Jon Allen was known in Key West as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and arts patron who transformed the rundown Island House guesthouse into one of the best gay resorts in the world. But Allen also was instrumental in Key West’s tourism, cultural and charitable endeavors.

Allen died Dec. 28, 2020 after a two-year battle with brain cancer. A celebration of his life took place on Dec. 2, 2021 at West Martello Tower, home of the Key West Garden Club.

Before moving to Key West in the late 1990s with his late partner, Marvin Kay, Allen had enjoyed successful careers with Montgomery Ward and Payless Shoes, turning the modest shoe retailer into the nation’s largest. But when he told Payless he was gay, he was fired, his obituary states. Allen sued for discrimination and won.

 In 1999, he bought the Island House in Key West. It was a risky renovation, executed to high standards, followed by a smart and energetic marketing campaign, the obituary states.

Allen also helped found the Key West AIDS Memorial and chaired the boards of the Florida Keys Community Foundation, Tropic Cinema and the Tourist Development Council’s District Advisory Council for Key West (known as DAC I).

In 2014, Allen moved to Santa Rosa, California where he met his future husband, Bobi Lorè. Four years later, after a glioblastoma was removed from his brain, the two moved back to Key West.


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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. She's married to a saintly — and handy — fisherman, and has been stringing words together in Key West since 1998.