A pioneer Pasco developer who donated land for the county's flagship library in the 1980s but who later left unfinished homes and unpaid bills after his company collapsed has died in California.
Clyde Hoeldtke, 75, went for a jog on April 20 and fell about a mile from his home in the Orange County suburb of Coto de Caza, said his son-in-law, Greg Mahoney. Rescuers revived him and took him to a hospital, where he stayed until he died three days later.
"He never had a history of heart problems," Mahoney said of Hoeldtke, who had turned into a fitness enthusiast after his retirement. He routinely ran in half-marathons and biked across the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico.
Hoeldtke is best known in Pasco as the builder of Beacon Woods in Bayonet Point. He also donated 5 acres of prime real estate for the Hudson Regional Library, which was built with part of a $10 million bond issue voters approved in 1986.
In 1962, Hoeldtke and his grandfather started the business by selling $5,990 homes to retirees. Before long, Beacon Homes was one of the area's biggest builders.
In 1974, Hoeldtke left the business with subordinates and moved to Colorado. The climate was better for the health of his daughters, and he co-authored a book on church renewal and lectured on business and spiritual leadership.
A crisis at Beacon brought Hoeldtke back in 1984. The company weathered that storm, but found the struggle even tougher a decade later. Beacon Homes built 13,000 houses in Florida before the company collapsed in 1993 as customers and contractors complained of unfinished homes and unpaid bills. In 1995, a pair of Pasco sheriff's deputies and a team of Jefferson County deputies kicked in the door of his mountain-view mansion in Colorado and arrested him in an upstairs bedroom. In 1996, he pleaded no contest to 23 counts of misapplying construction funds. He was accused of bilking two dozen homeowners and subcontractors in Pasco and other counties out of $5 million.
Hoeldtke paid $156,000 in restitution. Circuit Judge William Webb released him from jail but allowed him to serve house arrest at his $1 million Colorado home, a move that outraged homeowners who were left in the lurch.
The plea deal that prosecutors struck with Hoeldtke embittered some of his victims because it allowed the builder to avoid prison time and reimburse buyers for just a fraction of their losses. Webb said the plea agreement was fair because Hoeldtke had simply misused his victims' money, rather than stolen it.
"He had some difficulty, but I think that came when he left his company to be run by others," Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher said. "I remembered him as a very honorable man."
Old-timers who dealt with Hoeldtke remembered him more for his donation of 5 acres off Fivay Road that became the site of the 27,000-square-foot Hudson library. The building was the first of several libraries built across the county during the 1980s.
"John Gallagher was sitting in his office looking at maps," said Property Appraiser Mike Wells, who was then a county commissioner for the Hudson area.
"We were looking at a few sites and saw 5 acres of multifamily (property) in Beacon Woods. I called Clyde on speakerphone. We said we'd like to put the Hudson Regional Library on the mulitfamily site.
"Nice," he recalled Hoeldtke as saying. "How much are you willing to pay for it?"
"Gallagher and I just sat there about 10 minutes," Wells recalled. "Out of the silence we got an 'Okay, you got a deal.'…"
When Wells offered to name the library for Hoeldtke's father, he politely declined.
"He said, 'Nope, that's not why I gave it to you,'…" Wells said.
Gallagher had only kind words for Hoeldtke.
"He was probably the first developer to actually build a subdivision and leave the trees," he said. "Every other developer would come in and mow everything down and put in the streets and utility lines. He was always very generous and extremely professional."
He said perhaps that's why Beacon Woods has kept its property values over the years.
"A lot of it is how beautiful it is up there. It didn't get flattened."
After Hoeldtke left Florida, he stayed in Colorado until about 15 years ago, when he moved to California to be near his daughters and six grandchildren.
There he built custom homes, some as large as 8,000 square feet, Mahoney said.
Hoeldtke also attended the famous Saddleback Church, headed by the Rev. Rick Warren, author of the best seller The Purpose-Driven Life.
He loved his grandchildren and would often take them to job sites.
"He loved to get on the floor and play games with them," Mahoney said. "He taught all of them how to build forts and tree houses. He went to all the Pop Warner football games and cheer competitions."