Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

'Capt. Seaweed' Robert Richards was soul of the Seabreeze restaurant

TAMPA — A breeze runs through the spacious rural home of Robert Richards, touching the relics and symbols of his life on every surface.

Helen Richards, his wife and longtime business partner in an iconic Tampa restaurant and fish market, points to paintings of fishing boats and sea birds, then resumes her place at a kitchen table covered with snapshots and news clippings about her husband.

"He was the love of my life," she says.

Many of the images show a tanned man with serious eyes and a strong jaw, almost always on a boat. Nearby, a file folder of clippings, newsletters and correspondence attests to Mr. Richards' efforts to keep the bay free of pollutants, each item stapled to a pink sheet of paper with a handwritten description.

She has labeled the file "Good Deeds."

But the lion's share of photos, like those that fill a cookbook she and her husband authored, have something to do with the Seabreeze by the Bay restaurant, a landmark for nearly 80 years famous for its deviled crab. She and Mr. Richards grew up near the restaurant and market they later owned on the 22nd Street causeway, along with a fleet of boats that supplied them with fresh fish.

Mr. Richards, who was so connected to sun and saltwater that his friends called him "Capt. Seaweed," died March 2 of stomach cancer. He was 81.

"He was the hardest working man I've ever known," said Mike Crain, 54, who captained fishing boats built by Mr. Richards for more than 35 years. "He worked from daylight to after dark every day."

He demanded the same from others. "If you were getting paid $10 an hour, he wanted you to work at $11 an hour," said Keith Richards, 50, his son. "Not $6. Not $7."

For more than 20 years, Mr. Richards operated his fishing boats through the night, packed the fish for his market, then went to bed after sunrise. He would relieve his wife later that day until closing, then fish again.

He was born in Palmetto, with pioneer bloodlines tracing back to the Mayflower, his wife said. As a boy, he often rowed his boat to the Seabreeze for 5-cent deviled crabs and a soda. He met Helen Chattin in 1953 and married her two years later. They had four children.

He ran a roofing company and worked as a boilermaker. In 1969, he took a lifeboat he had modified with shrimp trawl nets to Gulfport, Miss. — and ran smack into Hurricane Camille.

Mr. Richards and a mate bailed water all the way home. With the blessings of the Licata family, who had founded the Seabreeze in 1923, he opened a seafood market next door to the restaurant.

Over the years, he built fishing boats and anchored them behind the restaurant. The couple bought the Seabreeze in 1992. Using the Licatas' top-secret recipe — of which even the employees making them knew only designated portions — they continued selling unmatched deviled crab treats, often more than 1,000 a day.

They also started what became a tradition, a circular, pink marble "love rock" behind the restaurant, on which many couples stood to exchange vows by the bay. Faced with rising costs and net bans, the Richards sold the Seabreeze in 2001. That year, they self-published a popular cookbook containing all of the recipes. In retirement, Mr. Richards built another fishing boat, now in his back yard near rows of home-grown vegetables.

A few hundred well-wishing friends have visited the house since cancer diagnosed in the fall spread rapidly.

Helen Richards, 75, tells one story after another about her husband, as if trying to trace a broad circle in a short time.

"People need to know how much this man did," she says. "Somebody needs to brag on him at some point in his life."

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

Comments
Carlos Gomez says he was guilty of only one thing in Sunday’s epic walkoff homer celebration

Carlos Gomez says he was guilty of only one thing in Sunday’s epic walkoff homer celebration

BALTIMORE – Carlos Gomez is perfectly willing to explain the specific elements that went into his epic celebration tour around the bases following Sunday's walkoff home run.The bat flip and raised arms were his initial reaction to how well he h...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for April 24

Tuesday’s scoreboardBaseballCalvary Chr. 8, Jesuit 1Boys TennisClass 3A, District 9-10 Regional Semifinal: Osceola 4, King 1Girls TennisClass 3A, District 9-10 Regional Semifinal: Osceola 4, Freedom 1...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Days before graduation, crash kills Lakewood High senior, injures two others

Days before graduation, crash kills Lakewood High senior, injures two others

ST. PETERSBURG — Caps and gowns were in the future for Bryson Welton-Williams and his two friends.Then came Tuesday’s horrific car crash.The three 18-year-old Lakewood High School seniors drove off from school a few minutes early, just 22 days away f...
Updated: 3 hours ago
SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

LAND O’LAKES — A school resource officer at Sunlake High School is under investigation after he tried to take a female student into custody on Tuesday, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.School officials asked the SRO remove the student f...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Teen killed after SUV runs red light; man who fled scene captured

Teen killed after SUV runs red light; man who fled scene captured

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 17-year-old girl was killed Tuesday when her car was hit by a sport-utility vehicle that ran a red light, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.One of the occupants of the SUV who ran from the crash scene was captured hours late...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Softball: Haley Murphy, East Bay back in top form

Softball: Haley Murphy, East Bay back in top form

PLANT CITY — East Bay senior Haley Murphy had to take a few games off early this season to give the flaring tendinitis in her left knee a rest.When Murphy did come back around midseason, East Bay coach Glenn Rodriguez eased her into the fl...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

The family of the 18-year-old Sarasota high school student under fire for the racist prom proposal he sent out on social media this weekend has publicly apologized for their son’s actions.They also said that as a result of his actions, he will not at...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Softball: Boca Ciega gets a shot at defending district champ

DUNEDIN — Standing in centerfield during her team's Class 6A-9 district semifinal Tuesday night, Boca Ciega's Mia Blasingane had one dominating thought: "We want Tarpon Springs real bad. I was saying that to myself. I want to see Tarpon Springs...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Softball: Alonso knocks off defending state finalist PHU in 9A-8 semifinals

PALM HARBOR — To get an idea of just how tough the competition is in Class 9A, District 8, consider that there has been a different tournament champion each of the past three seasons.All three — Newsome (2015), Alonso (2016) and Palm Harb...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays Journal: On the early rainout, pitching plans, medical matters, more

Rays Journal: On the early rainout, pitching plans, medical matters, more

BALTIMORE – If the Rays were going to get rained out Tuesday, they were happy  the Orioles made the decision at a good hour, around 5 p.m."I think they probably did the right thing in the fact that they knew there's a bunch of rain coming,...
Updated: 4 hours ago