TARPON SPRINGS — Nicholas G. Stamas was 10 years old when he and his younger brother Peter built their first boat, a dinghy that filled with water minutes after they launched onto a local bayou.
Their mother, trying to keep her boys safe, asked a fisherman to destroy the makeshift vessel. The man stomped and kicked, trying to loosen the nails or crack the plywood. But he only hurt his foot.
"At that point he learned the quality of the Stamas boats," said James, Mr. Stamas' son, chuckling at the story.
Nicholas Stamas, who cofounded Stamas Yacht with his brother and sold tens of thousands of boats all over the world, died Sunday. He was 93.
Mr. Stamas was born Jan. 15, 1920, in Dublin, Ga., and moved to Tarpon Springs as a child. During World War II, he won praise from his commanding officer, who said the chief boatswain mate "acted intelligently and remained cool and collected" no matter the situation.
He married Celia, whose family also was Greek, after he met her on Clearwater Beach. Her family had come south for vacation. She wore a two-piece swimsuit — cutting edge at the time. He wore a windbreaker. "Only Yankees swim in the winter time," he teased. "That's crazy."
Their life together was filled with three sons and six grandchildren, hard work, travel, Greek cooking and dancing.
"He never seemed to run out of energy, and he was always pushing to get the job done," James said. "When work was done, he left that behind and he looked like he didn't have a care in the world."
Mr. Stamas launched the boat-building company in 1950. Its early boats were hand-built from plywood, a skill Mr. Stamas learned from watching a man build boats at the Sponge Docks.
Stamas boats are known for being sturdy, said George Stamas, Mr. Stamas' oldest son. When the demand for fiberglass boats grew in the late 1960s, Mr. Stamas was one of the early adapters.
The company sold several types of vessels through the years, George said, and its customers included the American, Greek and Nigerian militaries. It also built some glass-bottomed boats used at Silver Springs.
Mr. Stamas was naturally skilled in construction and business, and passed that on to his sons, all of whom worked at the boat business during summers.
When his sons were small, Mr. Stamas told them they could have a $9 electric train set only if they earned it. So the boys spent the summer sorting the nails that were knocked to the floor of the business.
Mr. Stamas retired in the late 1980s. He and his wife relaxed and traveled in their RV before she began to struggle with her health and he became her primary caregiver.
"He didn't give up his driver's license until a year and a half ago," George said. "He was always on his feet cooking and enjoying himself."
He died quietly on the couch after he laid down for a nap.
Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 323-0353.