TAMPA — The speakers at Dr. Ferdie Pacheco’s memorial on Thursday evening were asked to keep their remarks to under 10 minutes, and to refrain from using profanity.
They all thought that was pretty funny, of course.
"Like Ferdie ever spoke for less than 10 minutes … or avoided off color language," said longtime friend and La Gaceta publisher Patrick Manteiga.
Dozens came to pay their respects to the man known as "The Fight Doctor," the ringside physician to boxing legend Muhammad Ali. The memorial was held at the historic Centro Asturiano de Tampa building in Ybor City, the neighborhood where Dr. Pacheco grew up.
The physician died in his Miami home on Nov. 16. He was 89.
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Speaker after speaker recalled Dr. Pacheco while surrounded by his paintings, which adorn the Centro Asturiano dining room. Many said his greatest contribution to his hometown was telling the story of Tampa through his writings and art.
Dr. Pacheco’s roots in Tampa run deep, said Manteiga, who published much of his friend’s work in his weekly trilingual newspaper.
"Ferdie wanted to export our history the way Tampa used to export cigars," Manteiga said. "Ferdie’s writing showed the true Tampa, warts and all."
Aside from his medical career, Dr. Pacheco won two Emmy Awards during his two-decade career as a television boxing analyst and was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame and the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame.
But he also produced a gallery full of distinctive paintings and wrote six books.
"He was a true Renaissance man. He was the last Renaissance man," said E.J. Salcines, who served as Hillsborough County’s state attorney from 1977 to 1983 and later as a judge on the 2nd District Court of Appeal.
Salcines said he has known Dr. Pacheco since childhood. They probably met right there in the Centro Asturiano.
After growing up, Dr. Pacheco served in the Air Force during the Korean War. His father was a Ybor City pharmacist known for helping the poor, and Dr. Pacheco followed in his footsteps by opening his own clinic in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.
"He may have lived in Miami for 50 years," Salcines said, "but he was a true Tampaiño."
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The doctor’s wife of 47 years, Luisita Sevilla Pacheco, drove four hours from her Miami home for the Tampa memorial. There may have been more people at the Miami service, she said, but she felt closer to her late husband in his hometown.
"He is here," she said. "His spirt is here. I can sense him. I didn’t feel it so much in Miami, but I feel it here."
She talked about her husband’s accomplishments. But what stood out most to her, the wife said, was Dr. Pacheco’s altruism during his early days as a doctor.
That also impressed Ali. The two met at Miami’s 5th Street Gym, where Dr. Pacheco treated fighters. Later, Ali would say of his ringside physician: "He is the only white man down there helping poor people and the fighters. He never would charge any fighter no money. That’s why I like him. We both like to help people who need it."
The wife recalled the long lines of patients her husband would see in a single day.
"He used to treat the poor and those in the ghetto and charge them nothing or sometimes just $5," she said.
"His father told him, ‘If you get a medical degree, you need to do good with it and help others.’ So he did."
Contact Jonathan Capriel at [email protected] Follow @jonathancapriel.