Martin Paul Hunter

Martin Paul Hunter of North Port passed away peacefully on February 6th, 2024, at the age of 80. He leaves behind two daughters, Harley Kate Cardinal and Shannon Amerilda Scielzo, and a son, Sean Patrick Hunter.

He had eight grandchildren, including Harley’s daughters Aurora and Harper, Shannon’s daughters Jade and Topaz, and Sean’s sons Rick, Christopher, Jacob and Matthew. He is survived by his two brothers Jim and Tom, and his sister Pat.

Marty was born in Schenectady, New York in 1943 to Walter and Violet Hunter, and attended Bishop Gibbons High School, where he played wide-out in football, and the tuba and French horn in the band. He attended college briefly, then set out traveling across the country with his new wife and son to find a place in the hospitality industry, eventually landing with Royal Inns of America in San Diego. He loved to tell the story of how he started out as a dishwasher and worked all the way up to General Manager. He applied his talents across the country, including Innisbrook Resort in Tarpon Springs, before settling in Orlando, Florida. He managed many hotels in the area, before becoming General Manager of the Gateway Inn. He expanded it from 200 to 400 rooms, and added a new lounge, restaurant, lobby complex and pool bar.

Marty was an innovator. He purchased buses so his property could offer transportation to Disney and other theme parks in the area, enabling the hotel to acquire lucrative tour group business from faraway places like England, Brazil, and Michigan, allowing the Gateway to remain full even during the slow season. He partnered with local high schools to create a program for special needs students to work at the hotel. He instituted a partnership with Valencia Community college to train students for careers in hospitality. He even bought the Orlando Police department a horse, when they had trouble patrolling traffic-jammed International Drive in the 1980s. Well-respected by his peers in the industry, he became the Chairman of the Central Florida Hotel and Motel Association, and then later the Florida version. He was one of the driving forces behind the expansion of the Orange County Convention Center into one of the nation’s largest, and a plaque hangs there recognizing his 30 years of “enthusiastic dedication to the hospitality industry of Central Florida.” He was also a dedicated member of SKAL, the largest travel and tourism association in the world.

He was once instrumental in apprehending a purse snatcher on International Drive. He witnessed the crime and tailed the assailant for miles, signaling a passing patrol car, a story that made the local newscasts and the pages of the Sentinel Star.

In the latter part of his career, he managed hotels around the country in places like Arcadia, Florida, Hendersonville, North Carolina, and Brownsville, Texas. He travelled all over the world including Brazil, Costa Rica, and his favorite destination, Thailand.

Marty was a dedicated family man as well. He was married three times, to Beryl Theresa Bayly, Jane Ellen Wamboldt, and Cheryl Pickles. In his later years, he especially enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren.

One of Marty’s favorite sayings was “If you find something you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” He will be remembered by many.

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