Remembering Bob….

Bob with Lori Levinson, Diane Colonna, Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Musco, Jon Levinson and Ron Hoggard during a conference out west.

On paper, Bob Costin and I shouldn’t have been friends.

He was tall. I’m short.

He loved the Red Sox, I love the Yankees.

He was a Republican, I’m a Democrat.

He wasn’t keen on Chinese food and loved lobster. I live for orange chicken and can’t even look at a lobster.

Bob Costin was 30 years older than me when we lost him last week. He lived a long and very good life, but losing him sure does hurt.

He’s family.

Diane and I love Bob and his lovely wife Sonya.

We are not alone.

Everyone who knew Bob —and there were many —loved him.

He was warm, funny, optimistic, smart, sensitive, caring, open-minded and lived one heck of a life.

Bob when he was president of FTD at the White House with Betty Ford. This image is in the Ford Presidential Library.

Bob and Sonya owned Costin’s florist in downtown Delray for decades and Bob became president of FTD, rising to the top of his profession. He travelled the world for FTD and was famously in Iran when the Shah was overthrown. He and his contingent had to run through the airport to escape when the country fell to the Ayatollah.

He told stories with gusto and wit and we hung on every word. I will miss those stories.

And I’ll miss the calls when we discussed the news of the day. We were different people from different generations but we always found common ground.

Diane grew close to Bob when he served as a CRA commissioner. He was a really good CRA commissioner and very supportive of staff and his fellow commissioners.

He would later run for and serve a term on the City Commission. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Bob on the dais. We called him the “high commissioner” in deference to his 6’5” height.

I relied on Bob. I truly did.

I valued his experience and his common sense wisdom.

He was the opposite of me in terms of temperament, and I needed his quiet mentoring.

He was calm, I was high strung. He had decades of perspective; I was still a young man in my 30s.

You can see Bob’s nameplate in this shot. He was a calming influence on the dais.

Having Bob on the commission gave us confidence and I knew he had my back. He had a sparkle in his eye when he looked at you that put you at ease even during the tensest of moments.

I knew he believed in what we were doing and that gave me comfort. He had a gentle way of framing issues and injecting humor and common sense into the conversations we were having with each other and with the community.

We were change agents. We were moving things forward, making noise, pushing ideas and driving hard and fast. But we were also having fun—largely because of Bob.

He set the tone.

And he calmed the waters too.

Bob would amble over to The Green Owl every morning where there used to be a table of civic fathers (all men, no women) who sat and held court.

I liked all the men who sat at the table—Ernie Simon, Mayor Leon Weekes, Charlie Gwynn, Ken Ellingsworth, Bob Miller, and a few others. All civic giants; all long-term players.

I think most were OK with me, but I wasn’t a peer. I wasn’t one of them. Bob was.

And if they had a beef with a decision we made, Bob explained the rationale behind the vote and smoothed the waters.

He knew how to lead with grace. Even when he disagreed with you; he was affable. He showed respect for others and he was respected by all as a result.

Bob Costin was old school.

A flip phone. No email.

When we would comment on the large volume of emails we were getting on a hot issue, Bob would smile.

“I didn’t get any,” he would say. “My modem must be down.”

And then he would laugh, that big, garrulous, wonderful and warm laugh.

I wish I had a dollar for every time he used the “modem” line which was always followed by that laugh.

I liked so much about Bob, but I loved three things the most.

First, his hunger for knowledge and his ability to keep an open mind.

Sometimes people of a certain vintage get a reputation of being closed off to change. Not Bob. He was willing to try things. Willing to take a leap.

“We have to keep up with the times,” he’d say. “People will understand.”

Bob and Diane in front of the Costin’s rock star RV.

I also loved how much he was devoted to Sonya, a teacher who ended up working alongside Bob at the florist. They were quite a pair, married for 65 years.

They did so much together. Travel, RV adventures, a dream lake house in Georgia and an occasional Red Sox game. Ugh, those Red Sox.

Bob would call me if the Sox beat the Yankees and rub it in.

I was not above giving it back to him.

When we invited Bucky Dent to get a proclamation on the 25th anniversary of his epic home run to beat the Sox at Fenway in 1978, Bob whipped out a Red Sox cap as Bucky came to the mic.

It was an epic moment. And everyone, including Bucky, laughed.

They traded some good natured barbs and a special moment was made immortal.

Bob used to joke that he lived on Federal Highway before living on Federal Highway was cool.

The Costin’s had a cottage on U.S. 1 where Putt N Around now sits. He lived there before the townhomes made the neighborhood fashionable.

