Coral Gables

Victim of Merrick Park shooting remembered as ‘the greatest person ever’

Janine Ackerman, right, was beloved in the Miami Beach hospitality scene. Her former colleague and roommate Tracy Egan, left, said she was "well-liked by everybody."
Janine Ackerman, right, was beloved in the Miami Beach hospitality scene. Her former colleague and roommate Tracy Egan, left, said she was "well-liked by everybody."

From her days at Florida International University to her time at some of Miami Beach’s best-known hotels, Janine Ackerman was well-loved on Miami’s hospitality scene. On Saturday, she was fatally shot by an employee at the Equinox gym she managed in Coral Gables. She was 35.

A gunman opened fire inside the Equinox fitness center at the Shops at Merrick Park early afternoon Saturday, leaving two dead and one person wounded at the upscale Coral Gables mall anchored by Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, police said.

Ackerman, a native of Monroeville, New Jersey, made her name in the industry by starting as supervisor of VIP services when the Fontainebleau reopened after a $1 billion renovation in 2008, and working her way up through several promotions. Her work ethic and success never changed her sweet nature, former colleagues told the Miami Herald.

“The entire team at the Fontainebleau is devastated at this senseless loss,” Phil Goldfarb, the hotel’s president and chief operating officer, said in an interview Saturday night. “She was warm and caring, and she was an expert at guest service. That’s why she excelled at what she did.”

READ MORE: Two dead, one wounded after gunman opens fire at Shops at Merrick Park

Goldfarb recalled watching her grow professionally from an FIU hospitality graduate to an hourly worker at the hotel to a high-level manager who handled guest services for the 1,600-room hotel that routinely attracts celebrity guests. Through it all, she maintained a reputation for being cool under pressure with a warm personality.

“She never looked flustered over any of that,” Goldfarb said. “She was just very, very focused, and always warm. And it all came from the heart.”

READ MORE: Trainer who opened fire at Coral Gables gym was popular with clients

Tracy Egan, a South Beach promoter who worked with Ackerman for six years at the Fontainebleau and lived with her for a time, choked back tears Saturday as she described Ackerman as “the greatest person ever” and very family-oriented. She fondly remembered the early days after the hotel reopened, particularly one day when they had to scramble to find food for actress Kate Hudson’s children when the hotel had yet to open any restaurants.

“It was overall a great experience,” Egan said. “She was the most amazing.”

Ackerman went on to hold other high-level positions at smaller South Beach hotels before joining Equinox.At the gym, she often saw many of her old colleagues who live in the Gables.

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