LAKE MAGDALENE — Jack Zusman had three priorities in life: learning, teaching and family.
"He didn't play bridge, he didn't play golf, nothing like that," said his wife, Rhoda. "He was collector of knowledge. He craved knowledge. That was his hobby."
When Dr. Zusman passed away from Parkinson's disease April 23 at age 75, he left behind some 8,000 books. He had read almost all of them. In many of them, he had inserted related articles from newspapers and magazines, folded neatly between the book's pages.
"He read constantly," his wife said. "Three newspapers every day. If he became interested in something, he'd learn everything he could about it until he became an expert. A friend of ours from Buffalo said, 'He was the only person I ever met who, every time I talked to him, I learned something new.' "
He had studied medicine and earned an M.D. degree, but he never practiced medicine beyond his residency. He chose instead a life in academia, where he could share his passion for knowledge with students.
His studies and his career took him to prestigious universities around the country. He came to Tampa in 1982 to head the Florida Mental Health Institute and to teach in the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida. He continued teaching there until his retirement about five years ago. His book collection will be donated to the USF library.
He grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of a pharmacist. He met his wife when they were both working at a summer camp for physically disabled children. He was a lifeguard, and she was a counselor.
"He developed one of the first recreational swimming programs for handicapped children," his wife said. "At the time, all the swimming programs were therapeutic."
After they married, his wife taught special education in the New York City schools while he got his first master's degree and then his medical degree.
His education didn't end even after he earned his doctorate. Some years later, he returned to graduate school and earned a second master's degree.
Although he craved knowledge on almost any subject, he became especially noted for his expertise in psychology and the law. He wrote a book and numerous articles on the subject, taught it at USF, and put his knowledge to use as a volunteer in police auxiliaries in several cities where the family lived.
He earned the rank of colonel in his role as commander of the MASH Army National Guard in Temple Terrace, and past commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the Florida National Guard 202nd Medical Group.
His other passion was his family. He and his wife had four daughters, and in the past four years they had given him four grandchildren.
"Family was very important to him," said his daughter, Anita Zusman Eddy. "We all had children rather late in life, so he was particularly delighted that he had the chance to get to know his grandchildren."
Even though he was 75 years old, not exactly a young man, people who knew him say his life seemed to have been cut short.
"He was runner for 50 years, since long before it became popular," his wife said. "He never put a morsel of food into his mouth that wasn't good for him. Everybody though he would live to be 200."
Even his 4-year-old granddaughter expected him to recover.
"When Grandpa gets better," she told her grandmother, "I'm going to take him to the library."