His cottage was moved and is now an office in the Old School Square Historic Arts District.

I drive by it frequently and last week when I passed by, I got a lump in my throat.

I remember Bob calling from Georgia and asking about his house after a hurricane. Would I go by and check on it?

Sure, Bob.

Of course, I would tell him that it was gone, trying my best to sell that story, but all I heard was that laugh.

“You know Jeff,” he would say. “I would’ve emailed you, but my modem is down.”

Bob served two years on the commission, opening a seat for Rita Ellis to secure. Rita would follow me as mayor.

We continued to stay in touch, often going to dinner—but never Chinese.

“Next time, Jeff,” he would say.

So, we kept going to Longhorn and a few times to Il Girasole.

We talked Delray. We talked national news. We met up at a wedding in Italy. We met Bob and Sonya’s  RV friends and we avoided Chinese food and email. And we talked about my kids.

And that’s my third favorite thing about Bob. He was genuinely concerned for your kids and family. He adored Commissioner Jon Levinson and his wife and their three daughters and attended many a dinner at their home, including holidays.

When I got Covid, Bob, who finally got a smart phone, texted me encouraging words. Every single day.

Don’t give up. He wrote.

You’ll be ok. He texted.

And I didn’t. And I was. Eventually.

Lately, Bob was sick.

Diane and I went to see him. He smiled. He looked different but still had that wonderful voice. His last words to us was “I love you guys.”

We said it back.

And now that he’s gone, I realize something. Bob’s modem was never down.

A modem is a device that that is used to transmit and receive information.

That was our Bob.

He brought us information from a place of goodness, kindness and love.

Love for people, love for community, love for Delray Beach.

We will miss this man. He was the high commissioner, a wonderful man and a friend to so so many.

We love you Bob.

The Costin’s in Georgia with Chuck and Pam Halberg.


  1. Jon Levinson says

    Absolutely outstanding. Thanks for doing this. I saw Bob the
    day before we left on our trip to NYC and Orlando. I knew it was
    probably the last time I’d see Bob. I just knew. I had been talking
    to them every day assisting with arranging his transfer out of the
    Skilled Nursing Center in Boca either to Harbour’s Edge rehab or
    to Hospice depending on his condition when the transfer would
    take place. Turns out it was to hospice last Tuesday. On Wednesday
    Lori and I were inside a Broadway play in NYC while babysitting our
    3 grandkids up there. My phone rang which I couldn’t answer but
    I knew he was gone. When we left the play we immediately called
    his niece who has been here from Georgia for a couple of months
    helping out. I broke down right in the middle of the street in
    Manhattan. I had to hand the phone to Lori while I composed
    myself. Guess it was all the pent up emotions of losing my own
    Dad this year, plus the closeness we had built up with the Costin’s
    over our decades of friendship. As you say, he was a special man.

    I was going to email Sonya a love note but then remembered
    that more than likely their modem was down and it wouldn’t go
    through. Rest well my friend. We got things covered here.

  2. Patti Carlino says

    I didn’t know Bob personally but I knew of his florist shop.
    Thanks to Jeff, I feel as if I knew Bob for years.
    Thank you Jeff for your wonderful tribute to him.
    He will be missed by many.

  3. Rosemary Nixon says

    Lovely tribute and a great example of people from different generations working and learning together.

  4. o Kenning says

    With tears in my eyes, thank you Jeff for all the beautiful words and sharing the wonderful Bob Costin with everyone. He was “one in a million” and will always be remembered fondly.

  5. Joe Gillie says

    Bob loved and understood Old School Square.. Very Quietly he would write checks to the center for kids to come to a performance or an art class… wanted no recognition just the joy of dropping by and seeing those kids on campus… Bob taught me much and I am extremely grateful…

  6. Anne Gannon says

    I loved his yearly calls about his driver license and making sure his taxes were paid in full. No matter where he was he called.

    He came from a time of gentlemen and caring people. I will miss your call.

  7. Bill Wood says

    There are many in Delray I consider “favorites” – Bob was at the top of my favorite people list. He was truly special.

  8. Kerry Koen says

    Bob Costin was a “helper”. He was always there to give his insight and thoughtful opinion to a young Fire Chief wanting to do the right thing. He was part of a special “back bench” that I could count on to “tell me straight” what i needed to know to do the best for the citizens of our community. I am eternally grateful for his advice and his love for Delray Beach and those who called Delray home. Thanks Mr. Commissioner !

  9. Choked up. No, crying.

    We all loved you Bob… thank you for the memories, the flowers, the leadership and most of all the friendship.

