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Epilogue | David Costello

USF researcher David Costello did things differently, but often better

ST. PETERSBURG — When there was something David Costello wanted to do, few questions were asked.

He just did it. In his own way.

He built the dining room table. He refurbished a house and a boat.

When his daughter needed a bed, he made her one from scratch.

Last year, he designed, built, and landscaped a pond complete with solar-powered fountain in his yard.

He was a sketch artist and sculptor.

"He was always working on projects," said his daughter, Anna Costello. "He was so determined when he got onto something."

Mr. Costello got onto many things.

For years he was a youth softball coach. He worked as a gang specialist in the Bronx and ran a camp for kids.

He had a pilot's license and was an expert marksman.

When it came time for Mr. Costello to finish his education, he did that his way, too. He wrote his college thesis in the form of a comic book, and managed to get his master's degree without ever getting his bachelor's first.

"There was something special about Dave," said longtime friend Emil Pastor of St. Petersburg. "He really grasped on to life."

Mr. Costello died May 11 at age 58.

Long ago, friends and relatives say, the Colorado native found what would become his lifelong project: protecting the environment.

In the 1980s, Mr. Costello got a job as a research associate for the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science.

He did projects there, too, designing underwater research devices that record particles that settle in the ocean and map coral.

"He wanted to save the oceans and was concerned about people destroying them," said his brother-in-law, Steve Butcher of St. Petersburg, who also worked with Mr. Costello at the college. "He was good at everything."

Even a diagnosis of esophageal cancer in November 2007 didn't stop Mr. Costello from staying busy.

A few months ago, Mr. Costello set out to make something that would help him get around better.

He carved a cane out of a solid piece of wood from a grapefruit tree in his yard.

It didn't follow any of the rules.

The base looked like a hoof from an elk, the kind of animal Mr. Costello tracked during his hunting trips to Colorado every October. The next section was done in the shape of a human tibia. Then came an intricate block of wood carved to resemble a robot. And finally, a handle that fit the exact curve of Mr. Costello's hand.

Even with all that detail, the piece was able to stand on its own.

"Nothing he did was normal," said Anna Costello, who works in the Times' advertising department. "If he could figure out some other way to do it creatively, he did. He bent the rules, but he could get away with a lot of things.''

Mr. Costello finished the cane shortly before he died.

It was his last project.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at or (727) 893-8643.


David Costello

Born: July 5, 1950.

Died: May 11, 2009.

Survivors: daughter, Anna Costello; siblings Ray Costello, Lou Costello, Steve Costello, Pat Bintz, Kathy Gilligan and Greg Costello.

USF researcher David Costello did things differently, but often better 05/25/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 25, 2009 6:26pm]
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