THONOTOSASSA — Veteran Florida banker and Tampa civic leader Bronson Thayer died Christmas Eve, family members confirmed late Sunday. He was 77.
Thayer was chairman of Bay Cities Bank and a board member of WEDU, the local public television station. He served on the Florida Council of 100, the boards of the Tampa Museum of Art and the University of South Florida Foundation and was director of the Bok Tower Gardens Foundation.
Along with his wife, Stella Ferguson Thayer, an attorney and co-owner of Tampa Bay Downs, he was named 2014 Citizen of the Year by the Economic Club of Tampa.
They were married 47 years.
Ferguson Thayer said her husband had been battling prostate cancer for three years. He died at around 5 a.m. at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital with his wife by his side.
She said Thayer was proud of both his career and his work in the community.
"He had a spark and optimism for life," she said. "He was just special with his love of people."
A Harvard College graduate, he earned an MBA from New York University.
After a spell working in New York, Thayer became a prominent member of Tampa's banking community. He was chairman of the board and CEO of Florida Business Bankgroup Inc., as well as former chief of Tampa's First Florida Banks Inc., and a past chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
His marriage to Stella Ferguson Thayer made him part of the powerful Lykes family. His heyday was in the 1980s when the Lykes-controlled First Florida Banks enjoyed an economic boom and became a regional heavyweight with 144 offices and about 4,000 employees along Florida's west coast. It was sold to Barnett Banks in 1992
After a hiatus, he returned to banking around 1999, starting Bay Cities Banks. Its stock offering resulted in the sale of $13-million in shares.
He stepped down as chairman after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, Ferguson Thayer said.
She said her husband was devoted to his friends and family but also loved the outdoors.
A keen hiker, he was proud that he had climbed all 46 peaks in the Adirondacks that have an elevation above 4,000 feet.
"He had an infectious optimism," she said.