TAMPA — Dick Wise was talented enough to have several possible careers from which to choose and was confident he could make it as a golf pro.
When he didn't, Mr. Wise finished college, became an accountant and started his own real estate company.
By age 46, Mr. Wise had enough income to retire. He and his wife, Lorna, soon set about fulfilling a dream of traveling across the country in a motor coach.
They stayed away three months at a time, cutting costs by eating in and sleeping in Walmart parking lots. They visited every state except North Dakota and Hawaii.
Mr. Wise, who toured the country with his wife for the better part of 30 years, died Feb. 24 of congestive heart failure. He was 84.
David Richard "Dick" Wise and Lorna Chassner grew up in Miami, but did not know each other in high school.
"He had a reputation for dating somebody for six weeks and going on to another girl," said Lorna Wise, 81.
They met at a party, after which they walked on the beach. Her parents were not impressed by the good-looking son of a hat maker who wanted to play professional golf — a job they did not see as lucrative.
"I hope he can eat golf balls," her father said.
Mr. Wise enlisted in the Marine Corps and was stationed in Camp Pendleton, Calif. Lorna, a nursing student, met him in California to be married by a judge.
Weeks later, she finally told her mother. "Her first words to me were, 'I'm so disappointed,'" Lorna said.
They were later wed in a ceremony by a rabbi, but always counted the elopement as their wedding day.
Mr. Wise won a golf tournament at his Marine Corps base, and for a time worked as a golf pro. He finished college at the University of Miami, became a certified public accountant and worked for a firm for several years.
In 1967 he opened B. Wise Realty with a partner in Miami, buying apartment complexes, among other things. After just eight years, he was ready to retire.
So in 1975 the Wises bought a used 23-foot Winnebago and hit the road for the first time.
They liked the RV lifestyle, and expanded their to-do lists. They drove through the Great Smoky Mountains, the Great Plains and Mojave Desert, staying up late and rising late, taking side trips to explore or visit relatives or look up old friends.
"We didn't eat out," his wife said. "This is one of the reasons we enjoyed it. I had my own bed, my own bathroom and my own food. I wasn't at the mercy of some greasy spoon restaurant three times a day."
A six-pack of beer lasted a week, with Mr. and Mrs. Wise sharing a single 12-oz. can for dinner. Mr. Wise read biographies and other nonfiction in long leisurely spells.
Over the years they graduated to a 25-foot Revcon RV, then a 33-foot Revcon. The couple kept rolls of quarters handy to check in with their children on pay phones. Their adult children worried sometimes if they didn't hear anything for a few days, but they understood.
"I think this was part of what they lived to do, go in a motorhome and drive around," said Staci Blatt, their daughter.
They had memorable adventures, taking an RV aboard a cruise ship to Alaska and reconnoitering with fellow Revcon enthusiasts in different parts of the country.
Fifteen years ago, the couple changed their home base from Miami to Tampa. They stopped traveling five years ago when Mr. Wise's back began to bother him.
Many people have wondered how the Wises stayed in such close quarters on the road several months a year for 30 years.
"People used to ask us, 'What is your secret?'" Lorna said. "I think it's consideration of the other, consideration of your partner."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.