Frank and Joe's Memorial Fountain
At the intersection of North Roosevelt Boulevard and Jose Marti Drive
Key West, FL 33040
This fountain became operational the first time on Monday, November 28th, 2016. The ribbon cutting was held on December 5th, 6:00 PM 2016.
There are various nozzles used on this fountain, so the patterns can change.
Frank Romano and Joe Liszka were partners in life and business for over 50 years. When Frank passed away, Joe decided he wanted to build a fountain in honor of Frank and as a thank you to the people of Key West for all they had given him.
There have been many challenges to get and keep this fountain operational. At this time, the City of Key West Public Works is doing an excellent job of making sure it keeps running for everyone to enjoy.
Frank Romano - Born August 19, 1922. Died May 19, 2011
Joe Liszka - Born February 9, 1930. Died October 14, 2015
From Mandy Miles in the Key West Citizen - Thursday, October 15, 2015
"He just loved Key West so much."
Key West businessman, philanthropist, tourism pioneer and marketing expert Joe Liszka used those words to describe his partner in life and business, Frank Romano, upon Romano's death in May 2011.
Four years later, people were using the exact same sentence to describe Liszka, who died Wednesday en route to Lower Keys Medical Center for pneumonia-related complications. He was 85.
"Joe was really the kindest, most generous man you could ever meet," his close friend Campbell Cawood said Wednesday, choking back tears. "He was truly a class act, and it's nice to think of him and Frank being together again."
Cawood added that Liszka had been planning a memorial fountain for the pond next to the Key West Police Station on North Roosevelt Boulevard to pay tribute to Romano.
"I just talked to him about the fountain when we had dinner the other night, and Joe told me it was in the city's hands now, so hopefully, that can come to fruition for both of them," Cawood said.
For 54 years, Liszka and Romano traveled the world, joined their lives, built a multi-million-dollar business - and shared a passion for the island they discovered together in the late 1960s.
The pair moved in 1970 to Key West, where they founded Key West Aloe sunscreen and cosmetics company upon learning of the healing properties of the aloe vera plant from a Key West native, who treated Romano's sunburn with a plant from his yard.
Liszka, a Chicago native, was one of the founders of Key West's Fantasy Fest. He, along with Romano, and fellow business owners Tony Falcone and the late Bill Conkle, created the event upon noticing the perfect fall weather in the Keys - but the empty hotel rooms.
In addition to creating the island's largest tourism event, Liszka and Romano pioneered the town's efforts to levy a tourism tax paid by hotel guests to help market Key West as an international destination. The tax also led to the creation of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
"Frank was more on the production side of things with Key West Aloe, and Joe was the marketing genius for such things," said Stuart Newman, whose public relations company, Stuart Newman & Associates, was hired in the 1980s to market and promote the Florida Keys once the bed tax was being collected. "They were an immense factor and a huge part of tourism marketing for Key West and the Florida Keys. They were both absolute visionaries who formed a super team, and Joe Liszka was truly an asset to your community."
The pair met on a blind date in the 1960s, said Frank Romano's niece, Kim Roman, who was 12 years old when her uncle Frank introduced her to his "friend," Joe.
"Joe was always the calm presence next to my fiery force-of-nature Sicilian uncle," Kim Romano said, recalling Joe's dedication to their family, despite Frank's Sicilian mother, who was never one to keep her opinions to herself.
"You know, there's no societal obligation for someone like Joe to look after and commit to his partner's niece and her son, but I always felt that Joe was in my corner," Kim Romano said.
"And god bless him for putting up with my Sicilian grandmother for so many years," she added. "Nana used to take every opportunity to say, in front of Joe, 'You know, Frank could have any woman he wants.' And I would tell her, 'But Nana, Frank wants Joe. They're partners.' And then years later, in 1980, Frank and Joe took Nana and I on a 30-country Mediterranean cruise, although I think I was only invited to run interference between them and Nana."
Liszka's death on Wednesday was a sad occasion for Key West and Romano, but the sadness, she said, was tempered by Liszka's strong conviction that he would see the love of his life again.
"Joe really believed he'd be united with my uncle again, and that's what got him through these past few years without him," Kim Romano said. "So I'm sure they're together again somewhere, having a drink and making their next larger-than-life plans."
After a pause, Kim Romano added, "You wanna know the only thing that ever annoyed me about Joe? He always had a smaller waist than me."