ST. PETERSBURG — Regulars sitting around the bar at Paisano's Pizza n Pasta knew Charles Davis had arrived without having to turn their backs.
That big, booming laugh.
Mr. Davis glad-handed the men and kissed the ladies on the hand. He pulled out their chairs like a courtly Southern gentleman.
The self-employed businessman had made a living catering to people. He had sold real estate, financed mortgages and opened a sugar-free shop for diabetics.
"At a restaurant, whoever sat around us for three or four tables, pretty soon we were chatting with them," said Donna Ivory, his girlfriend of 30 years. "Telling tourists to go here, go there. Nothing major. They'd be thanking him before they left."
He was born in Newnan, Ga., and attended Georgia Tech. He married young. It didn't last.
He left his past behind. Neither he nor Ivory, 67, needed to get married again.
He took her on trips, including two to Paris. But mostly, Mr. Davis stuck to a routine within a narrow band of north St. Petersburg.
He drank Scotch at the former Holiday Inn on U.S. 19 and about 50th Avenue N, a few blocks from his home. At Paisano's at 6000 Fourth St. N, Mr. Davis gave valuable real estate advice.
"People losing their homes and all," Ivory said. "He had knowledge to tell them how to get refinanced."
Every weekend, friends stopped by the house for Donna's cooking. They hung out by the pool.
Mr. Davis played pool in a league formed at Paisano's, where he "never had a bad word to say about anybody," according to bar manager Jill Morgan, who shared political sympathies with Mr. Davis.
"He was an Obama fan and I was an Obama fan, and everybody in here hated Obama."
She also liked his exits, the way he said, "Love ya'" instead of goodbye.
"He said it to the women and the men," Morgan said. "I admired him for that. It's something people just don't normally say on an everyday basis, and you never know when your day is going to be up."
The cancer started in his colon. It went away and came back to his lungs.
Mr. Davis died Feb. 22 at home. He was 72.
Friends and family packed Paisano's to eat and drink and tell stories about Mr. Davis, who wanted no funeral and no crying.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.