NEW PORT RICHEY — Eric Foster Rhodes spent a long career as an academic brain trust.
He filled his retirement writing detective novels.
Mr. Rhodes wrote through every phase of his adult life, though his themes evolved from the finances of colleges to solving murders.
He maintained a diverse range of interests. The consultant who authored the master plan for new community colleges in Virginia also performed magic shows for children.
Mr. Rhodes died Aug. 24, weeks after doctors diagnosed late-stage cancer. He was 85.
"The common theme is problem solving," said Roxanne Rhodes Hoare, his daughter, "applying brain power in ways that sort of made an adventure out of helping people who were experiencing problems."
His influence was felt most strongly in his native Virginia. As a consultant with a doctorate in education, Mr. Rhodes developed the master plan for 22 community colleges on 35 campuses.
"He consulted on where they should be located and what kind of curriculum they should have," said Hoare, 65.
Mr. Rhodes was born in Luray, Va. He wrote his first play in middle school and started performing magic tricks in high school. He served in the Army, then moved through George Washington University and its graduate school.
He married Barbara Henson, a high school classmate, in 1946.
Mr. Rhodes taught high school English in the 1950s and started a consulting company.
He became an expert in employee relations, writing 16 books about management, mostly, with titles including Negotiating Salaries and 45 Ways to Cut Budget Costs. He consulted for local governments, school systems and colleges in 37 states.
A calm, cordial man, Mr. Rhodes weathered some sizeable changes in his life. He and his first wife divorced in 1972, then remarried in 2004.
He wrote voluminously and mostly by hand in their New Port Richey home, only now he wrote fiction and poetry.
Several of more than a dozen self-published books during this period featured Jeep Winston, a consultant who also solved murders; and magician Griff McGregor, who solved crimes with a sidekick, Boffo the clown.
"He drew on his wide travels, his understanding of government and the frailties of human nature," said Hoare, 65.
In April, Mr. Rhodes lost in a three-way City Council race to incumbent Judy DeBella Thomas and Bill Phillips, attracting 27 percent of the vote.
Phillips, 55, called Mr. Rhodes a "formidable opponent" with a lot of experience to offer.
"He didn't try to overwhelm you with his knowledge," he said. "But he gave you a thoughtful approach to what was going on with this city."
Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.