Monday, December 18, 2017
News Roundup

Bill Gower, 75, dies while snorkeling in the Caymans

Their honeymoon 26 years ago in Cayman Brac had seemed the best possible beginning to their marriage.

Bill and Allene Gower explored the caves on the 12-mile strip of land in the Caribbean and climbed the craggy bluff rising 140 feet from its blue waters.

A native everyone called Capt. Shelby took them snorkeling.

Mr. Gower was a solidly built man who loved the outdoors. He had taken multiple dive trips to Honduras, the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Australia.

He grew up in St. Petersburg, where his father, Jack Gower, once formed part of a prominent real estate firm that later became Gower-Goheen.

In school he was distracted, a prankster. One teacher told him he would never amount to anything.

Mr. Gower dropped out of school and joined the Navy. He married Joyce, the mother of his three children, and worked for a Chevron dealer in the San Jose area. Mr. Gower returned to St. Petersburg and opened a Chevron station at 38th Avenue N and 66th Street. He would go on to open two more.

He offered full service to customers, including the teacher who had once predicted his failure.

"She said, 'I see you're pumping gas,' " said Allene Gower, 62. "He never told her he was the owner."

Her name was Allene Cobb in 1986 when they met. She was a nurse who needed a good mechanic. They married May 3, 1987. The honeymoon in Cayman Brac was just the first of many trips to the islands surrounding South and Central America.

Mr. Gower was known for a big, raucous laugh, recycling jokes he liked as often as he could and pulling pranks on friends of several decades.

Once, for example, his group of friends decided to help each other lose weight. They contributed to a pot of money that would go to whomever could lose the most weight in a month.

Mr. Gower smuggled dive weights to the initial weigh-in, ensuring he would win the pot at the second. "He finally told them years later," his wife said.

As a couple, they talked out differences, she said.

"He never raised his voice to me or slammed a door."

They lived in a modest home in Kenneth City, where he left love notes in her coffee cups. Once a year, each treated the other to a vacation.

"They wouldn't tell each other where they were going until they got to the airport," said John Gower, a cousin.

They returned to Cayman Brac earlier this month to celebrate their 26th anniversary. The island had since added motels and eateries. Instead of hiking, they drove to the top of the bluff. At night, they sat on the beach behind the hotel and looked at the thousands of stars.

One fixture hadn't changed: Capt. Shelby was still there, albeit a bit grayer, and ready to take them snorkeling. The Gowers met him in the morning. He took them to a reef and told them to drift with the current.

Early on, Mr. Gower reached out and held her hand for a moment. He had not done that before.

"I said, 'Are you all right?' He said, 'Yes. Let's head closer to shore.' "

He stood up for a moment in neck-deep water, then pitched forward.

His wife held him up and called for help. But she had been a hospice nurse and knew death when she saw it.

"I knew he was gone," she said.

Mr. Gower died on May 3, his 26th anniversary, of coronary artery disease.

He was 75.

"I know he took his last breath in the Caribbean, in a place that he loved," his wife said. "I can't ask for anything more."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

Comments
Couple that provided video in Seminole Heights killings want a piece of the reward

Couple that provided video in Seminole Heights killings want a piece of the reward

TAMPA — It’s the Seminole Heights surveillance video seen around the world.A hooded figure calmly walks down East Frierson Avenue, appearing to flip a phone in his hand, on the night of Oct. 9. Then, moments later, the same person is seen running in...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Tampa lawyer accused of soliciting sex from inmate at Pinellas jail

Tampa lawyer accused of soliciting sex from inmate at Pinellas jail

A Tampa lawyer is accused of offering an inmate at the Pinellas County jail money in exchange for a sex act after exposing himself to her, according to arrest reports. Andrew B. Spark, 54, faces charges of soliciting for prostitution, exposure of sex...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Land O’Lakes teacher charged with felony child abuse

LAND O’LAKES — A special needs teacher at Oakstead Elementary School was arrested and charged with felony child abuse after she struck and kicked a 15-year-old child in her care over the weekend, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.Christine Ketel...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Deputies seek suspects who fired shots into crowded Northdale nightclub

TAMPA — Hillsborough County deputies are searching for the suspects who fired shots inside a crowded nightclub in Northdale early Monday morning.According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, deputies patrolling the area heard shooting coming...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Another reason to buy a home in Tampa Bay? Down payments are lower here

Another reason to buy a home in Tampa Bay? Down payments are lower here

Homebuyers in the Tampa Bay area don’t have to shell out as much on downpayments as buyers in many other places. According to ATTOM Data Solutions, the median downpayment for a bay area home in the quarter ended in September was $13,750 compare...
Updated: 1 hour ago

First-Citizens Bank & Trust acquires Tampa-based HomeBancorp

TAMPA — North Carolina-based First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co. is acquiring Tampa-headquartered HomeBancorp, which operates HomeBanc. First Citizens Bank will pay $15.03 per share in cash, a Monday release said, and the deal is expected to close by mid...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Ruth: The CDC’s seven dirty words

Do you suspect the paper-pushers who run the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were channeling their inner George Carlin? You’re [email protected]!^&$ right they were!Years ago, the late comedian delivered a brilliant routine on the seven dirty words ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Video: Chick fil-A feeds thousands of hungry travelers stranded in Atlanta airport

Video: Chick fil-A feeds thousands of hungry travelers stranded in Atlanta airport

Chick fil-A is normally closed on Sundays, but it made an exception for the thousands who were stranded at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The travelers were left in the dark following a power outage that forced cancellation of mor...
Updated: 1 hour ago

St. Pete woman killed in crash while trying to avoid dog on I-275

TAMPA — A St. Pete Beach woman was killed Monday morning on Interstate 275 when she was struck from behind by a semi-trailer while attempting to avoid striking a dog that had run onto the highway.The crash occurred around 10:45 a.m. on I-275, north o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
St. Pete-Clearwater airport expects holiday parking crunch, so consider arranging a ride

St. Pete-Clearwater airport expects holiday parking crunch, so consider arranging a ride

CLEARWATER — With passenger traffic picking up on Monday and expected to stay strong through Dec. 29, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport says it could run out of parking spaces, so passengers should consider making arrangements to be dropped o...
Updated: 2 hours ago