Thursday, April 19, 2018
News Roundup

Michael Meagher, owner of Maher Chevrolet, dies at 69

ST. PETERSBURG — A citation from the city drew even more attention to Maher Chevrolet than the American flags in front of the business, unfurling gracefully with the freedom of the wind.

The city's codes enforcement department said the 11 flags, which had stood along U.S. 19 since the early 1990s, violated a sign ordinance. Officials ordered Michael Meagher, the owner of Maher Chevrolet, to reduce the number of flags to three.

Mr. Meagher, a former Marine who frequently handed out copies of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence to customers, was dumbfounded by the order. To him they represented the opportunity that had allowed him to buy one of the city's oldest and most prominent auto dealerships 25 years ago.

He refused to take down the flags.

In April, Mr. Meagher told the Tampa Bay Times that to comply with the citation, or pay the $143 fine without protest, went against everything he stood for,

"I'm very naive, but I couldn't imagine anyone would be talking about taking down the American flag," he said. "So put me in the naive category. It's just hard to believe."

Mr. Meagher died Tuesday of congestive heart failure. He was 69.

"He was a dear friend, a fellow cancer survivor and one of the last operators in the area of a family car business," said Lawrence Dimmitt III of Dimmitt Chevrolet. "There are only a few of us left."

Employees date back to before he acquired the dealership that was previously known as Ross Chevrolet at 2901 34th St. N.

"He believed that if you took care of customers and service, they would come back to you," said company spokesman Bob Towler, 63. That made him one of the top-performing Chevy dealers in the nation.

Of Mr. Meagher's management style, Towler summarized: "Hire the best people you can, get out of their way and let them do their jobs."

Office manager and payroll administrator Sharon Weemis, 50, said she counts Mr. Meagher as a major influence on her life, a sympathetic ear when each of her parents died and a son was born with a cleft palate.

"He was more than the man on a sign to me," said Weemis, a former Ross employee who stayed on. "He was caring and compassionate. I can never repay him for some of the life lessons."

Michael Meagher was born in Detroit and grew up in Beverly Hills, a Detroit suburb. He was trained to fly in the Marine Corps, a love he pursued all his life. He graduated from Lawrence Technological University and worked for General Motors from 1966 to 1978.

After running his own dealership in Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., for 10 years, Mr. Meagher and his family moved to the Tampa Bay area in 1988. In September 1988 he opened Maher Chevrolet, a spelling he chose to avoid confusion.

"He said, 'I'll just spell it the way it's pronounced,' " Towler said.

In the early 1990s he put up 11 U.S. flags in front of the property. Over the next two decades he replaced each 4-foot-by-6-foot flag two or three times a year. Sometimes a passing motorist noticed a flag was getting battered. Other times it was a customer.

Mr. Meagher enjoyed boating with his wife, the former Nancy Smith, his vintage Corvettes and flying. He was proud of having qualified to fly the C500 corporate jet.

He gave generously to area hospitals and H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute; provided internships to residents of Boley Centers and vocational students; and remained active in the Florida Independent Automobile Dealers Association.

In 2010, General Motors recognized Maher Chevrolet as a top dealership, one of only about 50 such designations awarded nationally, his colleagues said.

After 20 years, the city finally noticed Mr. Meagher's flags. In the ensuing publicity, Mayor Bill Foster proposed tweaking the sign ordinance.

Maher Chevrolet passed muster under the new standard, passed in November. A few days ago, the city notified Mr. Meagher's lawyer that his ticket for violating the sign ordinance will be dismissed.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

Comments
Marriott Edition to bring five-star hotel ambitions to Water Street Tampa

Marriott Edition to bring five-star hotel ambitions to Water Street Tampa

TAMPA — At the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City, hotelier Ian Schrager transformed a Jazz Age building with its own rich history into a destination offering even more heady experiences — extravagant, edgy and bohemian.In Tampa, Schager will have ...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Life got you down? The Miracle League is back and making miracles again

Life got you down? The Miracle League is back and making miracles again

ST. PETERSBURG — An old friend is back in the lineup.The Kiwanis of Gulf Beaches Miracle League, which champions baseball for the physically and mentally challenged, returned with a flourish Saturday morning. We're better for it."This...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Teen, 16, struck by motorcycle while crossing Ulmerton Road

Teen, 16, struck by motorcycle while crossing Ulmerton Road

A 16-year-old was injured Thursday morning after being struck by a motorcycle on Ulmerton Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Around 6 a.m., Saul Paulino walked into the path of the motorcycle driven by Austin Montgomery, 23, in the outermo...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Deputies: Seminole man burglarizes house, then sets it on fire

Deputies: Seminole man burglarizes house, then sets it on fire

SEMINOLE — A Seminole man was arrested Wednesday night after detectives linked him to the burglary of a house that was later set on fire.Homeowner Lance Clipper, 52, reported the burglary when he arrived at his house, 8350 Flame Vine Ave., around 2:4...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as new CEO

Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as new CEO

CLEARWATER — Tech Data, Tampa Bay’s largest public company, has named Richard "Rich" T. Hume as its new chief executive officer, effective June 6.Hume, Tech Data’s executive vice president and chief operating officer since joining the company in 2016...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Nikita Kucherov scores two goals and delivers some big hits as the Lightning beats the Devils, 3-1, in a physical Game 4 that pushes Tampa Bay to within one win of clinching the series.Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Rangers to as Jake Faria pitche...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Meet the state’s top pole vaulter: River Ridge’s Stone Baker

Meet the state’s top pole vaulter: River Ridge’s Stone Baker

NEW PORT RICHEY — Long before he became the best pole vaulter in the state, Stone Baker was 12 years old and liked to play football.He didn't know a vaulting pole from a tennis racket.Then one day his friend, Evan Bales, asked him to come over ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

SPRING HILL Joe Lemieux sat on the cream sofa near several relics from another era in his life, out of place in this retiree’s pastel-tinged living room and brought into the morning light specifically for this occasion. There was a beaded nec...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Could Bruce Hector be the sleeper of USF’s draft class?

Could Bruce Hector be the sleeper of USF’s draft class?

TAMPA — His collection of skills seems to ooze NFL draft jargon: hip swivel, burst, agility, leverage, active hands.Over the past three or four months, most — or all — of these attributes have been affixed to USF defensive line...
Updated: 2 hours ago
2018 NFL draft countdown: Bucs GM Jason Licht speaks

2018 NFL draft countdown: Bucs GM Jason Licht speaks

We're a week away from the NFL draft in Dallas …Bucs general manager Jason Licht will speak to the media at 11:30 a.m. today at One Buc Place in Tampa. He'll take questions for about 20 minutes and use a lot of words to say nothing.That's the g...
Updated: 3 hours ago