Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bill Sharpe, founder of paper for Tampa's homeless, recalled at memorial service

TAMPA — Friends remember never being able to win an argument with Bill Sharpe.

"He always believed he was right, even when he wasn't," said Gregory Wilson, one of three friends who spoke Tuesday at a memorial service for Mr. Sharpe at Hyde Park United Methodist Church.

"He'd say, 'Well, there's some truth to what you're saying,' but that's the most you'd get." Wilson laughed along with the crowd of more than 100.

Mr. Sharpe, who had gone from selling recreational vehicles to publishing the South Tampa Community News, displayed that trait during his most famous quarrel with the Tampa City Council when it passed restrictions on panhandling.

In response to the city banning panhandling on all but one day of the week, he founded the Tampa Epoch, a monthly newspaper that people in need could sell on the streets on any day to help support themselves.

His controversial decision to launch the paper last year brought together in one place Tuesday a cross section of South Tampa residents and the city's homeless people.

Blue Tampa Epoch T-shirts and neon-green vests were scattered throughout the crowd of dark suits and black dresses.

Mr. Sharpe's legacy of trying to lift Tampa's homeless out of poverty shone as each speaker told of his efforts.

After the memorial, Phillippe Ouellette, 70, of Seffner said he has been selling the paper since its debut in December to try to make ends meet. "He was just a kind guy, a really helpful guy who wanted to give everyone a chance," Ouellette said.

During the eulogy, the Rev. Vicki R. Walker acknowledged the tragedy of a man determined to help others taking his own life.

Mr. Sharpe, 59, committed suicide April 2 in his North Hyde Park office.

"Bill's sister told me that as a child he always wanted to be Superman," she said. "How could he have known the person he most needed to save was himself?"

While Mr. Sharpe was heavily involved in the Davis Islands Chamber of Commerce and promoted community events, including the recent Tampa Bay Seafood Festival, he also had experienced financial problems. His flagship paper struggled in the recession, and he poured resources into the Epoch.

Years ago, in 1997, he had been found guilty of selling counterfeit American Express money orders while running a bar in Ocala.

"You go through a lot of stuff in life," he told the Times last year. "You make a lot of mistakes."

On Saturday, Mr. Sharpe will be buried in a Vidalia, Ga., cemetery among relatives who lived in the 1800s, said Barbara Sharpe-Gardner, 66, his sister from Flower Mound, Texas. She and her husband, Stowe, 67, were the only family representatives who made it to Tampa for the memorial.

During the service, Walker reminded the crowd that the best way to honor Mr. Sharpe would be to keep his dream of helping those in need alive.

"Bill did his part," she said. "Now, it's your turn."

Linda Karson, center, is comforted by Steven Gruetzmacher after the service. The advocate for the homeless assured Gruetzmacher, who lives on the streets, the Epoch will go on.

CAROLINA HIDALGO | Times

Linda Karson, center, is comforted by Steven Gruetzmacher after the service. The advocate for the homeless assured Gruetzmacher, who lives on the streets, the Epoch will go on.

Bill Sharpe, founder of paper for Tampa's homeless, recalled at memorial service 04/17/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 1:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

    Blogs

    Winner of the week 1: 'Liquor wall’ proponents. Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of a bill to allow Walmart, Target and other big box stores to sell liquor was a victory for an array of groups, from smaller merchants and Publix (which has stand-alone booze shops near its stores) to those who feel the hard stuff …

  2. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

    Blogs

    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  3. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  4. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title

    Blogs

    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  5. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.