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ORMOND BEACH — Robert "Bob" Adams, the longtime CEO of Adams, Cameron & Co. Realtors, helped launch the careers of countless real estate agents in the Volusia-Flagler area, including several who became competitors.
Adams died on Jan. 11, just three months shy of his 80th birthday. As of Sunday, more than 1,000 people posted tributes on social media to the man described as a "legend," "great community leader," "prince of princes," "beautiful spirit," and even "GOAT" (Greatest of All Time).
Many of those who paid tribute to Adams were Realtors, not only from Adams, Cameron, but also other area realty firms.
Over the decades, Adams mentored thousands of real estate agents, estimates his eldest son John, president of Adams, Cameron, the area's largest real estate brokerage.
"Mr. Adams was like a second father to me," said Dwight Bailey, a longtime Adams, Cameron agent.
Susie Gordon, another Adams, Cameron agent, said, "There will never be another GrandBob," referring to Adams' nickname. "He was the kindest, sweetest, most generous mentor anyone could ask for. When the real estate market crashed (in 2007), he was always encouraging people that this, too, shall pass."
How Adams, Cameron got its start
Adams, Cameron was founded in 1963 by Helen Adams, Bob's mom, a few years after the family relocated to the Daytona Beach area from Buffalo, New York. Bob's parents briefly ran a motel in Daytona Beach Shores.
After graduating from Seabreeze High School in 1960, Bob Adams enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. "He was a radar mechanic, which is funny because he wasn't mechanically inclined," said his son John.
In 1965, after the military, Bob Adams returned to Daytona Beach to attend what is now Daytona State College and then the University of South Florida. He then landed a job in Miami as a mainframe computer salesman for RCA.
Adams married his wife Ryan Anderson who also graduated from Seabreeze. The couple returned to Daytona Beach in 1971 shortly before the birth of John, the first of their four children.
Bob Adams that same year agreed to join his mom's firm as a Realtor. "This is a much better place to raise kids than the big city," he recalled in a 2015 interview. "I thought I would give it a shot and it's worked out well since."
After earning his broker's license, Adams joined the firm's management ranks in 1977.
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Merger made realty firm the area's largest
In 1978, Adams brokered the merger of his family's firm with Cameron Realty. He became the president and CEO of the newly combined Adams, Cameron & Co. Realtors, which became the Daytona area's largest real estate brokerage. Helen Adams became chairwoman.
Today, Adams, Cameron has 300 agents with eight offices in both Volusia and Flagler counties. It also has an sister business called Adams, Cameron Title Company that Bob Adams launched in 1982.
Helen Adams remained active with Adams, Cameron until her death in 2013 at age 87. Her husband, John "Jack" Adams, a longtime area bank appraiser, died later that year.
Bob Adams in 2015 recalled, "We've had many offers to sell, but the answer is always no. In the early days, I had four kids coming up and figured this was an opportunity for some of them."
All four of Bob and Ryan Adams' children, at one time, were agents with Adams, Cameron. Their youngest child, Lauren, is now a landscape architect. Their second oldest child, Erin Adams Welch, is a speech pathologist, but still maintains a real estate license as a part-time agent.
Welch recalled, "When in the office, my dad used to refer to his mother as Helen. At home, she was 'Mom.' As we were growing up, we occasionally referred to my father as 'Bob' instead of 'Dad.'"
John Adams runs Adams, Cameron. Younger brother Ryan is one of the firm's top agents.
Devoted to family, community
Bob Adams served as president of the Daytona Beach Area Association of Realtors, a position his mother also held. He was named the area's Realtor of the Year in 1991, received a Special Merit Award in 1995, and was made an Honorary Lifetime Member in 2001. He also served on the board for the Florida Realtors association. He was also active in the Ormond Beach Rotary Club, including a stint as president. His passion for helping others resulted in being named a three-time recipient of Rotary International's Paul Harris award.
John Adams said his dad "wasn't much of a golfer," but liked taking part in charity tournaments as well as attending PGA professional golf events "for the social scene."
"His real hobby was socializing," said his son Ryan. "For my dad, the business part would always be secondary. He had a genuine interest in meeting people, learning about them and making connections."
Ryan and John Adams also recalled their father's passion as a gourmet chef. He had a whole library dedicated to cookbooks.
Friends, colleagues fondly recall 'big teddy bear'
Longtime friend Dick Brown, the retired former president and CEO of Hayward Brown Real Estate & Insurance in Daytona Beach, said when he and his brother decided to sell the real estate portion of their business in 2006, they immediately contacted Bob Adams.
"We didn't want our name associated with anybody else," said Brown. "He and his company were real estate royalty in Daytona."
Bill Chanfrau, the founder of Daytona Beach law firm Chanfrau & Chanfrau, is another longtime friend who watched Adams, Cameron grow over the years. "Helen was the original founder of Adams, Cameron, but Bob is the one who expanded it tremendously," he said.
Chanfrau said he and his family often vacationed in the Florida Keys with the Adamses when their children were growing up. "Boating was probably his favorite pastime," he said of Bob.
Adams' son Ryan recalled that his dad named the boat they had when he and his siblings were little the "Family Feud." "We'd often be joined by quite a few kids from the neighborhood."
Bill Navarra is the broker/owner of Realty Pros Assured in Ormond Beach, Volusia County's second-largest realty firm behind Adams, Cameron, with 255 agents and five offices.
Navarra credited Bob Adams with helping both him and Buzzy Porter, Realty Pros' other founder and partner, when they were starting out as agents with Adams, Cameron.
"Bob hired us. He was one of the most amazing business leaders I have ever known," said Navarra who teamed up with Porter to found their own firm in 2008. "He set the standard that Buzzy and I try to live up to with our own firm."
Marsha Evans Cooksey, an agent with Realty Pros Assured, was recently installed as the 2022 board president of the Daytona Beach Area Association of Realtors. She also got her start in real estate thanks to Bob Adams. "He was the one who hired me in 2005," the former high school teacher said. "Bob was always the essence of positivity."
Geri Westfall, the broker/owner of Geri Westfall Real Estate, was an agent with Adams, Cameron for 15 years before launching her own firm in 2019. Today, she has 47 agents.
"He was just the warmest person you could ever meet. Just a big teddy bear," said Westfall. "He knew all of our names as well as all of our kids and spouses. I try to emulate him by treating my agents like family. Bob and Helen started it and, in my opinion, it's how all small businesses should be."
A funeral service for Bob Adams will be held on Thursday, 10 a.m., at St. Brendan's Catholic Church, 1000 Ocean Shore Blvd. in Ormond Beach. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to the nonprofit Adams, Cameron Foundation in memory of Bob Adams. For details, call 386-253-8044.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Daytona Realtors pay tribute to late Bob Adams, CEO of Adams, Cameron