car and drive back to the hotel lobby. If the hour was late and the front desk staff gone for the night, Nordell would slip behind the desk and check the newcomers in.
Afterward, Nordell was the bellman and ferried the guests and their luggage to one of the poolside rooms. After the guests settled in, Nordell went back to the airfield and helped the pilot tie down the plane. When the plane was secure, he would bring the pilot back to the hotel and check him in.
Normally after a long day of travel, the late arriving guests would be hungry and after the pilot was shown to his room, the room service phone would ring and inquiries would began about something to eat. After Nordell took the room service orders, he would call the Chef and then deliver sandwiches and drinks back to the rooms. The next day when the sun came up, Nordell would begin his day by vacuuming the pool.
Nordell later worked in the housekeeping department where he was adored by all of the maids.
One day when things were quiet by the beach and pool, Frank Mackle arrived with his usual crisp white shirt, black tie and rolled up shirtsleeves.
“Gill,” Mackle began, “Get us a golf cart. I want to show you something and hear your opinion.”
With only a nod and a quick, “Yes, sir!” Nordell departed and returned moments later with a new golf cart. After following Mackle’s directions, Nordell drove the two men over a sandy track between the mangroves and arrived at a small clearing with a view of the beach. The distance traveled was only a short jaunt from the two wings of the two-story Marco Beach Hotel; Mackle turned to Nordell and said, “This is it, Gil. This is where we’re going to build the nicest hotel in Florida. It will be like nothing else. It will be the best property anywhere and people will come from all over the world just to see what we have done on Marco! Well Gil, what do you think?”
“Mr. Mackle,” Nordell replied, “I think that would be a real good idea.”
Over the following decades, Nordell continued his work at the newly constructed Marco Beach Hotel and Villas and was in charge of the pitch and putt golf course and the original Voyager pool. After Marriott purchased the resort in 1979, and built the north tower in 1983, Nordell took over the new mini golf course and rented bicycles.
Soon after the mini golf was up and running, some golf balls became lodged underground where on the final 18th hole, golf balls traveled through a plastic pipe and entered into a receptacle to be retrieved later. After someone reported the golf ball blockage, several hotel engineers arrived and began discussing the best way to jackhammer up the troubled section of the mini golf course. After a few moments of listening to which type of jackhammer would be best to break up the concrete and reach the pipe, Nordell walked over the nearby pool and filled a bucket with water. He then returned to the engineers and poured the pool water down the blocked golf ball hole. Instantly all the blocked golf balls came running out into the nearby receptacle with the gushing water.
Nordell only grinned at the dropped-jawed engineers as he went back to work.
After 43 years of service Gil Nordell has been the most senior associate ever at Marriott’s Marco Beach Resort Golf Club and Spa.
Nordell is survived by his daughter and grandson and he will be sorely missed by all of his Deltona and Marriott families.