He is well known on the island, 88 year old Rudy Dovale, who is commemorating his 40-year Sunfish and Boston Whaler dealership in Curaçao this year. Despite his advanced age, he is still up and around in the business. Over the years he sold 450 Sunfish in Curaçao and made the single boat hugely popular on the island.
As a son of Curaçao parents, Dovale was born in Brooklyn, New York in the United States in 1921 and came to Curaçao in 1948. The stay, which was meant to be brief, got out of hand. After 61 years, Rudy Dovale is still active on the island, and does not have any current plans to leave his chosen home.
Two years after he arrived, Dovale launched his advertising agency and immediately strengthened it by introducing creative promotional ideas and marketing methods which local business people were clearly ready for. Curaçao merchants needed advertising for both the local market and for the tourist sector, and Rudy was ready to serve their needs. The territory was virginal. There were no television stations as yet, and only one radio station. Print media consisted of two dailies and two weeklies, and initially none were granting advertising agency commissions.
There were, however, five movie theaters and they displayed advertisements on the screen during intermissions. With the help of his former wife Helen, a commercial art graduate from Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, Dovale quickly learned how to produce color slides on glass.
Also early in 1950, he began assisting the few hotels on the island with their advertising needs and sought to become the prime marketing catalyst for the airlines as well.
In those days, Curaçao was fast becoming the first shopping paradise for cruise ship passengers, and downtown Punda was quick to climb on the bandwagon. That was just up Dovale’s alley. The shop keepers needed brochures and window display expertise for the cruise market as well as the local customers. For forty years, from the fifties up through the eighties, RJ Dovale Advertising was the area representative for such prestigious publications as the New York Times and Time Magazine, and won international awards.
In his spare time Rudy developed a passion for sailing and bought Tranquillo, a Colombia 43.
In 1960 Rudy and Helen launched Holiday Publications, producing tourism newspapers, magazines and guides which contained detailed information about the history, geography, culture, customs duty and airline information of the islands, everything a visitor needs to know. Curaçao Holiday was the first publication, followed quickly by one for Aruba, St. Maarten and then Bonaire.
When Helen left the company, Rudy’s present wife, Jacqueline Dovale-Graafland, together with Milly Kooy and Terry Dovale, saw to it that Holiday Publications grew into a media phenomenon, publishing more than one million copies a year, and serving the tourist industry incomparably.
During his more than 60 years as a tourism professional, Rudy Dovale was a charter member of the Caribbean Tourism Association, the Caribbean Travel Association, the International Advertising Association, International Public Relations Association, SKAL International, Toastmasters, Curaçao Hospitality and Tourism Association (CHATA) and Downtown Management Organization (DMO). At one time or another he has served as the president or as a member of the board of these organizations. He has also served as president of Rotary Curaçao, and is the sponsor of the annual Sunfish race which bears his name and was sailed for the 27th time this year.
In his home at Spanish Waters, Rudy still keeps an eye on all sailing activities from his rocking chair on the porch or from his private watchtower attached to his house. As far as his health allows him, he responds to frequent invitations to social events, and is always laughing and amusing.
It’s obvious that Rudy still loves Curaçao—and Curaçao surely loves this charismatic person. It can be said that the island would not have been the same without him.
Els Kroon is a Dutch former teacher who now lives and works as an award-winning free-lance photojournalist on Curacao.