Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Manuel Aparicio | 1926 — 2008

Educator's ideas helped others

TAMPA — When he was a boy, Manuel Aparicio didn't seem destined for a life in academia.

When he started his education in Tampa's public schools, he spoke only Spanish. He had no idea what his teachers were saying. Even when they said things they thought he should understand, their accents made them incomprehensible to him.

"He couldn't even understand them when they said 'Manuel Aparicio,' " his wife, Consuelo, said.

A legendary priest changed the course of Mr. Aparcio's life.

He was just 12 when his mother died, and Mr. Aparicio was sent to Boys Town in Nebraska, where Father Edward Flanagan took a special interest in him.

"He wasn't there very long, but Father Flanagan took him under his wing," Consuelo Aparicio said. "I think he wanted him to become a priest, but Manuel liked girls."

Father Flanagan deeply instilled in young Mr. Aparicio a love for education. From then on, Mr. Aparicio devoted his life to making sure the people of Hillsborough County had opportunities to learn.

"He never stopped," his wife said. "He never retired until he was very sick. And even then, he would be giving the hospice nurses advice."

Mr. Aparicio died June 13, just a couple of weeks after his 82nd birthday. He had battled spinal cancer for several years and had been very ill for the past 11 months.

He started his education career at Sulphur Springs Elementary School and later taught at Van Buren Middle School.

The only thing he valued more than education was his own family. To make sure his wife, son and daughter were provided for, he worked evenings in the Sears credit department and weekends at a miniature golf course.

Because he didn't have his regular teaching job in the summer, Mr. Aparicio came up with a plan.

"He approached the School Board with the idea that he would be a traveling science teacher, and they agreed," his wife said.

So every summer, Mr. Aparicio would travel to schools around Hillsborough County, showing kids in summer programs the joys of science. He brought his own son and daughter along with him.

He knew that a lot of adults hadn't had educational opportunities and devoted much of his career to adult education. He was the first supervisor of adult basic education in Hillsborough County. He later founded and became the first principal of Adult Day High School, which was on Nebraska Avenue near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

He also started the county's adult migrant education program, teaching basic life skills to migrant workers.

"People would take advantage of the migrants," his wife said. "They would sell them fruit but they'd sell them 12 ounces and charge them for a pound, because the migrants didn't know there were 16 ounces in a pound. He would teach them those kinds of things, so people didn't rob them."

He spent much of the past year in debilitating pain, but never let it show. The only thing he seemed to be concerned about was his family. He'd never complain about his own condition, but always ask to hear stories about his grandchildren.

"Before he died, he told me he wished he had spent more time with us," said his daughter, Star Aparicio Schmidt. "But I don't remember him not being there. I knew he worked three jobs, but he was always home for dinner. He was just always there for us. He was the best dad and the best grandfather."

Besides his wife and his daughter, Mr. Aparicio is survived by son, Manuel Aparicio IV, his sister, Mary Fontanills, and two grandchildren.

Marty Clear writes life stories of Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at

Educator's ideas helped others 06/19/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 12:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' Doug Martin relying on strength from drug rehab to power his return


    TAMPA — He would not talk about the drug he abused. He would not identify the rehab facility he entered in January or how long he was there.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buc Place, the team's training facility, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
  2. NCAA: Former USF basketball assistant gave improper benefits


    TAMPA — Former USF men's basketball assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided impermissible benefits, including lodging at his home, for two prospective student-athletes while they received on-campus tutoring, according to findings reported to the school by the NCAA.

  3. Assault charge may not sway voters in Montana election (w/video)


    BOZEMAN, Mont. — Republican multimillionaire Greg Gianforte won Montana's only U.S. House seat on Thursday despite being charged a day earlier with assault after witnesses said he grabbed a reporter by the neck and threw him to the ground.

    People fill out ballots for the special election to fill Montana's only U.S. House seat at the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark on Thursday in Billings, Mont. [Associated Press]
  4. Quiet college dropout turned bomber: Who was Salman Abedi?


    LONDON — He was quiet and withdrawn, a college dropout who liked soccer — and, some say, showed alarming signs of being radicalized years before he walked into a pop concert at Britain's Manchester Arena and detonated a powerful bomb, killing himself and 22 others.

    Salman Abedi was identified by British authorities as the man behind Monday’s attack.
  5. Soldiers launch attacks in besieged Philippine city


    MARAWI, Philippines — Backed by tanks and rocket-firing helicopters, Philippine troops launched "precision attacks" Thursday to clear extremists linked to the Islamic State group from a city that has been under siege since a raid that failed to capture one of Asia's most-wanted militants.

    Soldiers fire at enemy positions Thursday while trying to clear the city of Marawi, Philippines, of armed militants.