YANKEETOWN — Lamar Joyner lived by a simple creed, one that kept himself and others in line.
If you're gonna be stupid, you've gotta be tough.
"It made a lot of people mad," said Jana Joyner, his wife of 25 years. "They thought he was being sarcastic."
She thinks he was just being Lamar.
The one-liner also kept the former charter boat captain on course. It was his way of saying, "You are going to make mistakes in life, so suck it up."
Mr. Joyner had made a few, though not all of the consequences he suffered were his own fault. The Tampa native spent a year in Vietnam fighting in the Army's highly decorated 1st Cavalry Division.
He felt lucky to have survived, unaware that a defoliant he was exposed to there would shorten his life.
But what a life it was, full of unusual jobs and hobbies.
He made T-shirts in Gatlinburg, Tenn., then spent a dozen years in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, taking tourists out on his 58-foot sailboat for sunset cruises.
Mr. Joyner enjoyed entertaining friends at his home on the Withlacoochee River, starting his conversations with, "You want a beer?"
The charter boat business had generated some epic stories. There was the time, for example, when Mr. Joyner and his brother, Larry, got caught in a hurricane.
As the boat crashed repeatedly in 15-feet seas, the men realized they were taking in water. Turns out, the mast was pounding the bottom of the boat, threatening to break all the way through.
Mr. Joyner found a jar of underwater epoxy he happened to have on board. He secured himself with a rope, lowered himself into the violent seas and patched the hole.
Other more comical stories featured his guests, like the wedding party that all got seasick.
In Yankeetown since the mid 1980s, he worked for himself, harvesting clams in Cedar Key. He bought an old biplane and learned how to fly. He restored a 1948 Chevrolet "woodie" station wagon until its wood panels gleamed.
Several years ago, the VA linked his prostate cancer to the defoliant Agent Orange, and granted him a full disability pension, his wife said. On Sept. 6, as family members tried to help him stand, Mr. Joyner quipped, "I think my battery is dead."
His heart stopped later that day. Mr. Joyner was 62.
"He was hard as nails," said Jeff Schleede of Cedar Key Seafood, his clam distributor. "He should have been dead years ago."
A couple of weeks ago, Schleede was underwater harvesting clams, brushing the sandy bottom with his hands. Instead of another clam he touched a stingray, who was not pleased.
On shore, he winced at the poisonous barb that had impaled his hand. Then he found himself saying the words — If you're gonna be stupid, you've gotta be tough — and pulled it out.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or email@example.com.