WESTCHASE — Whenever they went out to cover a story, the reporters at Fox News 13 wanted Joe Peters to be their videographer.
"He was very much sought-after," said retired reporter Warren Elly. "We'd fight over him. The reporters would fight over him. He was so incredibly reliable. If you found out you were going to work with Joe, you know you were going to have a good day."
Peters had "a great eye," Elly said, and had knack for finding the best shot. But more than that, it was his unwavering professionalism and determination to do his job well that made him the station's most in-demand videographer.
He was also just a nice guy to have around.
"In all the years I worked with him," Elly said, "I never heard him complain about anyone, never heard him say a bad word about anyone. That's not common in a business that can be ugly."
Mr. Peters was only 46 when he passed away on Dec. 27. He had had a series of health issues, including heart disease. He leaves behind three children, including a 3-year-old.
He had been married to his wife, Rachel, for 11 years. When they met, he was working at a TV station in Phoenix and she was a news anchor at a station in Dayton, Ohio. She and a friend were passing through Phoenix and called a former co-worker and asked if he wanted to get together for dinner after work. The former co-worker brought Mr. Peters along.
They met just that one time, but he kept calling his future wife once she returned to Dayton. After a month of phone calls, she flew to Phoenix to visit him for a weekend.
"At the end of the weekend, I said 'I don't want to go,' and he said, 'You don't have to,' " Rachel Peters said. "I called Dayton and quit my job by phone. I moved in with him and his roommate. I had to, because I didn't have a job.
"Four months later, he was asking my father for my hand in marriage."
Mr. Peters and his growing family made several moves before coming to Tampa permanently. They had even had a short stint here a few years back. When they decided they wanted to return, Mr. Peters called Fox News 13 and they immediately offered him a job.
He was covering a wildfire about a year ago when he started to experience heart problems. Over protests from his colleagues, he finished the assignment, drove back to the station to return equipment, then drove himself to the hospital. He had successful heart surgery the next day.
He seemed to be on the mend, but later suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed on one side. He never returned to his job, but he worked hard to get his health and strength back, and was eventually able to care for his youngest son while his wife, who had become a nurse, was at work.
"He got pretty good at changing a diaper with one hand," Rachel Peters said. "And he could cook one-handed too, although sometimes I'd come home and find half a plate of lasagna on the floor. "
Through his years as a TV news videographer, Mr. Peters never lost his passion for his work. But once he started a family, his wife and kids became his priority.
"He was aggressive and he always did his work completely," Elly said. "But he couldn't wait to get home to his kids. That was what he was living for."
Besides his wife, Mr. Peters is survived by his daughter, Isabella, his sons Joey and Joshua, his sisters Teri Allen and Sharon McLean and his brother, Mark Peters.
Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.