Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

Eric Filson traveled an eclectic career path, devoured history

LARGO — Eric Filson had been to Chile, Italy, Greece and Tunisia. He had driven by himself out west to photograph whatever, only to return to his wife and his favorite place in the world, his blue recliner in the living room.

From there, he would make his way through U.S. history, from George Washington to the Civil War to LBJ, study road maps, sip his Coke and figure out which presidential library to visit next.

Mr. Filson, whose interest in everything led to several areas of expertise and a diverse career path, died Saturday. He was 71.

An award-winning newspaper reporter and editor, he left journalism to study accounting, then taught himself software analysis.

"What attracted me was his sense of sincerity," said Monique Filson, his wife since 1989. Mr. Filson, who had emerged from a childless first marriage, tried to teach his stepdaughters, then 13 and 14, the kind of curiosity that had guided his life.

"If we found a word in the newspaper we didn't know, wrote it down and gave the definition, he would give us a quarter," said stepdaughter Maureen Wingfield. "We could get $1.75 a week doing that."

A son of two college professors, Mr. Filson was born in Saginaw, Mich. He graduated from Michigan State University, then spent a year as a reporter for the Royal Oak Daily Tribune in Michigan. He moved to the Gainesville Sun as a reporter and city editor, his local stories often reflecting broader tensions over civil rights or the Vietnam war.

Then he went back to school, earning an accounting degree from Florida State University. Before long, Mr. Filson had discovered he was also interested in computers. He spent the last 25 years of his career at what is now St. Petersburg College, retiring in 2006 as a senior computer analyst.

All the while, he read U.S. history. He leaned Democratic despite having no party affiliation, but was equally eager to visit the presidential libraries of Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton. When President Gerald Ford died in 2006, stepdaughter Wingfield, who lives in Baltimore, agreed to photograph the proceedings for him.

He had planned to do much more traveling with his wife. Then two years ago, doctors said he was becoming affected by an unclassified dementia. He entered East Bay Rehabilitation Center after a fall, and died there Saturday.

His stepdaughter, now 37 and a civil and environmental engineer, credits Mr. Filson with broadening her horizons. Once a shy teen, Wingfield took up the clarinet after her stepfather bought her one. Before long, she was a soloist.

"He said that while others may tell me this was a useless hobby it really wasn't," she said, "because you wanted to be well-rounded and a Renaissance woman. That way you have something to talk about to anybody."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

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