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Epilogue | Charles E. Schuh

Ex-St. Petersburg mayor Charles Schuh dies

ST. PETERSBURG — Former mayor Charles E. Schuh, a lawyer who fought for civic causes in and out of office, died Friday after a 15-month bout with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 73.

Born in St. Petersburg, Mr. Schuh, attended St. Petersburg High School, St. Petersburg Junior College and the University of Florida, where he earned undergraduate and law degrees.

His interest in public service began well before that.

As a fifth-grader at North Ward Elementary, he accompanied his father, then-state Rep. Charles J. Schuh Jr. to Tallahassee and served as a page for Gov. Fuller Warren.

As a junior college student, he circulated petitions door to door to stop dredge-and-fill projects like Bayway Isles. His wife, Jean Schuh, remembers one early date when he took her to a Pinellas County Commission meeting and spoke against a dredging project at Tierra Verde.

"I thought it was thrilling,'' she recalled Friday. "I loved him since high school. I thought he was absolutely marvelous.''

Mr. Schuh's life took a traumatic turn at age 14, when a mentally ill litigant shot and killed his father. Mr. Schuh's mother, Kathryn, was left at age 36 to raise him and three younger brothers.

Active in Democratic politics, she once ran for tax collector. She died in August at age 95.

Mr. Schuh served on the City Council from 1971 through 1975 and then as mayor until 1977. In that era, the mayor was the council's titular head. An appointed city manager ran St. Petersburg.

During his tenure with city government, St. Petersburg created one of the nation's most progressive recycled water systems. The council updated and scaled back a World War II-era land-use plan that allowed for so much multifamily housing that the city could have grown to 600,000 residents.

But much of his civic legacy came after he left the council.

In the 1980s, the council, business interests and the St. Petersburg Times favored an extensive retail development called Pier Park, designed to revitalize the city's aging core. It would have extended from Second Street down to the waterfront.

Mr. Schuh became the opposition's point man at public meetings and was widely credited with derailing the project when voters turned it down.

"Charlie's a real bulldog,'' then-councilman J.W. Cate said at the time. "He knows what he wants, and he's got the ability to get it.''

A scaled-down version of that project evolved into BayWalk.

Schuh was also credited with brokering the deal that led to the renovation of the old Vinoy Park hotel — then a boarded-up hulk. A developer wanted a 94-slip marina and preservationists opposed it.

Shuttling between the groups, Schuh persuaded the developer to accept 74 slips and the renovation proceeded. The compromise also included a charter amendment to give city park and waterfront property extra protections before any sale or lease.

Mr. Schuh maintained a civil law practice with his brother Daniel for many years out of their office on Mirror Lake Drive. He and his wife lived 46 years in a home in Lakewood Estates.

An avid woodworker, he built furniture and boxes from fine wood inlaid with stone. Some sold at craft stores. Mr. Schuh was a fixture at Lakewood High School volleyball games when his daughter Laura played there, Once a year, she recalled, he paid for a team dinner. When he entered the gym the crowd would yell "Schoooo.''

He liked to get down on the floor and play with his three grandchildren. "He said he never wanted to work for a big firm because he needed time off to be with his family,'' daughter Laura Riiska recalled. "He didn't make a million dollars, but he left us with very, very important memories.''

Information from Times files was used in this story.


Charles E. Schuh

Born: Jan. 31, 1936

Died: Dec. 18, 2009

Survivors: wife Jean; daughters Laura Riiska and husband, Dana, and Diana Schuh and husband, Crew Kinnard; brothers John, Robert and Daniel Schuh, and three grandchildren.

Services: A memorial service will be held in early January.

Ex-St. Petersburg mayor Charles Schuh dies 12/18/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2009 11:13pm]
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