I first met Bob and Marlene Bertino two decades ago, not long after they had founded Fantasy Gifts in 1980. From the get-go, they were very supportive of the GLBT community. They told me they made it a point to try to hire gay and lesbian people, because they were always excellent employees. Today, the Bertinos’s children carry on that tradition in operating the Fantasy Gifts chain of stores.
So, I was saddened to learn that Bob passed away on April 19 at the age of 70. He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Marlene, along with his children, Colleen, Robert, and Stevie DeGiulio. Memorials are preferred to St. Jude’s Children Hospital.
Colleen recently wrote on a blog, “When we opened, my Dad and Mom had little knowledge of the industry, and learned from customers and their suppliers. They took on the small-minded city governments, and won, blazing a path not only for Fantasy Gifts, but all of the small shops that now carry a few ‘adult items.’
“He was a New Jersey guy in the middle of the Midwest, and always a character. He had a wicked sense of humor, and could bring up information and trivia like no one else I knew. He loved my Mom, and hated when she was out of the room for even a few minutes. Family was very important to him.”