ST. PETERSBURG — As the story goes, Butch Trudell, then 17, was about to take a swim at Naval Air Station Bermuda.
A couple of official-looking men in suits told Mr. Trudell, the son of a Navy commander, to stay out of the water.
But then another man emerged from the water and reversed the order. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles introduced himself with a handshake and waved off the men standing watch. Mr. Trudell didn't tell the story until last year.
Mr. Trudell died March 19, a few weeks after being diagnosed with cancer and congestive heart failure. He was 68.
"He kind of kept things to himself," said Betty Trudell, his sister. "If you asked him a question, he'd tell you about it."
He could chat for months with people of his generation and not mention his year and a half as a Marine in Vietnam.
At parties, he watched as conversations overlapped — then erupted in laughter or pitched in with a story.
Mr. Trudell grew up everywhere, the son of a Navy pilot who became a commander.
He attended Notre Dame and graduated from the University of South Florida. He worked as a property clerk for the city of Lakeland, a manager for a holistic ointment supplier, an accountant for H&R Block. He was clever with electronics, and once assembled a color television from scratch.
He drove a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt. He wore Hawaiian shirts and liked to go barefoot. He dated but never married.
Mr. Trudell read history, particularly about World War II. He took Windjammer "tall ships" cruises to the Caribbean.
He owned a mobile home and a black shih tzu named Chu Chu.
In recent years, Mr. Trudell moonlighted as a customer service representative for an airport limousine service, reserving limousines around the United States over the phone.
In July, he told his sister, he fielded a call from an Army general who wanted to be picked up at Dulles International Airport.
"Do you know where that is?" the general asked.
"Yes, sir," Mr. Trudell replied. "It's 26 miles from Washington, in Virginia. It's named after John Foster Dulles, the secretary of state under President Dwight David Eisenhower."
After the anecdote, Mr. Trudell told his sister about meeting Dulles in 1958.
"It only took him 50 years to tell me," said Betty Trudell, 63. "That's Butch."
A few weeks ago, doctors at the VA discovered a malignant mass on his adrenal gland. His condition worsened rapidly. In a lucid moment a week before he died, Mr. Trudell told his sister, his only survivor and closest friend, where he kept the title to the mobile home he owned free and clear.
It was hers now, he said.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.