TAMPA — Juan R. Capin, a retired businessman, behind-the-scenes political organizer and husband of Tampa City Council member Yvonne Yolie Capin, died Monday (Sept. 16, 2013). He was 67.
Mr. Capin had been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of liver cancer about five weeks before, but what caused his death was a severe reaction to a combination of medications, according to his wife.
Mr. Capin was born in the small town of Ribadesella in Asturias, Spain. By the time he was 10, he had lived on three continents, having moved to Venezuela with his family as a boy and then to Tampa to live with his mother's aunt and study English.
His parents planned for him to spend a year in Tampa, but he told them he thought he needed another year and ended up staying.
"He was very proud of his birthplace," Mrs. Capin said, "but he was a full-blooded American. He loved Tampa, and he loved the U.S. He chose to stay here."
He graduated from Jefferson High School, where he met Yolie Capin, and the University of South Florida, where he studied sociology. He worked as a grant writer for the city of Tampa's Model Cities program, then joined his wife and ran several J. Capin Jewelers stores at local malls and on Dale Mabry Highway for 25 years. He got a real estate brokers license after getting out of the jewelry business and was retired at the time of his death.
Mr. Capin loved reading, watching classic movies and traveling with his wife. As young marrieds and again in 2005, they took six-month trips abroad, visiting Europe, South America and Asia. Inside the United States, they took cross-country road trips, such as from Miami Beach to the Santa Monica Pier and back.
"When he was diagnosed, I asked him if you had three months, six months, a year to live, is there anything you would want to do?" she said. "He said, 'Yolie, I would do exactly what we're doing. ... We lived our bucket list.' "
In Tampa political circles, Mr. Capin became known as a self-effacing but effective organizer. In early 2007, he worked with Frank Sanchez to plan an early Florida visit with a private fundraiser and a large rally at the Cuban Club for then-Sen. Barack Obama.
"He was a kingmaker," said Norma Gene Lykes, who hosted the fundraiser at her home on that visit. "He didn't want the power for himself. He wanted other people whose ideals he valued to be in politics, and he didn't expect anything in return."
Mrs. Capin said a wake is planned Tuesday at Centro Asturiano de Tampa, and will feature the food, hard cider and bagpipe music from the Asturias region, which has strong Celtic connections, where he was born.
"Right now, I cannot find Spanish bagpipe players in Tampa," she said, "but I do believe we will have them come in from Miami."