Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Wilbur Ptak

Can you use a million? Hospital foundation did so Wilbur Ptak gave

CLEARWATER — Eight years ago, Wilbur Ptak wandered into the offices of the Morton Plant Mease Foundation. He was up in years, casual and unassuming. It was the middle of the workday. Employees figured he needed directions.

Instead, he posed a question.

"If someone gave you a million dollars, what would you do with it?"

• • •

Mr. Ptak died Saturday after a brief hospital stay. He was 91.

He grew up in Lorain, Ohio, a steel town on Lake Erie. In 1950, he founded Lorain Tool and Manufacturing Co., a machine shop where workers made parts for missiles and airplanes. He was involved with the invention of a gadget that automatically hammered nails into cement brick. Nails dotted his office wall.

Later, he founded Fastway Fasteners, making construction, plumbing and electric products. Business boomed and he obtained patents. His company eventually went public and was sold. He retired to Clearwater in 1977.

Mr. Ptak lived quietly with his wife, Madonna, and their dogs. Here, he developed admiration for well-known philanthropist Bernie Powell, who founded facilities including a cancer center at Morton Plant Hospital.

A year after strolling into the foundation office, Mr. Ptak made his first gift: $1-million. Over time, his donations funded lobby renovations and the Ptak Orthopaedic & Neuroscience Pavilion at Morton Plant.

He often padded through the hospital, nattily dressed in a roadster cap and bow tie. Everyone knew him.

"He was shy in a very gracious way," said Holly Duncan, foundation president. "Very much a gentleman."

In 2007, he pushed for something close to his heart.

• • •

It was Christmas Eve morning, overcast.

He asked Duncan and Morton Plant Mease Health Care CEO Philip Beauchamp to meet at his favorite restaurant, Country Harvest on Missouri Avenue.

His wife had been suffering from Alzheimer's. He saw her in rehab every day, sharing ice cream, decorating her room according to holiday, bringing the dogs for visits.

He was saddened. He was frustrated. He wanted to help.

"I'll never forget that morning," said Beauchamp. "It was kind of a gray day, but the peace that showed in his commitment and what he was all about and what he wanted to accomplish for Alzheimer's was an experience I've never had in my 40 years in health care."

Soon, the Madonna Ptak Center for Alzheimer's Research opened. With it, his lifetime contributions totaled more than $5-million.

Mrs. Ptak outlived her husband, but they're still together. In a portrait, in Morton Plant's lobby.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8857.


Wilbur Ptak

Born: May 16, 1917

Died: Aug. 16, 2008

Survivors: Wife, Madonna McAndrews Ptak.

Services: None planned. In lieu of flowers, donate to the Madonna Ptak Center for Alzheimer's Research, care of Morton Plant Mease Foundation, 1200 Druid Road S, Clearwater.

Can you use a million? Hospital foundation did so Wilbur Ptak gave 08/20/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 10:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up


    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards


    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 


  3. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say


    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.