CLEARWATER — Warren Breit always knew that life can be taken away. When it's your time, God will take you, he told his wife.
It was a lesson Mr. Breit and his wife, Millie, would learn all too well.
They met on a blind date. He was 21, from Queens, just out of three years in the Army. She was 19, from Brooklyn.
Early in their marriage, Mr. Breit dropped out of police training. His mother had died of cancer, his wife was pregnant, and he had a 13-year-old sister to raise.
"It was easier to lose a finger in the tool-and-die business than to lose your life," said Carmella Breit, 77.
While in his mid 30s, Mr. Breit opened a metal fabricating shop in Long Island. Amity Fabricators produced grocery store shelves and medical equipment, among other things. Fabricators sprayed powder paint on freshly manufactured parts, which were then baked at high temperatures.
It looked, and smelled, like an industrial plant. Mr. Breit spent countless hours there every week. His shop prospered.
He bought a 27-foot boat. He and Millie liked to anchor on Great South Bay, a lagoon separated from the Atlantic Ocean by Fire Island, where sailboats knife across the water and sunsets seem painted on the sky. Sometimes they took a motorized dinghy in to shore.
Mr. Breit enjoyed seafood restaurants, but he never drank there or anywhere else. For fun, he led Cub Scout groups and volunteered for 48 years with the Lions Club.
He parented and ran his business with a firm hand, always in control.
"When my father walked into a room, you knew who was in charge," said Robert Breit, 51.
But some things could not be controlled. A 4-year-old son, John, drowned in a canal. An infant, Christina, suffered heart defects and died in the hospital.
It was their time, Mr. Breit said.
Robert Breit called his parents' relationship passionate, and not just when they agreed.
"Trust me, when they fought, they fought," he said.
When asked by his Italian mother-in-law to convert to Catholicism, Mr. Breit held out until they changed the Mass from Latin to English.
Through the Catholic Church in the 1970s, they found Marriage Encounters, a couples workshop. The Breits eventually led workshops about communication and counseled couples in their home.
In retirement in Clearwater, Mr. Breit served as president of the Lions Club.
He was hospitalized in 2006 for congestive heart failure. After 16 months, Mr. Breit began to tire. He told his family it was his time. By a long-standing agreement, the family refused to force a feeding tube.
Mr. Breit died on Friday. He was 79.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2431.