REDINGTON SHORES — Former Mayor James R. "Dick" Feimster was a "loving, irascible patriarch of an unruly tribe."
That is how his large and extended family collectively described its husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather in his obituary.
Many of the residents in the town he led almost 20 years ago would agree.
Mr. Feimster, 84, who died March 24 from complications of Alzheimer's disease, was elected as a town commissioner in 1977 and served seven times as mayor from 1979 until 1994.
One vivid memory recalled repeatedly is how he used to weed the islands in the middle of Gulf Boulevard.
When Mr. Feimster retired, Indian Shores police Chief E.D. Williams joked that he hoped his department would stop getting calls about a "drunk man on his hands and knees" in Gulf Boulevard medians.
"He was a great, hands-on mayor," said Town Clerk Mary Palmer.
Palmer said when residents would bring Mr. Feimster their problems, complaints and criticisms, the mayor would sit them down with a cup of coffee, listen and then tell them "straightforwardly" what he thought.
"It was my mom who convinced him to run for the commission," recalled his daughter Debbie Feimster. "He was the first person I ever voted for. It was pretty neat."
Mr. Feimster's grandson James remembered how people constantly dropped off injured animals at his home.
"Dogs, cats, even raccoons would let him pet them," he said.
Mr. Feimster helped people, too.
He helped organize annual holiday dinners at the Lobster Pot for the town's senior citizens.
Once, he paid a utility bill for an elderly woman who was about to have her water shut off.
When the county sent prisoners to help with a beach cleanup, he ordered pizzas for them.
But it was his family that consumed his life.
Mr. Feimster was born in Allenwood, N.J., served in the Navy during the Korean War, studied at the University of Miami, and for many years helped run his family's fuel oil business, even after he moved to Florida.
After marrying his wife, Faith, the couple moved to Florida where they spent half the year at Casa Chica Cottages, which they purchased in Indian Shores. They also built and owned the Around the World miniature golf course. The family moved to Redington Shores in the 1970s.
His daughter Diane Love remembers swimming in the gulf with her brothers and sisters.
"He had a loud whistle that he would blow if we went out too far," she said.
"He taught all of his girls we could be anything we wanted to be," remembers another daughter, Dawn Freyberger. "Although he was not much on organized religion, I called him my angel with no halo."
After retiring, Mr. Feimster spent his summers in Arizona and then Utah where he visited his daughter Martha Thiel and her family.
"Daddy loved to pan for gold. Every year he brought some home with him," Thiel said.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Feimster is survived by five of his six children, seven grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and his beloved mini-dachshund, Myrtle.
"I spent 55 years with the guy. He was such a dear sweet wonderful husband," Faith Feimster said. "He told me 'I love you' every day up until the very end — even when his memory was gone," she said.
The family is planning a celebration of his life at 1 p.m. April 28 at Redington Shores' Constitution Park — a park he helped to develop while he was mayor.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be sent to the Dick Feimster Memorial Fund at Ivy Ridge Memory Care, 7179 40th Ave. N, St. Petersburg 33709.