ST. PETERSBURG — The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Motorcycle Drill Team has encountered Central Avenue nearly every year at the Festival of States in a phalanx of fiberglass and chrome, weaving their 800-pound Harley-Davidson Road Kings in and out like synchronized swimmers.
As with so many other events that came off smoothly, Bud Felix made it happen. As chair of the Suncoasters' parade committee from 1980 to 1992, the construction contractor lured the nationally popular motorcycle performers to St. Petersburg, then threw them a barbecue.
The Hoosier state police reciprocated by treating Mr. Felix and his wife, Laura, to the Indianapolis 500. The drill team will return to the Festival of States in 2012.
Mr. Felix, who worked to make his friendships as permanent as the schools and jails he built, died Dec. 4, of a respiratory illness. He was 79.
"In a lot of these volunteer things, people just give it a lick and a go," said fellow Suncoaster Hampton Hines III, 61. "Bud was thorough and meticulous, always planning for contingencies."
The job had its headaches.
"Politicians always gave me trouble — they always wanted to ride in convertibles," Mr. Felix said at one time. A parade rule allowed open cars only for City Council members, which didn't go over well with a local sheriff.
Then there was his 1988 idea for a "pet parade" modeled after a similar event in Ohio. Lavish reparations included use of one of the city's new street sweepers to clean up after the animals.
"Exactly one pet turned out for the parade — a chihuahua wearing sunglasses," Mr. Felix said in 1994. "The little dog marched, with the $80,000 street sweeper trailing him."
James Christian Felix was born in St. Petersburg, the son of a contractor. He later took over Felix Construction after a business degree at Rollins College and a construction degree from the University of Florida.
He maintained loyalty to both schools, commissioning an oil painting of a Rollins dean he admired, Theodore Darrah, in 2006. He was a big-time Gator Booster who gave tickets to his many friends for home games.
"He was up on all of the Gator players, and he had the contacts to keep in very close touch with what was going on with the recruiting and the development of the team," said Dr. Royce Hobby, 82, a friend.
Mr. Felix also regularly took friends to performances of the Florida Orchestra and Broadway shows at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.
"He extended many kindnesses to others in a lot of subtle ways," said lawyer Joseph Fleece, 78, a close friend.
After a sister's death, Mr. Felix spent much of his adult life helping raise her eight children. He married Laura Morgan in 1997 in Fleece's home after a long courtship.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]