DUNEDIN — Joseph Plount liked to say that everything worth seeing, he'd seen at least once, and probably two or three times. He didn't get to say that by playing it safe.
On Dec. 7, 1942, the one-year anniversary of Pearl Harbor, Mr. Plount enlisted in the 13th Army Air Force at age 19. When his plane was under fire, he manned the gun of his B-24 bomber. But if he wasn't being attacked by fighters, "he'd take the gun off the turret and get the camera," said his eldest son, Jerry Plount. As an aerial photographer, Mr. Plount watched through a lens as bombs fell over the Philippines.
"He always loved flying," said Jerry Plount. Jerry was an officer in the Vietnam War, and remembers disagreeing with his father over this. He said he could see no appeal in being "in a box in the air," but his father couldn't understand how Jerry could stand to be stuck down on the ground.
One day when Mr. Plount wasn't flying, his crew went up without him. The plane crashed during takeoff, and everyone was killed. "My dad wasn't one to talk about his feelings," said Jerry Plount, but he believes it was devastating to his father.
When Mr. Plount returned home to Ohio after WWII, he married June Roberts. He had known June and her sister, Fern, since he was 8, delivering newspapers to their house.
After a bad winter in 1962, Mr. Plount decided he'd had enough of the Midwest. With three children and no job, he moved his family to Florida.
When Mr. Plount arrived, he didn't look for a career. He made one.
He started DICO Cleaning Co., and later Sani-Chem Cleaning Supplies Inc., which is still open in Clearwater.
"He was a risk taker," Jerry Plount said. "You have to be, to be a businessman."
After his wife died from leukemia in 1986, Mr. Plount retired, but his risk-taking days were far from over.
"He got tired of sitting around," said Gordon Mason, who befriended Mr. Plount 40 years ago.
After a trip up the East Coast, Mr. Plount came back saying he could see what people liked about motor homes, and that he might look for one. "The next day he drove home in one," Jerry Plount said.
Mr. Plount became very close to Fern Hartman, his dead wife's sister, and for the next 10 years, they left Florida in the RV each May and returned in August or September. They toured the country, golfing in Death Valley and exploring rock formations out West.
When he could no longer go off in the motor home, he and Hartman flew to Europe for weeks at a time. Over a few years, they traveled to about 30 countries.
Five years ago, Mr. Plount began to show symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
"Of all the things I've lost, I've missed my mind the most," he would say.
Mr. Plount died of complications of Alzheimer's disease on March 7, 2009, at age 85.