Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Adolph Frank Campisi: His life bloomed with family and work

WEST TAMPA

Adolph Campisi's life was his work and his family. And the two were often intermingled.

Campisi, who was known outside his family by his middle name, Frank, got his first job when he was 9 years old. Every day after school, he worked for a mechanic near his family's home in Ybor City. The family needed the money because Mr. Campisi's father had passed away five years before, leaving a widow and five children.

By the time he was 14, Mr. Campisi was driving an ice truck around town, hauling huge blocks of ice to people's homes.

"He still had the tongs," said his daughter, Patti Hoppes. "He showed them to me and said, 'These tongs bought me the property on Columbus.' "

That property became the home to Jennie's Flower Shop, which Mr. Campisi started with his wife and operated for 45 years.

Mr. Campisi passed away Sept. 27 at age 84. He had been fighting cancer, but his death was caused by respiratory failure.

On that property, Mr. Campisi had originally established the Airview Market, which specialized in fresh produce. That opened in 1948.

He took a few years away from the market to enlist in the Army. And when he got home, he was able to complete high school, which he had left to support his mother and siblings.

Sometime in the early 1950s, his wife, Jennie, suggested they start featuring floral arrangements in the market. She had worked for a florist, and there was a cemetery right down the street, so Mr. Campisi gave his wife a tiny section of the store.

The flower business went so well that Mr. Campisi acquired a neighboring storefront for Jennie's Flowers, and eventually built the large building that is still home to the business today. (The Campisis sold Jennie's Flowers in 1998, but the new owners have maintained the name.)

The flower business was so successful that Mr. Campisi closed the produce market and devoted himself to Jennie's full-time.

"They'd set up an area outside the shop where they'd sell flowers at holidays," said his son, Frank. "His favorite thing was to sit out there and sell flowers and visit with his customers."

Even spare hours were often filled with work activities. The family made regular trips to South Florida to buy fresh flowers in bulk. The children were young — Frank joined in the family business when he was 3 — but they pitched in, loading huge bundles of flowers onto a truck.

Weekends were often spent on a small farm in Riverview where Mr. Campisi grew flowers for the shop and vegetables for the family.

For the Campisi kids, the trips to South Florida and to the farm seemed like family fun. They never realized they were working hard.

But though Mr. Campisi thrived on hard work, he relished his time away from business, too. He was devoted to his kids, and was an especially active supporter of West Tampa Little League.

In addition to his wife and his two children, Mr. Campisi is survived by four grandchildren.

Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at [email protected]

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