SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — He was an insurance salesman who lived virtually all his life just a few miles from downtown Tampa, in a neighborhood where you could practically reach out your window and touch your neighbor's house.
But in his heart, Homer Singletary was a country boy. He loved nothing better than to spend time outdoors, especially fishing and hunting.
Just a couple of weeks ago, he called his son Dan, who lives in rural Georgia.
"He said, 'As soon as I get my legs back under me, I'm going to come back up there and hunt with you,' " Dan Singletary, whose full name is Homer D. Singletary Jr., recalled this week "That was on Saturday. He died on Sunday."
Mr. Singletary was 94 when he passed away Jan. 24 from a heart aneurysm.
In many ways, his family and friends said, Mr. Singletary was an ordinary man who worked hard all his life to provide for his wife, Mildred, who passed away last year not long after their 69th anniversary, and their three children.
It was his simple but inspiring outlook on life that set him apart.
"He'd say, 'Dan, you can have a good day or a bad day, and it's up to you to decide,' " his son said. "His office was nothing special, but his heart was extraordinary."
Besides the outdoors and his family, Mr. Singletary's greatest joys were helping people and working in various functions with his church. He joined Seminole Heights Baptist Church when he was a teenager and remained active there for the rest of his life.
Tom Pinner, his pastor, tells of a time when Mr. Singletary worked with a church program that provided food to needy families.
He was about to deliver food to a man's home, but stopped next door first to find out about the man.
The neighbor turned out to be the man's mother. Her son was a drunk, she said, and left his young daughters with her. Mr. Singletary said the daughters were more worthy than their father, so he left the food there instead.
Fifteen years later, a woman stopped by the church looking for Mr. Singletary. She was one of those daughters, then in her 20s.
"You said I had worth," she told him. "I decided then and there that I would be a Baptist and Christian like Mr. Singletary. I am here to tell you that I am both."
It was not unusual for Mr. Singletary to affect people so profoundly. He had made a conscious decision as a young man, his son said, to be kind, loving and respectful of other people.
"He touched a lot of lives," Pinner said. "You could call him a saint."
But he was also fun-loving and entertaining. He loved to regale friends with colorful stories from his life.
As a young man, he had been a Golden Gloves boxer. Before one bout, a friend told him the only way he could win was if he got his opponent angry. So when the two boxers were shaking hands, Mr. Singletary spat on him. He won the fight easily.
Although he had heart problems, he stayed active, hunting regularly with his son until he was 88.
He never got to make that hunting trip to Georgia that he spoke of the day before he died. But among his last wishes was a whimsical plan to spend eternity there.
His son will load his father's ashes into shotgun shells and use them to shoot skeet on a large tract of land Dan Singletary owns in Forsyth, Ga. Mr. Singletary's wife's ashes are scattered in a nearby flower garden that she especially loved.
"He wanted his ashes to be here," Dan Singletary said, "But he wanted us to have fun, too."
Besides his son, Mr. Singletary is survived by his daughters, Susan Jones and Zoe Roseman, his brother, Roy, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at [email protected]