Marathon was left reeling this past weekend as word of the unexpected passing of George Steinmetz began filtering across town. 

A celebration of George’s life is in the works and more details will be shared as they become available.

A respected businessman and former marine patrol officer, Steinmetz’s imposing frame belied a generous and affable nature that endeared him to – well, everyone. 

Those who knew him appreciated the altruistic nature of a gentle giant. Stories of him lending a hand, making a donation or offering advice would fill more than a book – we are talking volumes. 

Those who knew him best could fill another set of books about his exploits that we wouldn’t consider publishing due to the salacious nature of the content and legal ramifications of those fortunate enough to come into his orbit. 

George is survived by his wife Angie and her children Esteban and Jean, his second mom Maria (Riet) Steinmetz, brother Erik Steinmetz and children Alek Steinmetz, Chelsea (Evan) Lyons, and grandchildren Avery and Alric. He was preceded in death by his mother Jean and his father Arnie. 

Former FWC officer Bob Dube was busting looters in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew when he first met the young marine patrol deputy in 1992. 

“I thought there was a giant behind me,” he recalled. Later, Steinmetz would become the area captain. “He was well respected because he always put his officers first and he could ‘walk the walk.’ The only thing bigger than George was his heart.”

“I knew him since he was a teenager,” said former Marathon Mayor Mike Cinque. “Everyone will tell you the same thing – he was a gentle giant just like his dad. He was a sweetheart.” 

In 2007, his family’s construction company was contracted to rebuild the Castaway restaurant after the dining room collapsed into the canal. “George was a very, very good customer of mine,” said Castaway proprietor John Mirabella. “He loved sushi. He would eat a ‘Boat for 2’ by himself. That’s 78 pieces of sushi.”

“Instead of a big teddy bear as we all know him today, George was very intimidating as a marine patrol officer,” said Florida Keys Aquarium founder Ben Daughtry, who graduated from Marathon High School a few years behind George. The aquarium’s largest goliath grouper, Big George, is named in his honor. “He was such a likable, good person. We certainly share in all the sorrow that everyone else is feeling.”

“We both started in law enforcement in the early ’80s,” said Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Captain Don Hiller. “We always seemed to be working together. Later on we served together on the Pigeon Key board of directors. If you called, he would always answer.”

Recreational fishing captain Jason Long said George was always in his life as sort of a big brother. “He just made you smile every time you saw him,” Long said. “He always had a word of encouragement and sometimes all I needed from George was just a look.” 

Local attorney Rich Malafy says, “George was just a friend, he was a great friend. He was a friend that was always there when you needed and only asked for your friendship in return. I am honored to have known him and I will miss him immensely.”

Our friend George
By Kelly McKinnon
Pigeon Key Executive Director

There’s little I could write about my friend George that you wouldn’t know after a first brief interaction with him. A man whose imposing physical stature was overshadowed by his human nature. At all times he put the needs of others before those of his own. George served as the board chairman of Pigeon Key for over five years. He is personally and almost solely responsible for the success and survival of the island. George served at a time when the island was struggling, to say the least. Without his guidance, leadership and selflessness the foundation would not exist today. George personally supplied every single thing the island needed to operate in a time when the island needed everything and had nothing.

if you were fortunate enough to know George you would come to find out that he and his family had something to do with just about everything in Marathon as the town has grown: the original Marine Patrol, the fire department, the fireworks shows, and an unbelievable amount of building, including the finest dock in south Florida on Pigeon Key. Honest, hardworking and loyal, George lived up to the Steinmetz name – a family inconceivable in size as they make everyone their family.  It’s difficult to grasp the impact of the passing of such a unique human being, especially to this community that loves him so much. George, like his father, was one of those almost mythical figures you can’t believe has lived so much and so meaningfully. I’ve never met a person who simply loved more than George. We should all do everything we can to be like our friend George.

Jason Koler, born in Florida and raised in Ohio, is the “better looking and way smarter” Keys Weekly publisher. When not chasing his children or rubbing his wife’s feet, he enjoys folding laundry and performing experimental live publishing.