More than 200 mourners gathered to celebrate the life of Gerardo Seferlis, who owned Gerardo’s Marketplace in Miami Lakes for 24 years.
Seferlis, 58, died May 19 after an 18-month battle with cancer.
The three-hour-long memorial service filled with laughter and tears was held at the Miami Lakes Hotel on Main.
It was also attended by his wife and business partner Sabrina Seferlis, their daughter Gabriella and several relatives.
“We’re going to miss him,” said Stuart Wyllie, president and chief executive officer of The Graham Companies, which hosted the service at its hotel.
Wyllie frequented the market’s salad bar and was among 18 speakers at the service.
“He was an inspiration,” he said.
Seferlis was an immigrant success story, arriving from Panama to the U.S. in 1984 to attend college and study computers, according to a 1998 profile in The Miami Herald.
Market customers became like family after they visited the store and got to know him and Sabrina.
Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid recalled how Seferlis’ calm voice “would change the trajectory of my day.”
Cid fondly remembered Seferlis’ famous Thanksgiving turkey with its special sauce.
Former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas confessed to sometimes eating multiple meals a day at the market, and how he was amazed to see the hard-working Seferlis at Miami Lakes Athletic Club after the market had closed for the day.
Andrea Graham Rechichi, vice president of corporate relations for The Graham Companies and a longtime family friend, called herself one of the “gym rats” who did step classes with Seferlis.
Like other speakers, she described his love of dressing up for Halloween, and the time he impersonated the Cowardly Lion from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Friends said Seferlis was like a coach – whether for fitness, diet or coping with life’s challenges.
“He was always positive,” Graham Rechichi said. “He would always say, ‘It’s OK. You’ll be OK.’”
Speakers remembered how Seferlis sang off-key to Lionel Richie songs as he worked to perfect his English-speaking skills.
Nirma Pina, a supporter of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church and school, shared how when it came to feeding 50 people at Thanksgiving, the only help to be found was from Gerardo’s Marketplace.
“He fed our bodies well, but he fed our souls even more,” Pina said.
Seferlis opened his market in 1998 at age 34. He was already well known in the community after working for a decade at its predecessor, Gardner’s Market. Seferlis was promoted to manager before that store closed, according to The Miami Herald profile.
Shortly after, Seferlis opened a gourmet gift basket business.
Filled with goodies including wine and chocolate, they could cost up to $500.
He continued to create them as Gerardo’s Marketplace grew. Some corporate customers ordered them by the hundreds to give to clients during the Christmas holiday season.
Gerardo’s Marketplace at 15509 Bull Run Rd. is undergoing a renovation that was begun before Seferlis died.
Sabrina Seferlis said the market will remain open and that she and Gabriella will continue to serve their loyal customers.