TAMPA — Through most of his marriage, Orlando Padron kept a secret from his wife. He held it close for nearly 16 years. He was madly in love with another woman.
He knew the woman slightly. Her name was Edith Pandiella, and she was a singer and dancer who regularly performed at Centro Asturiano and the Columbia Restaurant. He'd go see her shows as often as he could. She was married, too, so he never told her about his feelings and never thought anything would come of it.
About 13 years ago, Mr. Padron's wife passed away. Despite his feelings for Pandiella, he loved his wife deeply, and her death sent him into a depression.
Then one day he happened to run into that woman he had loved from afar. It turned out that she, too, had been widowed.
They were soon married and spent nine years as husband and wife, until Mr. Padron passed away from pancreatic cancer on April 22. He was 83.
"He was just so in love with my mother," said Marilyn Atenza, Mr. Padron's stepdaughter. "He bought her a dozen roses every single Friday for their entire marriage. He always said these last 9 1/2 years, when they were married, were the happiest of his life."
Mr. Padron was born in Ybor City, but his family moved to Cuba when he was a very young boy. A few years later, when he was 8, his mother died of a heart attack. Since their father was only sporadically a part of their lives, Mr. Padron and his two siblings — the oldest of whom was 15 — were on their own.
"They sold eggs, and he'd shine shoes," Atenza said.
He returned to Tampa in his teens and later joined the military. He spent 27 years in the Air Force, serving in Korea and Vietnam.
He came back to Tampa after he retired. After a few years of retirement, Mr. Padron had an opportunity to go into a new line of work. He became part-owner of Joe's Bail Bonds in downtown Tampa. Eventually his partner left the business, and Mr. Padron became the full owner. He loved the work and continued in the business until recent weeks, when his heath was deteriorating.
When Mr. Padron married Pandiella, he instantly became part of her family. Her children were already grown, but they still thought of Mr. Padron as their father.
"I never thought I could love someone as much as I loved my (biological) father," Atenza said. "But he was the most wonderful man. He's my kids' grandfather."
One of Mr. Padron's most remarkable character traits, Atenza said, was that even into his 70s and 80s he ever lost his zeal for life. He loved to sing and dance and had a special affection for playing poker at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and on jaunts to Las Vegas with his wife.
In early March, Mr. Padron went to the doctor because of stomach pains. The doctor told him it was cancer. The doctor said Mr. Padron would live about four more weeks, or maybe eight if he underwent chemotherapy treatments. Mr. Padron decided against those treatments and lived about six more weeks.
He spent his last days at home, under hospice care. He was in constant pain, and he stopped eating and drinking.
On Friday, April 16, his wife's birthday, he was very weak and in considerable pain. Still, he summoned the strength to ask his nurse to come to his bedside. It was the first time he had spoken in days, and one of the last times he spoke in his life.
"Do you have any money?" he asked the nurse.
"Yes, Mr. Padron," the nurse said. "What do you need?"
"Make sure my wife gets some roses," he said.
Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Orlando Padron had several marriages, including one to Edith Pandiella, but the exact number is unclear. Mr. Padron fathered children, but that number is also unclear. Because of incorrect information provided by a family member, an April 30 obituary mischaracterized his family history.