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Dade City doctor, a political broker with statewide influence, dies

DADE CITY — Marcelino Oliva was at once a small-town doctor and a political broker with statewide influence.

When he started his practice as an osteopathic physician in Dade City, he did everything from deliver babies to set casts. He even ran his own X-ray machine.

As his reputation grew, Dr. Oliva raised the profile of his profession, lobbying in Tallahassee and helping to establish two osteopathic colleges in Florida.

He was the first minority to serve as president of American Osteopathic Association.

Dr. Oliva was also a family man, raising three daughters with his wife, LoraLee.

In April 2010, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. He went into remission but became ill again about six weeks ago. He died Friday at age 75.

Mike Olson, Pasco County's tax collector who entered politics in 1974 with a run for County Commissioner, remembered being directed to Dr. Oliva during the campaign. An adviser told Olson, "he is highly respected, well thought of, he's a sharp man and you need him to help you."

Dr. Oliva was already supporting Olson's opponent in the Democratic primary, but a confident Olson insisted he would win.

So would Dr. Oliva support him in the general election? He said he would.

Years later, in 1994, Dr. Oliva made a political run himself, facing off against a young Mike Fasano for a state House of Representatives seat. Fasano, the Republican, won, but the opponents ended up as friends.

"We may have had political differences, but philosophically we were very, very close. He taught me a lot after I got elected," Fasano said. "Being a freshman member, someone who was trying to learn a lot in a short period of time, his experience in the medical field helped me immensely."

Fasano said he always consulted Dr. Oliva for advice on legislation involving medicine or health care.

"He was not only a great friend but a mentor," Fasano said.

Curtis Law, who served on the County Commission for 16 years, remembered Dr. Oliva as a "bright, sunny individual."

"When you walked in his office, you might be sick, but when you left, you felt like a million dollars," Law said.

Steven Winn, executive director of the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association, credits Dr. Oliva with laying the groundwork that brought osteopathy schools to Fort Lauderdale and Bradenton.

"He is truly a pioneer," Winn said.

Dr. Oliva was born in Cuba to a family of tobacco growers. He came to Tampa when he was 8 and learned to speak English in school.

His heritage remained a proud part of him, from the traditions he taught his daughters to his dashing appearance.

"He was ... distinguished looking with that black mustache, coal black hair and sparkling eyes," Olson said. "He was just really something to behold."

Teresa Oliva Gilbert, Dr. Oliva's youngest daughter, remembered how every Christmas Eve, to celebrate Noche Buena, more than 100 relatives packed their family's house for a traditional meal of beans and rice, yucca, salad, flan and a pig Dr. Oliva roasted himself.

"He was a great father and a great man, and he'll be missed," Gilbert said.

Funeral arrangements were still pending Friday.

Staff writer Lee Logan contributed to this report. Molly Moorhead can be reached at


Dr. Marcelino Oliva

Born: Nov. 8, 1935.

Died: July 8, 2011.

Survivors: wife LoraLee; daughters Lori Oliva, Marcie Oliva Newton and Teresa Oliva Gilbert; sisters Aileen Martino and Martha Velarde; and four grandchildren.

Dade City doctor, a political broker with statewide influence, dies 07/08/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 8, 2011 8:09pm]
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