SEFFNER — For every piece of agricultural hardware sold, every cow milked, every mile driven and every dollar earned, C. Lee Holcomb never stopped weighing cost against benefit.
The decisions helped him build and sell several businesses at the right time. Marriage and family also had an appraised value.
Mr. Holcomb, who changed careers five or six times and seemed to get the better of every tradeoff, died Aug. 30 of kidney failure. He was 85.
"There wasn't anything he didn't try to do," said Gene Holcomb, his son.
He grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York, then operated one. After driving a school bus and selling farm equipment, he bought a semitrailer and hauled industrial materials at all hours.
The activity charged his batteries. "If there wasn't something progressing, he wasn't happy," said Gene Holcomb, 58. "He might say, 'Oh, man, this is no good. We've got to do something.' "
Over the last 40 years, here are some of things Mr. Holcomb did:
He owned and operated a mobile home sales business in New York, and another in Thonotosassa and Apollo Beach. He bought two semitrailers and drove them at least a million miles. He sold burgers and apple dumplings at fairs in the Northeast, and introduced local children to his cattle for their 4-H and FFA projects.
Two of his businesses, including a dairy farm in Riverview, went belly-up after new owners took over. "I think it was because as much as anything, people kind of get carried away and spend too much," his son said. "And probably because they don't work maybe 20 hours a day."
He was frugal and analytical. He bought used equipment. He might book a cruise, but consider $10 too much for dinner. He stayed abreast of technology, and bought a Global Position System for his Toyota Prius.
In semiretirement, Mr. Holcomb and his wife delivered cattle across the country.
In recent years he operated a kiddie train at local malls.
Minnie Holcomb, his wife of 64 years, died in October. He stopped working the mall job in May, around the same time doctors told him that kidney failure would require dialysis three times a week.
With that, his son said, Mr. Holcomb began to appraise the costs and benefits of staying alive.
"He said, 'I can't do much more work, why do I need to stay here?' I can go be with Minnie.' "
He decided against the dialysis.
"Everything he did was calculated," his son said. "Basically right to his death, when you think about it."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.