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Epilogue | Edward James Rice Jr.

Pulling pranks was always part of his plan

Edward "Ned" James Rice Jr. always carried hard candies in his pockets to drop into the palms of children, whether he knew them or not.

At restaurants, Mr. Rice couldn't pass a child without offering a piece. But whenever his own nieces or nephews accepted, he'd wait for them to turn away before yanking down their pants.

"He was the ultimate jokester," said his son, Edward James Rice III, 53, of Holiday.

Mr. Rice was the only boy in the family of four. Growing up in Kensington, Md., and southern New Jersey, he had two older sisters to protect him and a younger one to admire him. Everyone doted on him. "He got away with murder," Rice III said.

Later in life, the challenge became outdoing himself.

He installed a bullhorn under his car hood to startle pedestrians. "I like your hair," he'd say.

He fed the ducks as he played golf, a trail of hungry creatures leaving waste in their wake. Some golfers didn't find it funny, and refused to play with him.

"He always had to push the edge, because for him what was funny was always a little edgy," said grandson Edward Rice IV.

• • •

Mr. Rice had a near-death experience as a member of the Coast Guard during World War II. He was the skipper aboard an 83-foot boat called a "sub-buster" off the coast of North Carolina when it narrowly escaped a poorly aimed German torpedo.

His son says he spoke often of that and his good luck.

After the war, he went to mortuary school and eventually opened the Arlington-Rice Funeral Home in St. Petersburg with a partner.

But even working at the funeral home, Mr. Rice found ways to pull a prank. His two sons kept him company during the overnight weekend shifts at his first job. Mr. Rice would ask them to fetch things from the second-floor casket showroom.

"We'd go up there and he would have worked it out for some other fellow that night to scare the hell of out us," his son said. "But we loved it."

• • •

He and his first wife divorced in 1970. Then, after 40 years in the funeral home business, he retired. He remarried and moved to Houston in 1987.

He moved back to Florida three years ago to live with his daughter, Susan Shively of Tallahassee. Last year, he moved in with his son.

Physically, his family said he was still strong as a bull. Age also hadn't cooled his sense of humor. If anything, he took advantage of the fact that people would chalk up his pranks to senility.

They wouldn't have known that he spent summers driving around New Jersey beach towns, tempting dogs to run up to his car and throwing firecrackers at them when they got close enough.

Mr. Rice died June 2 of a heart condition. He was 88.

.Biography

Edward James Rice Jr.

Born: April 6, 1920

Died: June 2, 2008

Survivors: former wife Margaret Joanette Judah, of Marianna; children Edward James Rice III, of Holiday, Susan Shively, of Tallahassee, and Mark Jeffery Rice, of Port Richey; five grandchildren; three great-grandchildren;and sister Barbara Seaman Rice, of Middle Township, NJ.

Pulling pranks was always part of his plan 06/09/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 1:49pm]
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