  10. Frances Bourque says

    He would walk across the street with a rose in his hand, I would look up, way up, with a smile and he would say with that twinkle in his eye, “What you all are doing here is like a beautiful bouquet for Delray!” If he had not loved Soyna so much and I loved my own special Bob, I might have walked back across the street with him. God gave him height so we would not miss his goodness. Love and prayers to Soyna, who selfishly shared Bob with each of us.

  11. John & Charity Spaulding says

    If it were not for Jon and Lori’s parties, John and I would not have met Bob and Sonja, so thank you again Jon and Lori for sharing the most cherished ones you know.
    Bob was the most amazing, caring man John and I came to know over the last fifteen years.
    He cared and he made everyone feel warm and fuzzy with his stories .
    We enjoyed having Thanksgiving and weekend dinners at our Delray home and looked forward to Bob’s stories and jokes. We deeply admired Bob as someone who did not have an “agenda” , only the best and loving affection for his friends.
    We will miss him terribly.

  12. Tom Murphy says

    Your eloquent and loving tribute to our beloved friend Bob resonated deeply with me and I know everyone who read your words.
    I cannot thank you enough for this heartfelt valedictory of an extraordinary man.
    He touched all of us who were lucky enough to be in his orbit.
    Tom Murphy

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Thank you so much Tom.
      Bob told me often how much he loved and respected you. We were blessed to have him in our lives.

  13. Marlene Bergeron says

    Thank you Jeff for this loving tribute. Bob was a cousin on my late husband’s side of the family. Bob was truly an admirable man and modest as I learned some things about his life that I did not know of. For the past few years (before covid) we would go see Bob and Sonya when they were in Vermont in September. My two sister-in-laws (Pierrette and Micheline) and I would go meet them in Newport VT and go have lunch at a restaurant near the lake. It was always a joy to see them and spend the day with them. Bob had an interest in his family ancestry and asked me if I could find some information as I do a lot of genealogy. I was pleased to do so and the next time we met I gifted him with a lot of written information and records all the way back to the first Costin arriving in Quebec. He was absolutely thrilled.
    Every year we would look forward to seeing Bob and Sonya with excitement. Bob will be deeply missed by us all.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Dear Marlene, thanks for sharing this wonderful memory. Bob was a fascinating man. I deeply appreciate you sharing. I’m so sorry for your loss. We will miss him so much.

  14. John and Debi Weaver says

    I came to know Bob through my service on the board of the CRA. Not only did we get to share in the exciting development being envisioned for our home city of Delray Beach but we were given the special opportunity to share in the development of a lasting friendship.

    Over the years Debi and I enjoyed spending time with Bob and Sonya. We shared meals at Kelly’s Landing, one of Bob’s favorites…haddock, lobster rolls, and clams! Not to mention there just happens to be Boston Red Sox memorabilia!!!

    When in North Georgia we would get together at our home or their Lake Burton home for a visit to catch up, share stories, some laughs, and always a meal somewhere in the mountains. We were treated to a few “Bob guided” pontoon boat tours on Lake Burton as well…always a great way to spend a couple of hours together and enjoy the beautiful surroundings!

    Whenever and wherever we visited, Bob, being the thoughtful and caring man he was, never failed to ask about our family members. He also stayed in touch by sending birthday cards over the years always with a kind note from him and Sonya.

    For well over two decades Bob served as our official RV travel adviser. We have stayed in several of his recommended “RV haunts” that turned out to be some of our best loved experiences!

    We will cherish every minute and memory we shared. To have known him, loved him, and called him our dear friend has been an honor and a blessing.

    In loving remembrance,
    John and Debi Weaver

  15. Jeff, you write in the style of those who understand the importance of life. Costin flowers brightened hearts when we rejoiced and when we wept. No better man to be in the flower business.

    Spitefulness was never in the room if Bob Costin was there. To all my colleagues of the Costin state of mind, l thank you for being in Delray at the right time and at the right place.

    Michael Weiner

  16. Carl C. Carter says

    Bob and Sonya are our neighbors here on lone pine road and we love the sentiments you expressed so well..

    Bob was a gentle giant, a kind man who respected everyone and loved our village by the sea.. He and Sonya shared a great love that inspires us all to be kind to each other.

    We will miss his sense of humor and his great humanity. Rest well dear friend.

    Fondly, Carl Carter and Cindy Federspiel

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Thanks so much for sharing Dr. Carter and Cindy. Bob had such kind words for you. He loved his oasis on Lone Pine Road. Best, Jeff

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