Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Obituaries of Note

Epilogue: USF professor was a real life Indiana Jones

He was Tampa’s own Indiana Jones.

James Francis Strange never carried a bullwhip, saved damsels in distress or kept the Nazis from acquiring religious relics that could conquer the world.

But like the movie character, he was a biblical archaeologist who wore a dusty brown fedora, worked as a professor when not digging for artifacts, and even discovered an ancient sacred Jewish ark.

Dr. Strange — a religious studies professor at the University of South Florida since 1972 and a former dean of its College of Arts and Letters — died March 23 from complications of cancer. The native Texan was 80 and still teaching at USF.

"He felt God called him to be an archaeologist and a professor of religious studies at a state university, not a private one," said his wife of 57 years, Lillian Strange. "He used to say he wanted to be the best archaeologist he can be."

From the 1960s through 2015, Dr. Strange took regular trips to the Middle East for archaeological research, digging in Judea, Samaria and the coast of Israel. Among his discoveries were pottery, coins and mosaics, some of which were displayed at the Smithsonian Institution and the Rockefeller Museum.

Then there was the time he dug up a half-ton holy ark, a limestone vessel for sacred scriptures.

No, it was not the ark, the one holding the Ten Commandments that melted Nazis in Harrison Ford’s 1981 film Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Nonetheless, it dated back thousands of years.

"It was found around the time the movie came out," Lillian Strange said, sounding amused. "People kept calling him to ask what happened when he opened it. ‘Nothing,’ he had to tell them."

His work most famously took him to the ruins of Sepphoris, about 4 miles from Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus. Dr. Strange said his findings of large parts of buildings, aqueducts and an outdoor theater proved Sepphoris to be a sophisticated city.

Though Sepphoris is not mentioned in the New Testament, Dr. Strange believed Jesus would have spent considerable time there.

Dr. Strange would say that link means Jesus was not a simple rural carpenter — as many learned — but a worldly urbanite who alongside his carpenter father may have even been employed on a construction crew building Sepphoris.

"We’ve created this rather romantic picture of Jesus — a sturdy, country lad who makes good," Dr. Strange once told the Tampa Bay Times. "But archaeology is not good at nurturing romance. What it does best is produce facts."

Peter Baker, a USF class of 2010 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies, said Dr. Strange’s lessons on such critical thinking were the greatest gift he passed on to students.

"The world might be a bit more melancholy," he said, "but his teachings and his munificence lives on through all of us."

Michael DeJonge, chairman of USF’s Religious Studies Department, said since Dr. Strange’s death a line of current and past students have visited to describe "how he changed their lives. I am only now, after his death, realizing how much his students loved him. Yes, love is the right word."

Love is indeed what defined Dr. Strange, his wife said.

"Some time ago, he told me anger would not be a part of his life," she said. "He taught people not to judge, but to love."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

Comments
Plant City police: Fleeing driver kills man as he walks to work

Plant City police: Fleeing driver kills man as he walks to work

The driver is in custody, but the fugitive who sparked Friday’s deadly incident is still being sought.
Published: 11/16/18
Police release name of man accused of leading officers on car chase that ended in crash

Police release name of man accused of leading officers on car chase that ended in crash

Reginald Mosley, 31, is charged with fleeing from police and attempted carjacking, among other crimes. A passenger in the car he was driving is still at large.
Published: 11/15/18
Pro wrestler's legacy expanded through his sons, Randy 'Macho Man' Savage and Leapin' Lanny Poffo

Pro wrestler's legacy expanded through his sons, Randy 'Macho Man' Savage and Leapin' Lanny Poffo

This story was first published on March 12, 2010. Dr. Jerry Graham lit his cigars with $100 bills. Gorgeous George died broke. Ric Flair blew big paychecks for 15 straight years. Those were all big stars in professional wrestling, their names plast...
Published: 11/14/18
Updated: 11/15/18
A couple together, as always

A couple together, as always

This story was first published on April 17, 2010.CLEARWATER — Jimmy Wise, a retired railroad engineer, was out of bed at the first suggestion of sunlight. He threw on an old pair of shorts and hit the beach right outside his condo. Mr. Wise walked th...
Published: 11/12/18
Stan Lee, creator of a galaxy of Marvel superheroes, dies at 95

Stan Lee, creator of a galaxy of Marvel superheroes, dies at 95

Stan Lee, the creative dynamo who revolutionized the comic book and helped make billions for Hollywood by introducing human frailties in Marvel superheroes, died Monday at age 95.
Published: 11/12/18
Hillsborough Sheriff's Office spurns ICE agreement but is still holding immigrants for the agency

Hillsborough Sheriff's Office spurns ICE agreement but is still holding immigrants for the agency

TAMPA — Ten months ago, Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister stood among a dozen or so Florida sheriffs to announce a new arrangement with federal immigration officials to deal with a legal quandary.The new agreement with U.S. Immigration and ...
Published: 11/12/18
Judge okays wedding anniversary trip for Lakeland store owner facing murder charge

Judge okays wedding anniversary trip for Lakeland store owner facing murder charge

LAKELAND — A former Lakeland city commissioner charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a man he suspected of shoplifting is on house arrest, but that won't stand in the way of a weekend trip he had planned with his wife next month to Sava...
Published: 11/09/18
Epilogue: Ray Velboom, a Dade City police chief who comforted a community

Epilogue: Ray Velboom, a Dade City police chief who comforted a community

A law enforcement officer in Florida for more than 40 years, Ray Velboom made a career off talking to people as if he weren't a cop.
Published: 11/06/18
Popular Ybor City barber killed when car turns in front of his motorcycle, police say

Popular Ybor City barber killed when car turns in front of his motorcycle, police say

TAMPA — At 6-foot-6, Jeff Houck was too tall to sit comfortably in the antique barber chair at Cigar City Barbershop, located at the time inside the second floor of Lion’s Den Cigar Lounge on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City. The shop had a larger barber ...
Published: 11/05/18
Death at Yosemite: Travel-blogging couple perishes in 800- foot fall. They may have been taking pictures, relative says.

Death at Yosemite: Travel-blogging couple perishes in 800- foot fall. They may have been taking pictures, relative says.

She was a "mermaid-haired wanderess." He was an avid photographer. Last week, the couple visited thundering waterfalls and breathtaking cliffs at Yosemite. It would be their final journey.
Updated one month ago