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HomeNewsArchivesPioneer Hotelier Dick Doumeng Dies at 78

Pioneer Hotelier Dick Doumeng Dies at 78

Dick Doumeng (Photo courtesy of Doumeng family).Dick Doumeng, a pioneer in the territory’s hotel industry, died suddenly Monday night at home on St. Thomas. He was 78.

His son, Richard Doumeng, said Wednesday, “He was watching the Legislature’s hearing about the taxi laws,” adding that his father had called him to make sure he tuned in. Richard Doumeng said his father’s wife, Joyce, had gone shopping for a Thanksgiving turkey and, when she came home, “he was gone.”

Doumeng said his father had triple bypass surgery on his heart about a year ago and never fully recovered. This condition led to pulmonary fibrosis, and while he had been at his house in Florida, he was “hell bent” on going home to St. Thomas for the holidays, Doumeng said.

“Nobody, including the heart surgeon, told Dick Doumeng what to do,” Richard Doumeng said.

Fellow hotelier Nick Pourzal said that if things didn’t go his way, Dick Doumeng did not give up.

“He would drive you nuts till he finally convinced you,” Pourzal said. “He did not take lightly to losing an argument.”

The elder Doumeng left his mark on the territory as well as the region’s hotel industry. Born in Queens, N.Y., and following an early career in sales with Elgin and Hamilton watch companies, he moved to the territory with his family in 1969. His son said Doumeng developed Compass Point Marina, selling houseboat time shares called aquaminiums.

In 1974 Doumeng and his wife took over ownership of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort when it had just 37 rooms.

“He never took a hotel or restaurant class in his life. He became a student of the industry,” said Richard Doumeng, who now runs Bolongo Bay.

He said his father taught him it was the customers and coworkers that counted when it came to running a successful hotel.

“And to work like a dog all day,” he said.

Dick Doumeng was president of the St. Thomas/St. John Hotel Association in the 1970s, serving in that capacity six different times. He also served as a regional vice president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and held the position of CHTA director for 20 years.

In 1988 Dick and Joyce Doumeng received the Golden Conch Award when they were named Hoteliers of the Year by CHTA, making them the first and only husband and wife team to win this prestigious honor.

Locally Doumeng became one of the first hoteliers to serve on the St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce board of directors and as its vice president.

All of his business ventures have been in tourism. He owned and operated charter boats, four hotels and seven restaurants.

Doumeng founded or led the St. Thomas Dive Club, Captain Yellowbird Whale Bar and Disco, the relocation of the Cartanser Senior to create a shipwreck dive site, the Community Crime Committee and the Solid Waste Pilot Project.

Pourzal said that Doumeng was an extremely influential man who developed many methods and systems still used in today’s hotel industry.

Doumeng was generous with his knowledge. Pourzal said that when he arrived in 1974 to close down Frenchman’s Reef Hotel, now Marriott Frenchman’s Reef Beach Resort, Doumeng showed him the ropes.

Lisa Hamilton, current president of the Hotel Association, said that Doumeng was quick to encourage people in the hotel industry.

“He was always developing people,” Hamilton said.

As word of Doumeng’s death circulated around the community, top government officials sent their condolences.

“Dick was a friend, mentor and fierce supporter of mine,” Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty said. “He was the hotelier that recommended me for the position of executive director of the Hotel and Tourism Association in the early 1990s. He helped to elevate my profile in the industry and, for that, I will always be grateful. His voice will be missed.”

Gov. John deJongh Jr. credited Doumeng with the growth of the territory’s small hotel industry. “He advocated for the development of small hotels knowing that there was a unique place in the industry for such facilities,” deJongh said.

The governor said he first met Doumeng when he was a commercial banker at Chase Manhattan Bank. Doumeng’s was his first account.

“He was aggressive and tough and knew what he wanted but he was equitable and willing to work to the conclusion,” the governor said. “He promoted the best that the Virgin Islands had to offer.”

In addition to his wife of nearly 40 years and son, Richard, Doumeng is survived by children, Paul, Laura, David and Maria, as well as their spouses Katarina, Colleen and Patricia Doumeng and Jack Livingston.; his grandchildren, Mikael, Danielle, Nicole, Jonathon, Dylan, Dominique, Noah, Jessica, and Charlotte; and his nephew, Scott Nieboer.

Richard Doumeng said, as per his father’s wishes, there will be no funeral service. Plans for a memorial service are pending.

Donations in Doumeng‘s memory can be made to Boys and Girls Club, Oswald Harris Court Community Center, St. Thomas, VI 00801; Lucky Paws Foundation, P.O. Box 8209, St. Thomas, VI 00801; or a charity of your choice.

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