SPRING HILL — An unexpected deluge swamped motorists on a Tuesday 32 years ago, and a record 1,600 AAA members called for help.
Some were trapped in their cars by rising floodwaters. Others had crashed. One woman said her car was surrounded by snakes.
Ed Schatzman, who managed the call center in St. Petersburg, called May 8, 1979, "the worst day, the most calls in my experience, and I've been with AAA for 15 years."
The lifelong Boy Scout manned the phones with his employees and kept everyone calm.
"He'd roll up his sleeves and be right in the middle of it," said Gregg Laskoski, a former AAA spokesman.
Mr. Schatzman, a former Eagle Scout who became AAA's senior vice president of automotive services, died May 21 in St. Anthony's Hospital. He was 60.
Mr. Schatzman had suffered atrial fibrillation in February and entered the hospital with chest pains the day before he died. But the cause of his death is unknown, his family said.
His wife, Stefanie, called him a perfect role model who embodied the Scout law that begin with "trustworthy, loyal, helpful."
An employee of AAA since age 14, Mr. Schatzman demonstrated his trustworthiness in overseeing roadside assistance in Florida, Georgia, parts of Tennessee and Puerto Rico.
He lived the scouting edicts to be "friendly, courteous and kind" to more than 1,000 employees, writing daily notes to mark someone's anniversary or promotion, or send condolences to those who had lost loved ones.
Mr. Schatzman raised two sons to become Eagle Scouts. In 2009 he adopted another boy, Jaeden, now 13. "Even though he worked all day, if he saw I had a tough day at home he would offer to cook dinner," said Stefanie Schatzman, his wife since 1979.
He loved cars, especially a vintage silver Corvette, and couldn't wait to finish payments on one vehicle so he could trade it in for a new one. Boy and Girl Scouts often explored the family's 7-acre farm, where they moved in 1992.
He spent down time watching birds nestle in any of the 10 birdhouses on his property.
Mr. Schatzman was born in St. Petersburg and graduated from the University of South Florida. He was a president of the Police Athletic League and sat on the board of the West Central Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America for more than 15 years.
In 1993, the Scouts inducted him into its honor society, the Order of the Arrow. In 2008, the council honored Mr. Schatzman with its Silver Beaver Award, given to only five people annually out of about 4,000 volunteers.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2248.