INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — If there is one truth about Ed Piniero, it is that he cared — about his city, his neighbors, his friends and his family.
Mr. Piniero, 69, who died Nov. 18 after a long battle with cancer, also was a man you couldn't ignore. He made sure of that.
Sometimes patient, sometimes not — thanks to the brashness of his New York roots — Mr. Piniero had a passion as a longtime public official and government watchdog.
Mr. Piniero perhaps best described himself after his 2006 election to the City Commission: He wanted to "protect the little guy."
Marco De Zago said that even as an 11-year-old boy, Mr. Piniero looked out for others.
The two cousins were at summer camp, and each had 10 cents to spend every day for candy.
"Eddie noticed that one poor kid didn't have money to buy candy. Eddie split his dime every day with this kid. That's what Eddie was all about," De Zago recalls.
Mr. Piniero moved to Indian Rocks Beach in 1972 with his wife, Marcella, and their legal ward, John. Over the years he raised his family here and made many friends.
One of them was Jim Palamara, a neighbor who first met Mr. Piniero at a session of the City Commission, where they would eventually serve together.
"He was my best friend for the last 25 years, and I loved him. There is hole in my heart without him," Palamara said Tuesday.
Another friend and former commissioner, Jeremiah Carmody, described Mr. Piniero as "a gentle, kind person who was always there for everybody."
Mayor R.B. Johnson spoke of his civic loyalty. "Whether he was in office or not, he religiously attended commission meetings. He believed it was his duty. Ed prided himself on helping us understand how and why our city codes came into being."
Mr. Piniero served on the Indian Rocks Beach City Commission for 16 years, including two years as mayor in the late 1980s. He was a member of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District Commission, where he served as chairman for six years.
He served on the Planning and Zoning Board, the Local Planning Agency, the Finance and Budget Review Committee, the Recreation Board and the Charter Review Committee, and was an active member of the city's homeowners association, library board and historical society.
"He was a good friend. Everything he did and said had the best intentions for the city," said former Mayor Bill Ockunzzi.
His wife, Marcella, admits she did not always appreciate her husband's interest in politics, but marvels at how he would always listen to people's problems and try to fix them.
One life that certainly was "fixed" was that of John Wallbank, who was 8 when his parents died. Mr. Piniero became his legal guardian and raised him as a son.
"As a teenager, I was a handful for him, a one-man crime wave, but he put up with all that and taught me the meaning of perseverance," said Wallbank, who is now a successful writer in California.
Mr. Piniero's daughter, Kerri, remembers her dad playing a scary vampire during a school haunted house. She helped him stuff envelopes and walk the neighborhoods when he ran for office.
Mr. Piniero's son, Darren, said his father's personal life was guided by a single principle: Whatever the task, do it right or don't do it at all.
"He taught me to never lie, to tell the truth, even if hurts, to take responsibility for my actions and to always do my best," Darren said.
"He instilled this work ethic in me, and it helped me sail through my Navy career," Darren said, adding that he wore his uniform to his father's funeral Mass to honor that legacy.
Mr. Piniero was buried holding rosary beads given to him by a grateful neighbor, one of the many he had helped over the years.