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Society Bites: Losing a Host to Palm Beach – Wolfgang Baere, 67

August 19th, 2009 · 3 Comments

By Thom Smith, columnist

The mile-wide smile, the robust laugh, the outstretched hand, the twinkle in his eye. It didn’t matter to Wolfgang Baere if he was running one of the nation’s most prestigious resorts or his down-to-earth beachfront hotel and bar; the essence of hospitality was to treat everyone as if they were worth a million bucks – and moreso as a friend.

Baere, general manager of the Island Beach Resort in Jensen Beach and the first general manager at the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach, died Aug. 12 after a brief battle with brain cancer. He was 67.

Asset to the Waldorf

Born in Hanover, Germany, Baere came to the United States in 1963 and took a job as a waiter at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. He arrived in Palm Beach in 1991, overseeing the opening of the Ritz-Carlton. With strong business acumen and his winning manner, he quickly built it into one of the top resorts in the nation. Major ratings organizations such as AAA and the Mobil Travel Guide consistently recognized the resort and restaurant with four and five diamonds and stars.

Then in 2001, he left the glitz and glamor of Palm Beach for a little bit of old Florida. Teaming with his son, Wolfgang, he bought the Island Beach Resort and the adjoining Shuckers Ocean Bar and Grill in Jensen Beach.

“What am I doing here?” Baere joked as he oversaw the conversion of his new venture from 120 rooms to 60 suites. Three years later, his good humor still intact, he again asked the question as he stood in the rubble left by Hurricane Frances. He wasn’t about to quit, and eventually rebuilt.

An inspiring boss

“He was the most extraordinary general manager I have ever worked for,” former Ritz public relations director Deb Hurd once told The Palm Beach Post. “He’s inspiring.”

Baere had requested a small, family-only service.

 In a brief email to friends, son Wolfgang said, “He would also have wanted all of you to raise a glass, and say ‘Prost!’, to celebrate life.”

Prost! — to your life, Wolfgang.

Tags: Thom Smith's Society Bites

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Old Vs. New + 1925 Home Content - Toyota FJ Cruiser Forum // Sep 22, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    […] on him and found out he died of brain cancer at 67 years old. His story was pretty interesting: Society Bites: Losing a Host to Palm Beach – Wolfgang Baere, 67 I addition to managing the Ritz Carlton in West Palm he went on to purchase and run a fairly […]

  • 2 Lori // Aug 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Mr. Baere was the best gm in the world he treated me as a professional yet as a friend he and my father frank Porfido did many good things together from Rancho mirage to palm beach unfortunately we lost frank July 25 2009 then we lost Wolfgang a month later apparently great people need to be together I miss them very much but took everything they taught me to be a better person and teacher for any hotel too sad good man

  • 3 Nancy Kustermann // Aug 30, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Dearest Mr. Baere,

    As Director of Public Relations at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, I worked for and knew one of the world’s most incredible genteel, grand gentlemen. He loved The Ritz-Carlton, his guests, his family and life! He epitomized Cesar Ritz in his genuine care and comfort of his guests, his belief that we were all “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”. He brightened our world with his class and his grace. He will be missed by so many. Tonight, Mr. Baere, I was making reservations at The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island. When I worked for you, you said that when it was built that I could be the Director of PR there…
    Oh my, my love and sympathy goes to your family. You will be missed always by me and by all whose life you touched. You touched mine and my daughter Chrissy’s…. With love and amazing respect,
    Nancy…

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