Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

From wartime to retirement, Frank Spatuzzi battled for his beliefs

CLEARWATER — The new span to the Clearwater Memorial Causeway, which took four years to build and opened in 2005, stirred admiration in some and discontent in others.

Among the project's harshest critics was Frank Spatuzzi, a decorated World War II veteran and president of the waterfront Pierce 100 Condominium Association. Mr. Spatuzzi fought for more than a dozen years, writing well-researched letters to the editor and participating in multiple lawsuits against the city of Clearwater.

"Some of these people get little or no sleep, listening to generators, backup vehicle noises, crane motors, back-and-forth yelling of these construction workers, and lights that cut through the night like 'Jedi lightsabers' onto our building," he wrote in 2003.

If city officials didn't know who Mr. Spatuzzi was before the project, they soon learned his name.

"Frank was an interesting guy, if you talked to him," said Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard. "He always had a pretty good attitude toward me. I certainly know there were times when he frustrated those before me."

Mr. Spatuzzi, a retired developer who also acted on behalf of orphans and baseball, died Friday. He was 93.

Pierce 100 residents argued that the city should have put the project to a referendum and that it was a waste of taxpayer dollars. For Mr. Spatuzzi and his wife, Inge, there was an additional problem. The new bridge sits at eye level from their sixth-floor condominium — and a little more than a football field away, closer than the drawbridge it replaced.

Residents sued twice over the project's financing or its approval process, but lost those cases in court. The condo association sued in 2005, claiming that the waterfront view had been obstructed. That case has been settled.

The Spatuzzis, meanwhile, learned to live with constant traffic noises and the reflections of headlights, even after years of construction noises subsided.

"We have dinner with the bridge every night," Mr. Spatuzzi told the Times in 2010.

Overall, though, he won most of his battles.

Mr. Spatuzzi was born in Vauxhall, N.J., in 1918, and grew up in Newark. In an era when some of his peers bought cigarettes for a penny, he called baseball "my babysitter" and hustled his way to a scholarship at Seton Hall University. Playing first base, he hit for an average above .400 and was later named to the school's athletic hall of fame.

He entered the Coast Guard during World War II, and in 1944 was wounded when a Japanese suicide plane struck his ship. The lieutenant junior grade was awarded the Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds that left him with a limp the rest of his life.

"I live by three virtues," Mr. Spatuzzi said in a recent interview. "One is compassion. The other is sensitivity. And the third one is integrity. I don't need anything else."

He also made the most of chance encounters.

Helping baseball executive Branch Rickey, who was then in a wheelchair, at a New Jersey airport led to a friendship. Mr. Spatuzzi stayed close to baseball, sometimes doing color commentary at Philadelphia Phillies spring training games.

In the 1970s he met Inge, a paralegal in a lawyer's office. Each had been married and divorced, with eight children total. They married in 1985.

Mr. Spatuzzi later celebrated the match with a necklace he designed and commissioned, with cursive letters spelling "The Franchise." A diamond dotted the "i."

"In Frank's lexicon it has to do with baseball," said Inge Spatuzzi, 77.

A third encounter in a Newark restaurant helped generations of children. As his wife recalled, "He met some nuns he didn't know, but he paid for their lunch. After he left, they found out who he was and invited him to lunch."

As a result of that meeting, Mr. Spatuzzi assumed the mortgage to build an orphanage. Today, St. Peter's Orphanage in Denville, N.J., serves abused, abandoned or neglected adolescent boys.

He and Inge moved to Clearwater permanently in 1993 but traveled often. Mr. Spatuzzi took photos from their trips, which he turned into greeting cards.

In 2008 he donated his Purple Heart to the Armed Forces Military Museum in Largo, where it was displayed below the simulated bridge of an LST-205, the type of ship on which Mr. Spatuzzi served when he was wounded.

In 2011, Stand & Salute American Heroes, part of the nonprofit Our Fallen Soldier, honored Mr. Spatuzzi with its annual Stand & Salute American Heroes Award — the first one given to someone for service in the Coast Guard.

In recognition of the award, at a September Rays home game against the Red Sox, Mr. Spatuzzi climbed out of a wheelchair, walked shakily to the mound and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

His health declined rapidly after a fall at home Dec. 24. He underwent surgery for a broken hip and was transferred to Suncoast Hospice House Brookside.

His death marks "the passing of more of that 'greatest generation,' " Hibbard said.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.


Updated: 9 minutes ago
Power outage halts flights at Atlanta international airport

Power outage halts flights at Atlanta international airport

ATLANTA — A sudden power outage at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday grounded scores of flights and stranded thousands of passengers during one of the busiest travel times of the year.Passengers were left in the dark when...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Wesley Chapel woman, 28, dies after crashing motorcycle

LUTZ — A 28-year-old motorcyclist died Sunday after she crashed near Lutz Lake Fern Road and Apian Way, Hillsborough deputies reported.Erica Kristen Rodriguez of Wesley Chapel was riding a Kawasaki motorcycle with a small group of motorcyclists eastb...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Warren Sapp pointed to the sky. And then he dropped Kurt Warner to the ground.The Bucs had just intercepted Warner for the fourth time. Sapp’s block cleared the way for Derrick Brooks to cross the goal line and clinch the win.Before Tampa Bay p...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida mayor resigns after arrest for using dead peoples’ disabled parking permits

Florida mayor resigns after arrest for using dead peoples’ disabled parking permits

DAVENPORT, Fla. (AP) — The mayor of a small Florida town arrested for using dead peoples’ disabled parking permits to park at city hall has resigned.The Bradenton Herald reports that Teresa Bradley resigned and was given six-months of probation as pa...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Woman, 24, hit by Land Rover, in critical condition

LARGO — A 24-year-old woman is in critical condition after she was struck by a vehicle Saturday night, police said.Khadijah Wood was walking through the parking lot of the Sandy Lane Apartment Homes on Belcher Road about 7:30 p.m.At the same time, Ju...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Warm, sunny Sunday in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — It’s another bright, sunny day in Tampa Bay. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay areaHigh temperatures should reach about 80 d...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

A first-degree murder suspect remains at large almost a week after the fatal shooting of a Winter Haven father.The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says Johnny Ray Owsley’s murder of 35-year-old Adam Thrower, called "Cook" by friends, involved Owsley’s e...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Published: 12/16/17
Updated: 12/17/17

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Published: 12/16/17