Air Force pals Vince McGilvra and Tom White were looking for a way out of Alaska when they co-founded Skipper’s Smokehouse together in 1980, but McGilvra got out of operating the storied, uniquely-Floridian Tampa venue first.
“Son of a gun beat me to it,” White told CL in an email on Monday morning.
A few hours later, White—who became instant brothers with McGilvra when they met in 1971—would have the tough task of honoring his friend who died on Oct. 13 at the age of 75.
“We should do a quick toast, I’m getting thirsty, and that’s how Vince would've liked it,” White told a crowd of friends and family gathered at Skipper’s where McGilvra was known as “The Windwalker.”
White—who was lucky enough to break his own foot in 2020, leading to McGilvra cooking him meals for an entire summer—ran off stories about his best friend who was a world traveler, sportsman and master stapler, too.
McGilvra stepped down from day-to-day management of the venue in 2008, but White told CL that more than a decade later, with the venue on the ropes, his friend fell in love with the drive that Larson had for re-opening Skippers after a nearly year-long, pandemic-induced closure.
“He was glad she took over the day-to-day ops of Skippers from me and had 100% confidence she could take it to the next level, which I do as well,” White said. Truth is White and McGilvra—both self-proclaimed softies—never had the heart to make the hard decisions for the venue.
“He always told me, ‘the blue sky of retirement is MO better and encouraged me to come on in.. the water’s fine,’” White said.
One day, White will step completely away from Skipper’s, but for now he’s tasked with living out his own life the way McGilvra did.
“He truly was pure of heart and loved everyone,” White said, “and embodied our philosophy that hospitality in its purest form is the love of a stranger.”
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