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Charles Popper: Respected hotelier ran Sonesta Beach

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Charles F. Popper, the former head of the Sonesta Beach Resort in Southampton (Photograph from online)
Charles F. Popper, the former head of the Sonesta Beach Resort in Southampton (File photograph)
Charles F. Popper, the former head of the Sonesta Beach Resort in Southampton (File photograph)

Another hotelier from the old Sonesta Beach resort has died just ten days after former manager David Boyd.

Charles Popper, who preceded Mr Boyd in the job, was 85.

Mr Popper, originally from the US, devoted much of his career to the Sonesta hotel chain.

Mr Popper worked at hotels in London, New York City, New England and Florida, as well as at the South Shore resort.

He was president of the Bermuda Hotel Association and of the Hotel Employers of Bermuda, as was Mr Boyd.

Dennis Tucker, a former Sonesta president, said he had been hired by Mr Popper as chief accountant in 1976.

He said: “I very much enjoyed working with him, as he was somewhat of a taskmaster but very principled and of very high integrity.

“He was very focused on the efficient running of the hotel while ensuring we provided the best vacation experience for our guests.”

He said Mr Popper marketed the island as a destination through the Bermuda Department of Tourism and the BHA.

Mr Tucker added: “He moved on in the late 70s to take up a corporate position with Sonesta Corporation in Boston and returned to the Sonesta Bermuda in the early 80s, until David Boyd’s arrival in the late 80s.”

He said the father of four, who “enjoyed Bermuda immensely”, was “a great hotelier with vast experience and expertise which he generously shared with all he worked with”.

Mr Tucker added Mr Popper had become his mentor and helped shape his career in the industry.

David Dodwell Sr, who headed The Reefs in Southampton during Mr Popper’s tenure, said that Mr Popper helped his business after 1987’s Hurricane Emily knocked out the electricity supply.

The Sonesta, which had underground power, ran electric cables next door to The Reefs to power necessities like water and refrigeration.

Mr Dodwell said: “That’s the ultimate in being good friends and neighbours.

“We enjoyed a good relationship. He was a tough and fair manager, which the business appreciated and a great ambassador for Bermuda. His lovely wife Christine was very warm and friendly.”

John Harvey, another former president of the BHA, said that lending a hand to a neighbouring hotel was typical of Mr Popper.

He added: “That’s the type of guy he was. Charles was first-class – a professional from the beginning. He made sure everybody was succeeding.”

Mr Harvey said: “Charles was clear-thinking and thorough in his approach to the business and he always had colleagues and the industry at heart.

“He had huge respect from people like Jim Woolridge, the tourism minister of the day.”

Mr Popper and his wife made Friday night cocktail parties for guests a fixture at the hotel.

He went on to manage the Registry Resort, a major hotel on the Gulf coast in Naples, Florida after he left the Sonesta in 1989.

One of his specialities there was the popularisation of the then-new concept of eco-tourism.

Mr Popper’s funeral will be held today at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Venice, Florida.

Charles Popper, a hotelier and former manager of the Sonesta Beach Resort, was born on May 11, 1935. He died on January 18, 2021. He was 85.

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Published January 29, 2021 at 8:11 am (Updated January 29, 2021 at 9:18 am)

Charles Popper: Respected hotelier ran Sonesta Beach

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