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John "Jack" E. Greenslade | 1929-2010

John "Jack" E. Greenslade, entrepreneur, dies

BAYSHORE GARDENS — It wasn't a glamorous business that Jack Greenslade inherited from his father, just a small plumbing company that he and his wife could operate out of their living room.

But he loved being a plumber. Despite a lack of formal business training, he found he had an innate talent for running a company.

"Back then, you didn't go to college," his wife, Peggy, said. "You only went to college if you were rich. But he had a head for business."

In a remarkably short time, Mr. Greenslade built that family operation into one of the largest plumbing companies in Tampa.

"When we started, we had one truck," his wife said. "We got to where we had I-don't-know-how-many trucks, but we had probably 100 men working for us."

Greenslade Plumbing moved from the family's South Tampa home to a building on the corner of Bay to Bay and MacDill, where it remained until about 1990. Mr. Greenslade retired at age 58, and the business closed within a few years.

Mr. Greenslade died June 17 from a heart condition. He was 80 years old.

Born and raised in South Tampa, he spent his last years in a house just a few blocks from his childhood home.

It was a sparsely populated area when he was growing up, and Mr. Greenslade would often spend his days hunting squirrels and other small game. He'd often hunt with another boy from the neighborhood named Bill Bellis.

Bellis became Mr. Greenslade's best friend, and they maintained their friendship over the next 70 years.

"Every morning at 8 o'clock, I'd go over there," Bellis said. "We'd have coffee and talk about what was in the paper, and we'd solve the problems of the world."

Mr. Greenslade was in his early 20s when he caught the eye of a 16-year-old local girl. He was already dating someone fairly seriously, but that didn't deter the 16-year-old.

"I told my mother that he was just the cutest thing I had ever seen," Peggy Greenslade said. "And she said, 'Well, then, go for it.' "

They married and spent the next 55 years together.

Mrs. Greenslade worked in the office of Greenslade Plumbing for many years and immersed herself in the plumbing industry. Mr. Greenslade was president of the Florida and Tampa Plumbing Heating and Cooling Contractors Associations, and Mrs. Greenslade was president of the national association's ladies' auxiliary. They traveled around the country together to conventions and trade shows.

Mr. Greenslade never lost his passion for hunting and graduated from the squirrels of South Tampa to the deer and elk of Montana. His wife wanted to be with him whenever she could, so she started going along on his trips out West and became an accomplished hunter herself.

Even after he retired, Mr. Greenslade didn't slow down. He and his wife traveled the country in their SUV, and he developed a subdivision in North Carolina.

"He wasn't one to sit around doing nothing," his wife said.

He loved his work and his leisure, his wife said, but there was nothing Mr, Greenslade adored more than his grandchildren, who are now in their teens and 20s. He doted on them all their lives. From the time they were small, they nicknamed their grandfather ''Ka-ching,'' after the sound of an old-fashioned cash register. Every time he saw them, he'd immediately reach in his pocket and give them some money.

"When he was in the hospital, the nurse told me that she couldn't believe how he lit up when our granddaughter came in the room," his wife said.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Greenslade is survived by his son, Lee, his daughter, Lisa Sleek, and three grandchildren.

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

John "Jack" E. Greenslade, entrepreneur, dies 06/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 5:47pm]
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