We mourn the passing of our brother, uncle, and friend Douglas Gayle Mayberry, known to his family and friends as Doug. He passed away in the early hours of June 1, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
He is survived by his sister Sandra Robinson & husband Danny; nephew Jeff Robinson, his wife Stefanie, and their children Evan and Casey; and by great-niece Rachel Kelley.
Doug also left behind the intentional family that he gathered over the past 50 years. This includes his Varela Street family from Key West: Phil Sheldon and Jake McMahon, Ozzy Zelaya, David Gunion, and his beloved caretaker and close friend during his extended illness, Troy Feldkamp.
Doug was born on July 21, 1955, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas to Inez and E.S. (Bud) Mayberry, who predeceased him. His dad was an engineer for the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
Signs of Doug’s Electrical Engineering expertise started early. At age 12, he installed a doorbell for his grandmother. His sister Sandra was horrified that she might lose her little brother to electrocution, but their father said, “Don’t worry, he knows what he’s doing!” And the doorbell worked well!
From a young age, Doug was a diligent writer and innovative entrepreneur. When he was about 7 years old, he and his cousin knocked on their neighbors’ doors asking for news. Doug then used his mom’s typewriter to create a neighborhood newsletter, making multiple copies with carbon paper. They then returned to the same houses to sell the newsletter for 5 cents per copy!
In high school, Doug was the editor of his school yearbook and enjoyed using his melodic voice as a radio disk jockey at both Country and Pop music stations. He also shared that beautiful voice in his church and high school choirs, including the Pine Bluff Singers and A Cappella Choir under the widely praised leadership of Richard D Smith. The pinnacle of Doug’s high school choir experience was a concert tour to the Holy Lands of Jordan and Israel with his high school classmates.
Doug certainly enjoyed the musical and historic parts of this trip, but the memory that always brought a gleam to his eye was their unexpected stop in Damascus, Syria on the way to Jordan. He was the only person he knew who had been to Syria! But perhaps most important was that this trip showed Doug a world far beyond Pine Bluff, initiating a life-long love of travel.
After high school, Doug very proudly attended Tulane University in New Orleans, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. His classmates selected him to be the President of his Engineering class, he was a head resident advisor in a dorm, was selected for Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi honor societies, continued singing and touring with the Tulane choir, and continued work as a disk jockey.
This led to his first career position working for Proctor and Gamble in northern Texas at a Folger’s Coffee plant. At the same time, he joined the MBA program at Southern Methodist University.
In January 1982, Doug transferred to Chicago, arriving on a minus-23-degree day, one of the coldest in Chicago’s history. Professionally, he ran a Vie de France bakery in Hammond, Indiana for a couple of years, then started a longer career in manufacturing management with Lever Brothers.
Chicago was the first place where Doug put down roots as an adult, buying his first house. He also found a spiritual home at Good Shepherd Parish, Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), where he later served on the Board. While there, he made several life-long friends, including Phil Sheldon, Rev. Wayne Bradley & Rick Peterson (who invited Doug to speak at their wedding), Jim Geiger, and Tom Myles, all of whom he stayed close with for the rest of his life.
Doug’s Lever Brothers career next took him to their headquarters in Manhattan, and his lovely home across the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey. He traveled around the country managing co-packing facilities – outside factories that Lever Brothers hired to make their products.
Lever Brothers recognized Doug’s unique combination of leadership, inter-personal skills, and manufacturing knowledge by next sending him to be the Assistant Manager of a large factory in Baltimore. He bought a large, beautiful house in Baltimore’s Hometown neighborhood. He loved everything about it, except that an upstairs toilet sprung a leak while he was traveling – dropping water into his grand piano underneath – a prize possession that he never replaced. His favorite room in the house was a glass-roofed patio where he could enjoy his coffee and breakfast throughout the winter. It was full of plants, with his favorite being a key lime tree!
Throughout his adult life, Doug made annual visits to the tiny island of Key West, where he found solace, new friends, and joy. In 1995, when Lever Brothers offered him a large buyout package, he decided to leave the corporate world and manufacturing behind, to see if he could create a niche for himself as a full-time resident of Key West.
His good friends from Chicago and New York days, Jim Rusnak, and Phil Sheldon, both joined Doug soon thereafter, and the three of them bought a 4-unit house together on Varela Street. Unfortunately, Jim passed away in 1996 from complications of HIV, but Doug and Phil called that building home until Phil moved to Salt Lake City and Doug to Fort Lauderdale.
