Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Her voice for children drew faithful to Clearwater's Bayside

TARPON SPRINGS — Lisa Hassell was a teacher. Though her classroom was a church and not a public school, "Miss Lisa" used every teacher's trick to get her students' attention, plus an entire manual of tactics she invented, things no one else could have pulled off.

Mrs. Hassell, an ordained minister in charge of up to 150 children at Bayside Community Church in Safety Harbor, could get scores of kids quiet by counting down to zero, speaking very softly or just standing there.

She knew all their names. Any child who had a birthday could count on a card from Miss Lisa with a stick of Juicy Fruit gum inside.

She wanted to give children an early start, to implant an understanding of Jesus in them. She organized twice-weekly children's programs at Bayside and staged huge events each year with part-time help and volunteers.

Mrs. Hassell, a spiritual leader who made the most of a short life, died Saturday of cancer. She was 45.

Asked why Bayside grew from 300 members in 1998 to 950 today, the Rev. Tom Bates said, "A lot of it has to do with Lisa and her children's ministries."

She loved simple pleasures. A romantic at heart, Mrs. Hassell lit sweet-scented candles and put on the silky-voiced Luther Vandross to relax. A blue-eyed blond, she believed in looking her best at all times. She practiced that belief with a triathlete's fitness regimen, classy but affordable jewelry, flip-flops that showed off her pedicure and T-shirts with the sleeves turned up just so.

Mrs. Hassell knew what she wanted and why, and sought those who could help the kids at Bayside.

"She would say, 'How would you like to get involved and do something that would be meaningful for the children that I think you would be really, really good at?' " her sister, Molli Craddock, said. "She had a way of making you feel like you're the only person who could do this, that you're her best friend and you really want to do this. It's not guilt, but it's kind of like, 'She has chosen me and I want to pull this off.' "

Lisa Clark grew up in Dayton, Ohio. She met Byron Hassell, her future husband, at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. They married in 1986. The couple moved to Tarpon Springs in 1991. He set up a veterinary practice in Clearwater. The couple had two daughters.

In May 2008, before she finished her ordination through the Church of God, Mrs. Hassell began having trouble with her speech. Doctors diagnosed brain cancer and gave her between six months and two years to live. She rallied and declined. Children sent get-well cards with sticks of gum inside.

Her church may have found a place to put the children she attracted. Ground breaking on the Lisa Hassell Children's Center, a two-story building on church property with a corkscrew slide between floors, is expected in June.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.

Lisa Faith Hassell

Born: Feb. 23, 1965

Died: May 15, 2010

Survivors: Husband Dr. Byron Hassell; daughters Alison and Mikaeli; brother Jim Clark and his wife, Aimee; sister Molli Craddock and her husband, Doug; parents Russell and Jeanetta Clark; several nieces and nephews

Service: 10 a.m. Saturday; Bayside Community Church, 3380 State Road 580, Safety Harbor

Her voice for children drew faithful to Clearwater's Bayside 05/20/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 20, 2010 8:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Ex-sheriff's official says sheriff intentionally hid federal inmate revenue from county

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The former third-in-command at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office has filed a complaint, alleging that Sheriff Al Nienhuis intentionally hid from the County Commission $1.3 million in revenue he collected from housing federal inmates last year.

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times  Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said he was "extremely disappointed'' to hear of James Terry's allegations about the sheriff's handling of federal inmate dollars and noted that Terry was "offered the opportunity to resign from his position at the Sheriff's Office when numerous complaints as to his unprofessional conduct began flowing into the front office.''
  2. Fewer minions make things better in 'Despicable Me 3'


    Despicable Me 3 doubles down on Steve Carell's silly way with words, a smart idea after too much Minions gibberish spoiled part 2. They're still here, in smaller doses and somewhat funnier for it.

     voiced by Trey Parker, in a scene from "Despicable Me 3."  (Illumination and Universal Pictures via AP)
  3. After Rick Scott veto, Tarpon Springs renews push for money to dredge Anclote River

    Local Government

    In a pocket formed at the end of a branch of the Anclote River, Kevin Meisman has seen the size of the boats coming by his family's business get smaller.

    Kevin Meisman, 37, looks out from the dock of his family’s business, Quality T-Tops & Boat Accessories, in Tarpon Springs. Meisman says that, without dredging along the Anclote River, the number of boats he can service is limited.
  4. Senator Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa
  5. Video: How to make a Gin and Jam cocktail

    Bars & Spirits

    Looking for an easy cocktail to make at home this summer? Jam is a simple, low-key way to get the job done.