Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Charles 'C.C.' Rice II could back up his 'Indiana Jones' stories

TREASURE ISLAND — Before he turned 21, Charles C. Rice II had lived dreams and survived nightmares.

He ran one of the first fish-processing plants in Honduras. It was an idea from his father, legendary gulf beaches developer and restaurateur Charles C. Rice Sr., a 19th century throwback who sent his daughters to college but put his sons to work.

At 19, Mr. Rice fractured his skull and back in a plane crash. He then floated down a crocodile-infested river clinging to a seat cushion for three days. By age 20, bolstered by the medical books he read, he had delivered babies and once saved the life of a worker nearly disemboweled in a knife fight.

Mr. Rice returned to Pinellas beaches by his mid 30s. He later joined in family restaurants, including the Hungry Fisherman on Indian Rocks Beach, the Kingfish on John's Pass and the Stone Crab Grotto in St. Petersburg.

Mr. Rice, who never lost the adventurous spirit of his youth, died Nov. 12 of prostate cancer. He was 66.

"He was like Indiana Jones," said his wife, Linda Rice, 61. "All of the stories he told were real and validated by various people around the world."

In recent years, Mr. Rice ran the retail store Charlie's Seafood, next to Gators Cafe and Saloon, headed by younger brother Sid Rice. He belonged to a host of civic groups, from arts museums to the Rough Riders. For 10 years straight, he and Linda took first-place honors for their costumes at the John LeVique Pirate Days Festival — including once when they came as Somali pirates — aboard his 1932 tugboat, the Resolute.

Such pastimes might have been hard to imagine in 1965, when an 18-year-old Mr. Rice typed a frustrated update from the Honduras Seafood Co. to his father.

"I had a hell of time to get these boats out of here," his letter began. "Everyone has been drunk every afternoon for the last four days."

The letter included an inventory of boats, shrimp, lobster catches and personnel issues foreign to most teenagers. He had also learned to speak the Miskito dialect of his Honduran employees.

"C.C. loved them," said Libby Rice Thompson, 70, his sister. "He hunted in the bush with them. He ate monkey and iguana with them."

At 19, he was flying with his brother-in-law, a pilot, when their plane stalled and slammed into a muddy river bank. After three days fighting off sleep in the water, Mr. Rice told rescuers where to find the badly injured pilot, whom they saved.

Mr. Rice was born in Tampa in 1947. His father had emigrated from Poland in 1904. He was 12 when Charles Rice Sr., who had developed the first self-contained freezer shrimp trawler, sent him one summer to Caratasca, Honduras, to learn the business.

The company was sold in the late 1970s. For a while, Mr. Rice ran various family restaurants, including the Kingfish and the Stone Crab Grotto.

After divorcing his second wife, a German beauty queen, he met Linda Butts in 1992. A couple of years later, he took her to Honduras for a fishing tournament.

"The people treated him like a king," Linda Rice said. "It was like the Second Coming."

Before a crowd, Mr. Rice announced: "I'd like you to meet my next wife." After recovering from the shock, she accepted.

Mr. Rice always told colorful stories, especially over drinks. He fished for stone crab and dabbled in other businesses, including a dredging company in Curacao in the late 1990s. Always confident, each new project embodied new dreams.

More than 100 friends and relatives gathered to remember him Sunday at the home of Sid Rice. Rough Riders fired an old cannon from the porch. On the beach, someone released doves.

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