BRANDON — In his parents' eyes, Donald Doss was perfect. They could not recall a single thing he ever did wrong.
It had to be the charm.
He taught his little cousin to roller skate, and then stole her skate key. In high school, he took apart his favorite chemistry teacher's car and rebuilt it in the hallway outside his classroom. Another time, he planted a cherry bomb in a school toilet.
"We're pretty sure the plumbing still doesn't work," said his daughter, Dionna Doss.
He went to Duke University. His mother sent brownies every week, which he then sold. He organized fraternity bus trips to the University of North Carolina to find cute girls. Those trips ended when he met and married a fabulous redhead named Rebecca.
Mr. Doss also took coursework at six other schools, including the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, where he honed a colorful style — one pair of his pants featured whales. In 1978, he earned a pilot license.
He worked in textiles, overseeing factories where he learned to sew and related to his employees. He could have climbed career ladders, but thought it was more important to come home at night, to see sporting events, Scout trips and band concerts.
His wanderlust was strong. The family moved dozens of times.
"It was the excitement of something new," his daughter said. "Sometimes, we would get in the car on Saturday and just start driving, and you just never knew where we would end up. We'd never stop unless we had to go to the bathroom or saw a Krispy Kreme with the 'HOT NOW' sign lit."
He adjusted well to new places, serving as a volunteer firefighter, creating literacy programs in rural factories and mentoring kids. Once, he even saved a drowning child from a pool.
But he never really grew up.
When his daughter started college, Mr. and Mrs. Doss showed up for parents' day in overalls and straw hats. Another time, Mr. Doss planted a Playboy in a visiting nephew's suitcase.
The family moved to Florida in 1979. Mr. and Mrs. Doss lived in New Port Richey before moving to Brandon a couple of years ago. As Alzheimer's started to rob his health, his family told him stories of the past, like when Dionna got her driver's license and her brother, Donald Jr., took out a newspaper ad telling citizens to beware.
Their dad still laughed in all the right places.
His last meal was two big bowls of ice cream. Mr. Doss died Feb. 9 at age 71.
He leaves behind three grandchildren, whom he played with incessantly and introduced to biscuits and gravy before they were supposed to have solid food.
In his eyes, they were perfect, and he could not recall a single thing they ever did wrong.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.