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Frank Ammirati | 1943-2008

Frank Ammirati was a teacher in every sense

It seemed to everyone who knew Frank Ammirati that he was born to be a teacher.

For 27 years, Mr. Ammirati taught driver's education at Tampa Bay Technical High School. He also coached the school's baseball team. But he didn't stop being a teacher once his workday ended.

"He was a teacher through and through," said his son, Jimmy. "He taught people how to live, how to walk through this life. He was a very humble man and he wouldn't talk about himself, but he had an effect on people just from the way he lived his own life."

Mr. Ammirati, 65, had been in excellent health, but suffered a heart attack on Dec. 9. He and his wife, Barbara, had returned from a Caribbean cruise that day. He never regained consciousness and died a week later.

He grew up in the Panama Canal Zone and came to Florida in the 1960s to study education at Florida State University. It was there that he met his future wife, who was also an education major. They were introduced by her brother, who lived in the same dorm as Mr. Ammirati.

They were married a year later. His wife had grown up in Tampa, so they moved to the area to begin their careers. Barbara Ammirati was a principal at several local elementary schools before she retired.

Over the years, Mr. Ammirati taught countless teenagers to drive. It wasn't unusual for family members to run into former students who recalled him with fondness and admiration.

"We'd be out together and the family name would come up and someone would say 'Ammirati? Are you related to Frank?' " Jimmy Ammirati said.

But it wasn't until after his death that the family heard from a lot of people whose lives had been profoundly affected by meeting Mr. Ammirati.

One was a man who had met him at a Little League game.

"My dad was just flipping hot dogs at the Little League field and this man started talking to him," said Karen Basham, Mr. Ammirati's daughter. "This man was sort of at a crossroads and didn't know what to do with his life. My dad talked to him while he was flipping hot dogs and that man decided to become a teacher, and that's what he's doing now, just because of that conversation."

A childhood friend of Jimmy Ammirati's always remembered a fishing trip he took with Mr. Ammirati decades ago.

"We were fishing and nobody was catching much," Jimmy Ammirati said. "My father hooked a fish and instead of reeling it in he handed the rod to my friend and said, 'Here, you reel him in.' My friend told me that when my dad did that he thought, 'That's the kind of father I want to be.' "

To the friend, it was a profound moment. But to Mr. Ammirati's kids, it was routine, the kind of thing they saw their father do every day.

"One thing that makes a good teacher is that he's selfless," Karen Basham said. "He wants the best for the person he's teaching and doesn't care about getting recognition for himself. That was my dad."

In addition to his wife and two children, Mr. Ammirati is survived a sister and four grandchildren.

Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached a mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

Frank Ammirati was a teacher in every sense 01/01/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 3, 2009 12:46pm]
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