Upon arrival in Key West, Doug first considered buying a gay guesthouse, but after his experiences buying, remodeling, and selling several houses, Doug decided on a career in real estate instead. He worked closely with his mentor Trip Hoffman, one of the most respected and successful realtors in Key West, eventually becoming a Broker-Associate at the Real Estate Company of Key West.
Doug and Trip prospered together as a team for several years. After Trip’s passing, Doug opened his own business, Doug Mayberry Real Estate, in 2007. His initial colleagues were Sabrina Acevedo and Dean Townsend, with several other realtors joining them over time. Doug enjoyed the mix of business management and real estate sales until his health setbacks interfered with his work and he closed his company. He then moved to Fort Lauderdale to be closer to large hospitals and his sister Sandra and her family.
Doug put his whole heart and soul into everything that he made a commitment to. He actively supported a variety of national and local organizations supporting human rights, music, education, and the communities in which he lived. He was featured in a Florida Weekly article in 2017.
During his 25 years in Key West, he was President of the Key West Association of Realtors, Board Chair of the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys and served on the Board of the Metropolitan Church of Key West. He was also a charter member of the Equality Florida Key West chapter and an active member of the Key West Business Guild.
Keeping his musical interests alive, he was in Tom Oosterhoudt’s garden in 1997 when Sebrina Alfonso hosted an informal concert that became the Key West Symphony Orchestra (later the South Florida Symphony Orchestra). Doug remained a loyal supporter of the SFSO until his passing.
And after hearing about flooding at the SPCA shelter on Stock Island, Doug joined their Capital Campaign to raise funds for a new shelter. Doug Mayberry Real Estate twice raised money for the shelter by hosting the Well Strung string quartet, performing their magical and high-energy fusion classical and pop music.
At home, Doug’s backyard was a verdant paradise, presided over by one of the most prolific mango trees in Key West. Surrounding the yard were his favorite orchids framed just right by the greenery around them. In this sanctuary, he welcomed several generations of cats that were shared by the entire block, with a special love for “Mrs. Gray”.
He enjoyed entertaining friends by cooking special meals at home, featuring French Press coffee and grilled meat and veggies from his patio barbeque. He also took pride in inviting friends and real estate clients to join him at the Key West Yacht Club and Island House Key West where he was a member.
In keeping with his lifelong love of engineering, Doug was known among his friends as the first to adopt new technologies. These included picture-in-picture TVs, TiVo’s, and the first generation of the iPhone (friends recall thinking “who would want to clutter up a phone with all that other stuff?”). Doug also loved the comfort and sustainability of his Toyota Priuses, which he frequently upgraded to get the newest innovations.
Perhaps Doug’s greatest passion was travel, both exploring new places and meeting the people who lived in those places. After leaving Lever Brothers, he took a sabbatical and spent several months touring around Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Bali before starting his real estate courses.
Twice, Doug joined Phil Sheldon and members of the Harvard Glee Club Alumni Chorus for concerts with Kyoto University Glee Club alumni Tokyo and Kyoto. During those trips he met some Japanese friends who would later come visit him in the US and remained lifelong friends. On the 1996 trip, Doug and Phil saw snow falling on the cherry blossoms that were at their peak. This is a rare but auspicious sign. Within six months, Doug was well on his way to a successful real estate career and Phil became a travel professional, a vocation that he continues to this day.
During several visits to Costa Rica, Doug fell in love with the beauty and relaxed vibe of the Manuel Antonio area on the Pacific Coast. He even bought property there, but eventually decided to instead make trips to new destinations. His last big trip was exploring the island of Sicily, staying in grand hotels overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
During his recent health challenges, Doug was motivated to get better so he could visit more of the places he was planning to explore in retirement. He didn’t reach those destinations, but in his last conversation with his sister, he talked of his dreams for his next trip. Always the optimist, he kept looking ahead despite his physical challenges.
Finally, Doug’s biological and intentional family members would like to acknowledge Doug’s care team these past few months. First and foremost was Doug’s Key West friend Troy Feldkamp who moved to Fort Lauderdale with him and who kept things going at their home. In addition, his full-time caregivers made a tremendous difference the past few months.
Per Doug’s wishes, there will not be a funeral. However, we plan to have a Memorial Gathering of Friends and Family in Key West later this year, at a time and place to be announced. If you wish to be notified when plans are set, please contact Phil Sheldon on Facebook or at email@example.com.
If you would like to recognize Doug’s contributions, especially to the Keys community, we encourage donations in Doug’s honor to the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys.