Del Ackerman, namesake of 24 Hour Store in Naples, dies at 83
Del Ackerman, the big-hearted business owner who greeted friends and strangers alike with a smile, died Thursday at his home. He was 83.
“He was a legend,” said Nick Malliarys, who has been running Del’s 24 Hour Store at the corner of Bayshore and Thomasson drives for several years.
The time of death was noted Thursday at 7:11 p.m. by a hospice nurse, which is ironic because Ackerman was not a fan of the convenience store chain, Malliarys said.
Ackerman would probably smile at the irony as he had such a good sense of humor, Theresa Ackerman, his wife, said.
He had been ill for months with lung disease and hospitalizations that kept him away from his beloved store that he opened in 1961 and never closed, despite countless tropical storms and hurricanes.
“We’re in the Guinness Book of World Records,” Ackerman proudly said in 2016 about the store’s perpetual hours of operation.
Ackerman believed in always being open for his customers, many of whom live in the Bayshore area and out of necessity walk or peddle to the store for essentials.
Many people didn’t realize how much Ackerman gave back to his community, whether through philanthropy or by giving people who’ve been down on their luck a second chance, said Cpl. Mike Nelson, a community policing deputy in the Bayshore neighborhood with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
“He was a huge philanthropist but he didn’t want a lot of people to know,” Nelson, a friend of Ackerman for 18 years, said. “He would help people find housing to getting jobs, to making sure they had food. He was a believer in fresh starts.”
Hear from Del Ackerman in 2017 talk about his retirement. Ackerman, who owned Del's 24 hour Food Store, retired after 54 years. Naples Daily News
Ackerman’s passing is a big loss for the community since he treated everyone like family, with a firm handshake and a smile, Nelson said.
“More than anyone I know, he believed in the good of all people, and he cherished every day,” Nelson said.
Ackerman came to Naples from Toledo, Ohio, with his first wife, Nancy, and forged his way as a self-made businessman. That was 60 years ago when Naples was small and it was tough to get a business off the ground, said Penny Taylor, a Collier County commissioner.
“I think Del embodied the American Dream,” Taylor said. “He was a visionary who was warm hearted and compassionate. He understood business better than most.”
In 2017, Taylor sponsored a resolution before the Collier County Commission to declare the intersection of Bayshore and Thomasson drives as “Del’s Corner.”
Besides the Bayshore store, Ackerman had a similar store that was forced to close due to widening along Collier Boulevard. He owned a gym, a plumbing supply house, a taxi company, laundromats, a pawnshop and other enterprises.
He sold subscriptions to the Naples Daily News and delivered the paper to homes.
He loved being in Naples parades; he could always be spotted tooling around town in a red and white-striped Chevrolet pickup with his picture and store emblem on the doors. The truck included patriotic slogans, including “God bless our troops and veterans.”
His life was not without tragedy. His first wife, Nancy Ackerman, died in 2012.The couple’s daughter, Tanya Ackerman, died in 2007.
Ackerman married Theresa Ackerman in 2015 after a romance that began a year earlier. They met at the bank where she worked.
“He chased me for a couple of months. He would call me every other day,” Theresa Ackerman, 58, said. “When I told him I would take a rain check, he called me back 20 minutes later.”
He was charismatic and had such a presence when he walked into a room, she said.
“He just made me feel like a princess,” she said. “He swept me off my feet. He was such a gentleman.”
In recent years, arthritis made it harder for him to walk, a lingering consequence of being hit by a school bus in the early 1970s, she said. The accident required 17 surgeries.
Author Brett McGibbon, who helped write Ackerman’s memoirs, said Ackerman was "just a jewel."
“He was one of the best men I’ve ever met in my life,” McGibbon said. “He had a love of God in his heart and he always put people above money.”
McGibbon said part of Ackerman’s generosity stemmed from his childhood experiences; his grandfather had disowned his father for not becoming a farmer, and Ackerman never forgot how that felt.
“He did everything in his life to be a better man than his grandfather, that’s what he always told me,” McGibbon said. “And that’s why he always treated everybody like family because he was so hurt by being rejected by his own family. He never wanted anyone else to experience the unfairness that he did.”
Word of Ackerman’s death spread quickly through the Bayshore Arts District, where residents and business owners long ago recognized he was an icon, Diane Sullivan, a local Realtor and founder of the Bayshore Arts and Business Association, said.
“He could be a tough old bird and would fight hard for something he believed in, but here in Bayshore he was a cheerleader,” Sullivan said. “His bright smile and enthusiasm for the continued success of Bayshore will be greatly missed.”
Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said Ackerman was a longtime supporter of the sheriff’s office and was committed to helping the community in times of need.
“For more than 30 years (Ackerman) partnered with and supported the Sheriff’s Office and many of its youth programs and we appreciate his longstanding commitment to the youth of our community,” Rambosk said in a statement. “He also provided a lot of resources to people in need after Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Wilma. He was always community minded.”
Plans for a memorial service are pending.