DAVIS ISLANDS — Don Saltzman was one of those fortunate individuals who figured out, while he was still young, exactly what he wanted do with his life.
He married his high school sweetheart, and as soon as he finished graduate school he embarked upon the career of his dreams.
And unlike a lot of people who realize their dreams, Mr. Saltzman never questioned his choices. He loved every day of his career running community recreation departments, which culminated in a 15-year stint as Tampa's recreation director.
His home life was just as idyllic.
"We dated for five years before we got married and we celebrated 56 years on Christmas," Arlene Saltzman said. "We had 56 years of wedded bliss."
Mr. Saltzman was in the shower of his Davis Islands home on Jan. 4 when he collapsed and died. He was 77.
"His good heart gave out," his wife said.
He grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., where he met Arlene, whom everyone calls "Sis," in high school.
He went to college at nearby SUNY Cortland, and she studied nursing. After they married, she moved with him to Illinois, where he got his master's degree in recreation administration at the University of Illinois.
All he ever wanted to do, Sis Saltzman said, was to run city recreation departments. He wanted to help people have a good time.
"I think that was it," his wife said. "He just enjoyed people and wanted to make sure they had fun."
Right after college, in the late 1950s, the Saltzmans moved back to the Buffalo area, where he started a recreation program in the nearby town of Penfield. Residents went door to door collecting money to get the program off the ground. Mr. Saltzman started the program with the $6,000 they raised. Even his salary came out of that meager sum.
"We went back for the 50th anniversary (of the recreation department) and now our grandchildren are participating in the programs that Don started," his wife said.
Stints in Rochester, N.Y., and Dayton, Ohio, followed, and then in 1980 Mr. Saltzman accepted the job as director of Tampa's recreation department.
He came down first to look for a house, with no luck. His wife came a few weeks later, and the first morning she was here a real estate agent took them to see a house on Davis Islands that had just become available.
"I walked in through the front door and said, 'This is it,' " she said.
The family has lived in that house ever since.
Mr. Saltzman directed the department for 15 years, until his retirement in 1995. He oversaw the initiation of the Friday Extra Concert Series, which brings free concerts to the Lowry Park band shell, and the development of Friends of Tampa Recreation, a fundraising affiliate of the recreation department.
As much as he loved his career, he was more devoted to his family. When their three sons were children, vacations almost always included all five Saltzmans taking motor trips across the United States. Once the sons were grown and had moved to other parts of the country, Don and Sis Saltzman visited them often and were as devoted to their partners as they were to their own children.
"I couldn't have asked for better in-laws," said daughter-in law Liz Saltzman. "Don and Sis accepted anyone that their children loved, and immediately embraced them as part of the family."
Besides his wife, Mr. Saltzman is survived by his three sons, Barry, Randy and Kenneth, and six grandchildren.