Two of Roy Rollins’ favorite past times were the beach and the bars. According to friends he loved the sun, and he loved his drinks. Rollins’ friends also remember his unwavering kindness and generosity.
Rollins died from COVID-19 on April 17. He was 65.
“When Roy came to town, every bar ordered more oranges because he had to have three slices of oranges in his cocktail,” said Dean Knapp, a close friend.
While Jeff Riley, another close friend, said: “He lived on the beach. The sun and the beach were his life.”
So much so that some people knew him as the “Mayor of Sebastian Beach.”
Rollins was a well-known fixture in the nightlife of Wilton Manors, as well as in the LGBT community of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Knapp said he’d often go from bar to bar at night visiting his favorite bartenders from Mona’s to DrYnk.
“The evenings always started out with me,” said Knapp, who bartends at Mona’s. “Roy supported all of the bars. But he always ended up at Johnson’s.”
Rollins and Knapp met 15 years ago when he worked at the now-defunct Dude’s Bar.
“Every time he walked into the room, everybody smiled,” he said.
Riley met Rollins more than 30 years ago at one of his “world-famous” Halloween parties that he hosted each year at his home in Norfolk.
“Roy was just one of a kind,” Riley said. “He was probably the kindest and most generous person you would ever come across. He did anything and everything he could for his friends, family, strangers.”
Rollins was born in Poquoson, Virginia. He moved to Fort Lauderdale from the Norfolk, Virginia area where he co-owned Norfolk Florist and Gifts and sponsored a local gay softball team.
“He put up with me for all of those years,” said Steve Kavanaugh, his business partner since 1986. “I could always count on him.”
Rollins retired seven years ago. He started in the floral industry when he was just 16 years old as a delivery driver.
“Every year for my birthday there would be flowers all over the bar,” Knapp said. “He was always organizing birthday parties, organizing events. He was like a social director.”
Rollins also owned a house in Rehoboth Beach where for decades he spent weekends during the summer.
In 1990 Murray Archibald and his husband founded CAMP Rehoboth, which later became the local LGBT community center. A few years after its founding its leaders embarked on an expansion project to purchase and renovate a building in downtown Rehoboth. In order to make that happen they launched the CAMP Rehoboth Founders' Circle to raise the funds. Rollins was a member of the Founder’s Circle.
“Roy was a part of the Rehoboth Beach community for many years, and yes, he was an early supporter of CAMP Rehoboth,” Archibald said. “Roy was also a longtime supporter of Sundance, CAMP Rehoboth's largest fundraising event.”
Besides CAMP Rehoboth, Riley said HIV charities were especially important to Rollins.
“We had a very good friend who died of AIDS. Roy took care of him till the day that he passed. He cleaned him. He changed him,” Riley said. “That was back in the days when no one even wanted to be near an AIDS patient. But Roy took care of him till his dying day.”
Long before Rollins moved to Fort Lauderdale he owned a home here, and would visit often.
“When people would ask him for something, Roy would help them out in a heartbeat,” Knapp said.
Howard Andrew recently dedicated one of his twice-weekly food giveaways in Wilton Manors to Rollins.
Because of the new restrictions in place at hospitals because of the coronavirus, no one had been able to visit Rollins at Holy Cross.
“Roy was always there for everyone else but nobody could be there for him [in his final days],” Riley said, barely holding back tears. “That was the most heartbreaking thing of all.”
Rollins is survived by his mother Virginia Rollins, brother Marvin “Bubba” Rollins, and his sister Cathy Losares.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to CAMP Rehoboth, ACCESS AIDS Care and the Poquoson Volunteer Fire Department.