Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Dr. Rafael Misa

Dr. Rafael Misa's passion was music, not money

MADEIRA BEACH — Rafael Misa lived a passionate life.

As a urologist, he bypassed a more lucrative career for 25 years at a VA medical center.

"I heard it from other doctors," said his son, Tony. "They would say, 'Misa, why don't you come be a millionaire like the rest of us?' But that wasn't his way."

His passion extended to music. In his native Cuba, Dr. Misa played bongos and the tres guitar. He passed on an appreciation for Cuban music to his nephew, who became a famous drummer.

Dr. Misa died Friday at his home. He was 92.

He grew up in the Camaguey province, the son of a businessman and a Methodist missionary. One day, when a waitress and single mother named Marina asked about her sick 2-year-old, he pursued and married her.

He emigrated to the United States in 1956. After Fidel Castro clamped down on travel, he arranged for relatives' passage to the United States.

At Bay Pines, Dr. Misa bonded with veterans. "He would sit on the bed with patients and stroke their arm or their leg," said Michael Misa, Dr. Misa's youngest son. "He would say, 'I know you feel bad now, but you'll get better. Just wait and see.' "

He followed the news closely and railed against communism. He also learned what it means to be an immigrant. Once, during an operation, a famous surgeon asked Dr. Misa if it was true Cubans don't wear shoes.

Dr. Misa made sure he was dressed well from head to toe. He seldom left the house without wearing a tie, even for routine errands. At home, he and Marina put on Trio Matamoros records and danced. When she tired of dancing, he played along on his guitar or bongos.

"My uncle was taught by the black Cubans, and he gave me the knowledge of that (Afro-Cuban) group," said Orestes Vilato, Dr. Misa's nephew, who played drums through the 1980s for the rock group Santana.

When Vilato was 5, his uncle presented him with another gift — his first set of bongo drums. "From him I got into popular Cuban music," said Vilato, now 64 and a 1995 Grammy Award nominee.

Dr. Misa tried to leave his other passion, medicine, but couldn't stay retired. He practiced until age 85.

After Marina's death in 2003, Michael convinced his father to return to Cuba. As the plane banked to the east, past Havana's skyline and harbor, Dr. Misa looked out the window at land he had not seen in 47 years.

"As he saw the island," Michael said, "he just shook his head and, I think, he just recognized its beauty."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at ameacham@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2321.

.Biography

Dr. Rafael S. Misa

Born:

April 6, 1916.

Died:

Aug. 1, 2008.

Survivors: sons Tony and Michael; numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Dr. Rafael Misa's passion was music, not money 08/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 11, 2008 3:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Marine colonel on temporary duty at CentCom arrested in Polk prostitution sting

    Macdill

    A Marine colonel on temporary duty at U.S. Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base was among nearly 300 people arrested in a Polk County Sheriff's Office prostitution and human trafficking sting.

  2. Senator says deal set on restoring ACA subsidies ended by Trump

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A leading Republican senator says he and a top Democrat have reached an agreement on a plan to extend federal payments to health insurers that President Donald Trump has blocked.

    President Donald Trump sits for a radio interview in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) DCSW104
  3. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  4. Pasco delays Irma food distribution after problems elsewhere

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — Pasco County has pulled the plug on a planned Food for Florida distribution at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Center that had been scheduled to open to the public on Sunday.

    Pasco County has postponed a planned Food for Florida distribution at the Land O' Lakes Recreation Center on Collier Parkway and is seeking an alternative site. Last week, commissioners said they feared a repeat of the long lines of traffic that appeared outside Plant City Stadium on Oct. 9. The nutrition program for people affected by Hurricane Irma had been scheduled to come to Land O' Lakes Oct. 18 to 27.  [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Officials caution residents regarding storm debris removal

    Briefs

    As the Pasco County Solid Waste Department and its contractors continue to remove debris left behind by Hurricane Irma, residents are reminded that the free removal does not include picking up new, green vegetation.