CLEARWATER BEACH — In his life, Fred Nassif had things to say. He had a knack for saying them.
Tony Dungy, please don't replace Shaun King. Just protect him. Give him the kind of protection opposing quarterbacks had all season.
I am very much against the erection of a tower on Clearwater Beach. It would be as out of place on our beach as a beach would be in downtown Seattle.
He wrote dozens of letters to the newspaper, his first after Hurricane Elena in 1985. He loved chiming in.
"He was original," said his wife, Janet. "One of his favorite songs was Frank Sinatra's My Way. He was not a man of convention. …He was a complicated man, but he wasn't dull."
Mr. Nassif died Aug. 22 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 79.
He was born to Lebanese immigrants in Massachusetts. As a teen, he was mischievous. When his high school ordered silence for Victory in Europe Day, Mr. Nassif led a snake dance through the streets. He was suspended.
He joined the military and later became an actor in New York. He appeared in a slew of commercials, including one for Pepto-Bismol with a young Jeff Daniels. On weekends, he was a lector at New York's Holy Family Church.
"He had a wonderful, deep baritone voice," said his friend Dick Matson. "He was the type of person that one could take to immediately."
At 45, he got married. He carried his wife's baby picture in his wallet, saying he had married a much younger woman. The couple moved to Clearwater Beach to retire, though he still took acting jobs. He loved to sit on the beach and identify birds — he could even tell seagulls apart.
His wife thinks the symptoms of Parkinson's had started to affect his judgment when the biggest tragedy in their life happened. In 1997, Mr. Nassif collided with a motorcycle while driving. He left the scene, and the driver died. Mr. Nassif pleaded no contest, expressed remorse and was sentenced to house arrest and probation.
"The irony is, this is a man who stopped for every pedestrian in a crosswalk," his wife said.
Later in life, he was private. He hated gossip and endured a lot of it. He didn't like to talk on the telephone. He exercised, read his daily newspaper and kept writing when he felt passionate.
The city of Clearwater recently compared the number of roundabout accidents during a 39-day period in 2001 with a 39-day period in 2002 after changes were made in the roundabout's design. … (T)hese design "improvements" would result in 292 accidents per year! Do our town fathers think that 292 accidents per year are acceptable? I don't.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.