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Charles H. Guy Jr. | 1924-2010

Charles H. Guy, college lacrosse star and Tampa businessman, dies

CULBREATH ISLES — Charles Guy had a favorite Bible verse that went something like this: "Of those to whom much is given, much is expected."

Mr. Guy considered himself one of those people to whom much had been given. People who knew him say that wasn't exactly true. Nothing had been given to him; he had to work very hard for everything he had.

Mr. Guy, 86, who died May 22 after a short illness, grew up in a Depression-era family in Pittsburgh.

He became a nationally recognized athlete and built a successful life insurance business. Toward the end of his life, he spent most afternoons aboard his 55-foot yacht.

Mr. Guy referred to himself as a "tightwad," but he never lost sight of the second half of his spiritual maxim. He gave his money freely to people in need.

"He was always doing things for other people, and he always did them anonymously," said his daughter, Kathy Guy. "He never wanted anyone to know. He never wanted any credit."

Even his own family probably never learned how much Mr. Guy did for other people, she said.

His friend Renny Braga tells of a time, when Mr. Guy met a teenage boy who mentioned that he wished he had a bicycle. Mr. Guy barely knew the boy, but offered to give him half of the money if he would work to earn the other half.

A lot of his altruistic acts were more extravagant, such as the time he paid for a friend's kidney transplant.

And once, about a quarter-century ago, Mr. Guy read a story in the New York Times about some needy families. He immediately wrote checks to each family and sent them to the New York Times' reporter.

No one knew he had done that until a few years ago, when a woman called the Guy family. She was a member of one of the families and had tried to find Mr. Guy for more than 20 years to thank him and let him know he had changed her life.

When Mr. Guy was a boy, his family had been too poor to send him to college. His best shot for a college education was to try to land an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.

He got that appointment and became a star athlete. He was a two-time All-American lacrosse player, was named to the Naval Academy's lacrosse hall of fame and won the Schmeisser Award, given to the nation's top collegiate lacrosse defenseman.

He graduated in 1945 and began his Navy career. He was on a ship in the Panama Canal, heading to the South Pacific, when Japan surrendered.

He left the Navy a few years later and coached lacrosse and football at Johns Hopkins University before getting into the business world. Mr. Guy had various positions before he came to Tampa in the 1950s. He and a partner started a life insurance company called Plan Services that's still in business.

"He went into the office every day," said Braga, a family friend who became Mr. Guy's caregiver in recent years. "In the last few weeks he was in the hospital, but up until then he went in every single day."

Mr. Guy's declining health made him forgetful, and Braga would type up a detailed schedule of his activities each day. Besides going to the office, he would go to the gym every day, work out on the machines, walk a couple of miles on a treadmill and then meet friends for lunch. He also was an active member of Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church and went to a weekly Bible study.

Just four weeks before his death, he traveled with Braga to Annapolis to see a lacrosse game between the Naval Academy and Johns Hopkins. The two schools are major lacrosse rivals, and the Naval Academy had not won the annual game in 35 years — until that game in April that Mr. Guy went to see.

Family members joined him at the game. Afterward, they all went with him to the hall of fame, where an exhibit honored Mr. Guy. He took a last look at his old lacrosse stick and said goodbye to the academy.

Marcia, Mr. Guy's wife, preceded him in death. Besides his daughter, Mr. Guy is survived by sons Charles Guy III, Allyn Martin and Douglas Martin III, two brothers, two grandsons and two great-grandsons.

Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

Charles H. Guy, college lacrosse star and Tampa businessman, dies 06/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 2, 2010 4:26pm]
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