TAMPA — Thomas Ervin spent the first three-quarters of his life in Tampa, and might have retired there. He built his home on Davis Islands. He volunteered for his children's school activities and the Shriners, and gave away gallons of A-positive blood.
Then Gloria, his wife, died of lung cancer. Mr. Ervin lived out most of his retirement in a quiet fishing village.
Mr. Ervin died July 11 in Daytona Beach, of congestive heart failure. He was 80.
He was an engineer, a problem solver. His desk might have looked cluttered, but he knew the location of every pen or paperweight. If an occasional temper flashed, it was quick to cool. Life is a roller coaster, he told his children.
"As long as the highs outweigh the lows, you're ahead of the game," he said.
He and Gloria married in 1956, after he had served with the Army in Korea. He was the more gregarious of the two. At home, he greeted his children's friends heartily, while she made sure they had something to eat and drink.
Armed with a civil engineering degree from Georgia Tech, Mr. Ervin was a general contractor with his own construction company. He spent the last 15 years of his career with General Telephone (now Verizon), retiring in 1987. His wife died three years later.
"It was very hard," said his son, Clay Ervin. "Here was a guy who was able to retire at 59, and thought he would be able to go with my mom all over the place. That didn't happen."
Instead, Mr. Ervin sold the house and moved into a one-bedroom, waterfront condominium in Bokeelia, 45 minutes from Sanibel.
"If you like to be quiet, read a book, put your feet up or take a dip in the pool, that's the place for you," said Judy Bialy, Mr. Ervin's next-door neighbor in Bokeelia. "He loved it here."
He fished out of a 19-foot Aquasport boat with a 110-horsepower Johnson motor. "He had the tides down there dialed in," said Clay Ervin, 47, "and he would go out and catch a couple of trout, redfish. Come back, have breakfast with a friend or two, sit there and read the paper.
"Then he'd go into town, see a few folks he knew in Malacha or St. James City. They'd sit there cleaning their fish at the docks. Talk about who caught what, shoot the breeze. That was his day. He closed out his evening by watching the news and having dinner."
Health problems prompted a move back to Tampa in 2005, then forced another move to Volusia County. He suffered mini-strokes and dementia, and sometimes asked visitors how his wife was getting along.
His family will remember his life as one in which the highs outweighed the lows.
"If you looked at my dad, there was always a glint in his eye that showed he was a happy man and had a certain mischievousness about him," his son said. "That glint in his eye always made you feel good in your heart."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]