BELLEAIR — A few summers ago, Scotty Schenck, 21, worked as an intern in the photo department of the Tampa Bay Times, seeing several photos and articles published in print and online. His mother, Robin Schenck, made sure to clip his work and share it with his grandfather, her father, Robert Carr.
"My grandfather had Alzheimer’s for many years,’’ said Scotty Schenck, who just completed his last semester at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. "By the time I had the internship it was tough for him. But my mom said she could tell (the newspaper clips) made him happy. My grandfather was a proud man who loved his family.’’
Robert E. "Bob’’ Carr, a longtime resident of Belleair, died on Dec. 16 at age 94. He was known in the community for many projects. He and his wife, Wilsie Wingfield, owned several travel agencies that dotted Pinellas County’s landscape from 1960 through most of the 1980s. He also was a 30-year Eastern Airlines sales executive, who in 1975, along with wife and Myra Chandler Haas, founded the Belleair Bee and later the Largo Leader and Beach Bee (The publications now are published by Tampa Bay Newspapers, which, along with the Times, is part of the Times Publishing Co.)
While his wife and Chandler Haas (who died in 2013) were the faces of the newspaper, socializing in the community, Carr stayed in the background overseeing the business side. In a 2005 Tampa Bay Newspapers interview, Chandler Haas, who also owned Wicker World in Belleair Bluffs, described the trio’s relationship this way: "Bob was business manager, Wilsie was the idea person and I was the writer. My kids delivered it, and our offices were upstairs at Wicker World,’’ she said. "I had a typewriter, telephone and a note pad. That was about it.’’
Although Scotty Schenck primarily remembers his grandfather for other things — Carr’s commitment to family, for example — he says his newspaper work set a good example for others.
"Having a community newspaper can bring people together,’’ Scotty Schenck said. "I think a lot of people forget about that because of the size of media corporations these days. The power of local news can’t be overstated.’’
When Carr was a child, he never planned on leaving his hometown of Denver, according to his daughter. An orphan at age 7, he depended on relatives during his childhood, Robin Schenck said. "It was a simple beginning.’’
His first job, with the Trailways bus system, came while he went to night classes to finish high school. After he obtained his diploma, he moved to St. Louis, newly hired by the Greyhound bus line.
"My dad said that it was while he was driving down a road in St. Louis that he noticed a ticket office for Eastern Airlines," Robin Schenck said. "They were increasing their flights to New York.’’
In his first job with Eastern, he did everything — reservations, checking in passengers and loading the planes. But he soon moved up the ranks in the sales division, spending time in cities large and small: Akron, Miami, Manhattan, Charlotte and Jacksonville.
In 1950, while teaching a reservations class for Eastern Airlines in Tampa, he met Wilsie Wingfield, and they married in September 1951. They settled first in Jacksonville, then moved to Chattanooga, and finally to Redington Beach when he was transferred to Eastern’s office in St. Petersburg.
Over the years, Carr’s travel agencies included Belleair Travel, Belleair II, Tri-City Travel, Prada Travel and American Travel. He also operated a wholesale tour company, Adventours. When he and his wife moved to Belleair, after winning a bid to purchase a building on Indian Rocks Road, they became entrenched in the community. And while his work in the travel industry stayed a main focus, Carr found time for other endeavors, including helping launch the newspaper.
"By then, I was older, but I do remember listening to my parents talk about it," Robin Schenck said. "They always talked together, did everything together. He was devoted to his community and to her.’’
Although he never met Carr, Tom Germond, an editor at Tampa Bay Newspapers, he said he feels a sense of gratitude for him.
"I think we owe a great deal to the Carrs and Mrs. Chandler for their diligence and efforts,’’ Germond said. "They had a vision, and it was their hard work that launched the papers, which are very successful throughout Pinellas County today.’’
For now, Scotty Schenck is putting journalism aside to consider studying law, but he said his grandfather’s legacy stays with him.
"My grandfather was an honest person who really valued integrity, and my mother definitely got that from him, from both my grandparents,’’ he said. "That value-based inheritance also came down to me. That’s the big way he impacted my path."
Robert E. "Bob" Carr
Died: Dec. 16, 2017.
Survivors: Daughters Robin Schenck of Belleair; Melissa Prohs (John) of Gold River, Calif.; a son, Robert Craig Carr (Sharon) of Monroe, Ga.; and four grandsons, Brian and Derek Carr, Thomas C. and Robert Scott Schenck. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Suncoast Hospice Foundation, 5771 Roosevelt Blvd., Clearwater, FL 33760.
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.