JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — Ask anyone, and they'll tell you Sterling Joyce always had a smile on his face and a starfish on his shoulder.
It's his signature smile that helped spread happiness throughout the Jacksonville Beach community over the past few decades. That and his starfish lapel pin he constantly wore to community events.
He passed away this week at the age of 71.
"We are saddened to hear of the passing of our friend Sterling Joyce. He was a truly a legendary individual, and we made it official when he was in the first class of "Beach Legends" in 2014," writes the Beaches Museum.
Joyce was the maitre d’ of the oceanfront Casa Marina Hotel and Restaurant for 10 years but was an active member in the beaches' community for much longer than that. He retired from Casa Marina in July of this year.
“It was just the perfect place for him. He love it there. He loved the people. He loved being a part of the events and love hosting events that helped benefit organizations in the community," said Jacksonville Beach Mayor Chris Hoffman.
"Kind, funny and as dapper as they come--Sterling Joyce was one of a kind," said Hoffman on Facebook. "He went above and beyond not just in his career serving others, but in service to his community as well..."
He was affectionately known by many as the 'Unofficial Mayor of Jacksonville Beach.'
"I loved bumping in to him at events (somehow he was at EVERY event!) and introducing him as the "Mayor of the Beaches", describes Hoffman. "Always got a chuckle out of him, but no one ever argued!"
“When you are greeted by sterling there’s a twinkle in the eye and there’s a huge smile and it’s a real smile and honest smile and he’s just a gracious man. He loved everyone and everyone love him. He just seem to know how to package the beaches in the right way," said Kurtis Loftus, founder of deck the chairs.
While living in Georgia, Joyce worked summers as a teenager at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club with his father, according to the Beaches Museum. He would later travel the world in the Air Force.
For the past several years, Sterling has celebrated his Dec. 14 birthday with a party at Casa Marina where he asks guests to bring canned food, toys and books for BEAM.
The Beaches Museum recognized Sterling as a "Beach Legend" in 2014.