SEMINOLE — Though born into wealth, Paul McCutcheon Jr. strived for a simple lifestyle and very nearly achieved it.
He chose a career that allowed him to get his hands dirty and stay lean and brown under the sun. The owner of McCutcheon Nurseries was less interested in money than the fun he could have with it for himself and his children.
He ate at diners and ordered whatever was cheapest, his family said. He drove a green Chevrolet pickup and took eager neighborhood children for rides in the back when he came home from work.
He used money to make things grow, whether shrubs or flowers or relationships.
The Evening Independent devoted a page in the Father's Day 1960 issue to Mr. McCutcheon and his family. The "father most likely to succeed" stood indulgently beside a golf cart filled with children, behind the wheel of his pickup and beside his wife, Patricia, loading the dishwasher.
As his children grew up, he took them fishing and diving, even hang gliding in the hills of North Carolina. The death of a son, Paul McCutcheon III, would sadden him greatly but did not dampen his enthusiasm for the simple pleasures.
Mr. McCutcheon was born in St. Petersburg in 1926. At age 3, he inherited $500,000 from a maternal relative. His father, Paul McCutcheon, once owned the Goose Pond land beneath what is now Central Plaza.
An uncle, Robert McCutcheon, was mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1940s, a Republican in a county run by Democrats.
Mr. McCutcheon attended Florida Military Academy, the University of Florida and Florida State University. He served in the Army once and the Navy twice.
In the 1950s he bought 5 1/2 acres on 34th Street S where a Pinellas Technical Education Centers campus stands now.
In 1953, his father sold the Goose Pond property, a $6,000 investment, for $250,000. Mr. McCutcheon first called his property Goose Pond Jr., then changed the name to McCutcheon Nurseries.
In 1955 he married Patricia, a native of the Redington area who had been widowed during World War II. Mr. McCutcheon, who owned a glass-bottomed pram and one of the first outboard motors sold locally, invited her and her two children to go fishing.
"He made a very good first impression," said Patricia McCutcheon, 87. "He was very nice and kind to my children."
Mr. McCutcheon would adopt those children; then they had three more.
Mr. McCutcheon took his children on produce runs, encouraged them to set up their own stands and showed them the basics of business. He bought a swing set for the back yard and a gravity-powered kiddie roller coaster.
In the late 1970s, he began a different kind of roller-coaster ride as a parent.
Paul McCutcheon III, known to friends and family as Mackey, had been slipping.
His grades in high school dropped dramatically. His father entered him into a drug treatment program.
In 1981, Paul McCutcheon III died of an overdose of Dolophine, a methadone derivative, three days after his wife also died of the same causes.
"They say you never give up on your child, "said Tom McCutcheon, Mr. McCutcheon's son. "He would keep trying to bail him out. It hurt him."
Mr. McCutcheon still spoke of his son in later years, remembering his better aspects.
The last 20 years, he enjoyed working in his garage and his yard.
Earlier this year he broke a hip. His health declined in recent months.
Mr. McCutcheon died Oct. 21 after an illness. He was 86.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.