PLANT CITY — Robert L. Gandy was a successful businessman who founded and ran one of the area's best-known glass companies.
But when his family talks about his life, they barely mention his career. Instead, they talk about his jokes and his songs, and his fondness for John Wayne movies and La-Z-Boy recliner chairs.
Mostly, though, they talk about how much he loved his wife and their children.
"There wasn't a day that went by that he didn't tell us jokes and sing to us," said his daughter, Vivian Hunsucker. "My mother sat not more than 5 feet away from him when they were working together, but he'd call her on the phone just to sing Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?"
Mr. Gandy died of pancreatic cancer Nov. 15. He was 79.
He lived virtually his entire life in Florida, starting with an impoverished childhood in Arcadia.
"His father died when he was like 4 or 5 years old, and left his mother with six children," Hunsucker said. "Things were pretty tough for them. He used to tell us they had dirt for breakfast and water for lunch."
Poverty was bad enough, but there was another problem. When his mother was pregnant with him, she thought she was going to have a girl and promised to name her baby after a nurse who befriended her in the hospital. She didn't want to break her promise, so she used the nurse's name as her son's middle name.
"His middle name was Lolitha," Hunsucker said. "So he learned to fight at an early age."
Mr. Gandy was a powerful man, his family said, but he didn't like to fight. If he had a choice, he would be sitting in his living room, watching westerns while he sat in his recliner.
"He had to get a new La-Z-Boy every year," his son Russell said. "He was a La-Z-Boy connoisseur. He always had to pick it out himself, and it never matched any of the other furniture."
Mr. Gandy and his family moved to Plant City in the 1980s when he started Gandy Glass. The company is still in business today, run by one of Mr. Gandy's nephews.
Mr. Gandy married his wife, Nada, in 1963. It was the second marriage for both. Each had children from the previous marriages.
"He said he married my mother because she could never remember jokes," Hunsucker said. "So he could tell her the same jokes over and over."
He especially loved to entertain his family with long and hilarious first-person stories. Often the family couldn't tell whether they were true stories or jokes.
When Russell Gandy was a schoolboy, he bragged to friends and teachers that the Japanese surrendered in World War II because his father was on his way across the Pacific. It was years later that Russell finally realized his father had been, at the very least, exaggerating.
"When he was in the hospital I told him that we had had 45 years together, some good and some bad, but we made even the bad ones fun," Nada Gandy said. "And we certainly did. We made our lives so much fun."
Besides his wife, his daughter Vivian and his son Russell, Mr. Gandy is survived by his son Bobby, his daughters Lynn Imhold and Melinda Carter, 11 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren.
Marty Clear can be reached at [email protected]