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Edward S. "Ted" Corwin| 1922-2008

Civic activist Ted Corwin dies at 85

Always a music lover, Ted Corwin taught a course called the Golden Age of Popular Song in a USF program for retirees.

Special to the Times

Always a music lover, Ted Corwin taught a course called the Golden Age of Popular Song in a USF program for retirees.

DAVIS ISLANDS — For nearly two decades, Ted Corwin was the administrator of one of Tampa's leading law firms. After he retired, he took several bicycle tours of Europe, studied acting at a university, performed in plays and a Publix commercial, volunteered on local political campaigns, taught music courses, became a travel agent, played bridge twice a week, served as president of the University of South Florida Learning in Retirement program and chaired the Gasparilla Sidewalk Art Festival and the Hillsborough County Public Art Committee.

And he often complained that he didn't have enough to do.

Mr. Corwin passed away April 6 after several months of declining health. He was 85.

But his flair for life was evident even in death. At his funeral Wednesday, Rabbi Richard Birnholz played a recording that Mr. Corwin had made in 2001. Mr. Corwin had called it a rebuttal to his eulogy and said it was an unembellished story of his life. His piano playing accompanied his words. He gave the recording to his family with instructions that it be played at his funeral.

His early career had been wide-ranging. After college and a stint in the Army Air Forces during World War II, Mr. Corwin studied at Columbia Law School.

"He figured out while he was in law school that he didn't like the law," his son Tom said. "He graduated and he passed the Bar, but he didn't really practice."

Through the 1950s, he worked mostly as a CPA. In the 1960s, he got interested in computers, which were still in their infancy. He became a programmer years before most people had ever even seen a computer.

In 1972, he happened upon an ad in the Wall Street Journal. A Tampa law firm, Carlton Fields, was looking for an administrator. Mr. Corwin applied for the position, and his distinctive combination of skills made him ideal for the job.

"He was an administrator, but his law background probably helped him gain acceptance," his son said. "Law administration wasn't an established field in those days."

Moving from his home in New Jersey, in the suburbs of New York, to Tampa was an adjustment for him and his wife, Patricia, who had three children. But Mr. Corwin quickly grew to enjoy their new lifestyle.

He worked at Carlton Fields until he retired in 1990.

Then, he spent his last 18 years pursuing his various passions.

He was one of the first people to take advantage of a policy that allows retirees to take free classes at USF if space is available. He signed up for acting classes, studying alongside people younger than his own children, and appeared in several mainstage USF productions, including Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

A classmate encouraged him to pursue acting professionally, so Mr. Corwin found an agent and was soon cast in a Publix commercial that ran all over Florida.

"It was for their fried chicken or something," Tom Corwin said. "He played the cranky husband."

He had always loved music, and taught a course called the Golden Age of Popular Song through USF's Learning in Retirement program. He became an active member, and even a leader, of countless community boards, committees and campaigns.

He also enjoyed traveling in retirement and worked briefly as a travel agent. Mr. Corwin and his wife visited such places as Pakistan and Cuba, as well as France, where they took three bicycle tours.

Besides his wife and son Tom, Mr. Corwin is survived by his son Lawrence, daughter Elizabeth, sister Nancy Harris and a granddaughter and step-granddaughter.

Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have passed away. He can be reached at

Civic activist Ted Corwin dies at 85 04/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 10, 2008 4:30am]
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